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Why Are My Salespeople Not Perfoming as Expected?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jun 26, 2020

Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?  It's a loaded question.  Or, is it?  In our corporate sales training experience, we've seen that evaluating underperforming salespeople in the pre-hire sales assessment is crucial for success in your business.

From poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success, to other candidates being eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring on sales STRENGTHS, there are specific reasons that not all of your salespeople are performing the way that you thought they would.

Did you hire them this way or did you make them this way?  Let's take a look...

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If you are a sales leader and you look at your numbers and the people producing those numbers, do you ever scratch your head in confusion over why you are looking at a lack of sales results?

Certainly, you didn’t hire these people to be in the middle of the pack or at the tail end of the conga line, but that is right where they are.  I know you don’t believe you hired them that way, but it’s either that, or you made them that way.

Don’t get upset with me here.  The reality is that your team’s performance is a result of who you’ve hired or what you’ve done (or not done).

So, in general, why do so many salespeople fail to perform? I have detailed answers to that question that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else besides right here.

  • Underperformers have 80% of the desire of top performers. *Note – not all performers have off-the-chart desire – that is about 7% of all top sales people.
  • Those that underperform have about 44% of the commitment to succeed in selling that top performers do.
  • These two factors combine to measure motivational level. Underperformers have about 60% of the motivation of your top people.

SUMMARY – Underperformers just are not as motivated to succeed.

SOLUTION – STOP hiring people that are not motivated to succeed at the highest level of performance!

Using the Objective Management Sales Evaluation, there are over 100 data points to measure the opportunity for sales growth of a sales team/organization.  Additionally, this data helps us to predict the likelihood of success of new sales people and managers. 

Here are some interesting findings based on the raw data I have from assessing salespeople (as well as firsthand knowledge of some of the people in the study).

  • Top performers are trainable and coachable
  • Top performers have a high figure-it-out factor
  • Top performers have a low need for approval and…
  • Top performers score an average of 86.8 (higher score is better) and underperformers score 39.6 for handling rejection!
  • Top performers are hunters, consultative sellers and closers (average score for skills is 55% of required skills while underperformers average 39.6% of required skills)

SUMMARY  Salespeople – regardless of tenure or previous success - need training and coaching. Also top performers handle rejection extremely well and move on.

SOLUTION  Do not hire based on past performance. (It’s like investing in a mutual fund – past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.)  During the interview process, reject the heck out of the candidate – the strong ones will recover and attempt to close you over and over again!

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The following data indicates that sales strengths are better indicators of success rather than sales skills:

  • Underperformers have 85% of the sales skills of top performers and have…
  • Only 71% of the sales strengths that support execution of sales skills and…
  • The severity of their sales weaknesses are 52% higher than that of top performers

SUMMARY – The skills are about the same, but those with strong strengths of desire, commitment, outlook and responsibility win.

SOLUTION – Make sure your pre-hire assessment process looks for strengths and “will sell” rather than just skills, personality and behavioral traits.

So, back to the original question:   “Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?”:

  • Poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success
  • Candidates eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring for sales strengths
  • Too much credit given to sales skills exhibited during interview process
  • Lack of solid training and development on the root causes of poor performance

Now that you have the answers to the question, what will you do about it?

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Variability of Performance – A Side Story

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 21, 2016

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I’ve been writing about solutions to variability of performance and, as often happens, I see/find something connected to the theme of sales or sales management.

Earlier, I discussed three reasons for variability of performance:

  • Situational Factors
  • Task Characteristics
  • Individual Differences

Dr. Peter Jensen, sports psychologist, founder of Performance Coaching, instructor at Queen's School of Business, Canadian Olympic Coach and author of Ignite the 3rd Factor, states the following:

“The developmental potential of human beings has three major components: nature, which establishes the physical and mental road map of an individual; nurture, which includes social and environmental factors that help would an individual; and the Third Factor, which is the factor of choice or "the important role an individual plays in his or her own ‘becoming’.”

Nature, nurture and The Third Factor define individual differences.

I was taking my morning walk when I noticed a young boy and what appeared to be his dad riding their bikes in the cemetery across the street from our house.  The boy seemed to be enjoying himself and feeling the excitement of peddling his bike faster and faster.  I turned my attention back to my walk and then looked back one more time.  I noticed the young boy on the ground, his bicycle a few feet on the ground away from him and his dad dismounting from his bike.  It appeared that the boy had tried to take the corner too fast, lost control of his bike and fell.

I stopped to watch and make sure that there wasn’t a serious injury. The dad walked over to the boy, bent down and spoke to him. Then he sat down on the ground and the boy moved over to sit on his lap; it appeared the man was checking for any injuries on the boy’s arms, legs and head.  All seemed to be well.
I continued walking and then crossed the street like I normally do.  I looked over to my right and again saw the man talking to the boy. The boy climbed back on his bike and continued riding.  And then I pondered.

The boy didn’t wait until the next day to start riding. He didn’t push the bike back to his house.  He didn’t sit there for an hour looking at it, debating if he should try again or not.  He didn’t appear to cry or be afraid.  He just got back on the bike and peddled away.

The Third Factor at work.

As a sales manager or hiring manager, it is difficult to assess talent.  There are many contributing factors that make recruiting difficult.  At Hirebettersalespeople.com, we define 8 steps that, when implemented and executed well, can help eliminate hiring mistakes and improve the probability of success once the hire has been made.  But, one of the steps – the vetting step (assessing, qualifying and interviewing) – is always challenging because of the human factor.

Specifically, the vetting process is difficult because of how hard it is to determine “the will” to succeed in selling rather than “the can” succeed in selling.  The will to sell = The Third Factor.  Objective Management Group’s sales talent assessment and pre-hire assessment does the best job of this (Worlds #1 Sales Talent Assessment) with the following findings:

  • Desire
  • Commitment
  • Responsibility
  • Outlook
  • Figure-it-out factor
  • Source of motivation

Why is this important do know?  It’s important to know because resumes and application answers are great works of fiction.  Over the last 22 years in this business, I’ve seen the development of resumes go from a bullet-pointed document about the history of a candidate to a short story of great accomplishment and adventure.  There are no “bad” resumes anymore.

When you calculate the cost of bad hires, hires that don’t produce as expected, hires that are there and then gone in a blink of an eye (calculate the costs of ghosts), the problem can be, as Roy Riley described it, a two-comma problem.  Yes, you want people that have the required technical expertise; yes, you want people that have experience in your industry; and yes, you want people that have experience selling in your environment and have success selling to prospects you are looking to sell to.

But, if you don’t know exactly how they have succeed in the past, if you don’t know if they are wired to sell and help your company grow, if you don’t know the “third factor” choices they make to succeed in spite of all external factors, then you will continue to fall victim to hiring people that fall off the bike and have a difficult time getting back on the seat.

 

Additional Resources: 

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Topics: individual sales success, sales management, Peter Jensen, the 3rd factor, variability in sales performance

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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