Every sales force is made up of the typical bell curve comprising A-players, B-players and C-players. Eighty percent of the revenue is generated by the A-players (who usually represent around 20% of the sales force). They seem to figure out how to be successful, regardless of the economy, competitors, aging product or any of the other numerous excuses cited on the Monday morning sales call.
For most organizations, the C-players are a lost cause waiting for management to make the tough decision to let them go. They typically cannot be salvaged. For many sales leaders, the key to significant growth is enabling the B-players to perform like A-players. While many B-players have the potential, it is unrealized because, unlike A-players, they require specific help to upgrade their performance.
In the world of complex business-to-business selling there is no such thing as a born salesperson. Everyone who excels in this space had to learn. This is similar to golf. No one is born a natural golfer. It doesn’t matter how athletic people are: if they are given a golf club without any training or coaching, they will become frustrated and abandon the sport. On the other hand, anyone can become a decent golfer with appropriate training and coaching.
In golf, the natural instinct is to go after the ball. In sales, the natural instinct is to go after the transaction. In both cases, this is a mistake. The ball and the transaction are what we call "dependent variables." We have no direct control over them. Once in flight, the ball will go where the ball will go. All we can do is observe. Similarly, we have no control over buyer behavior. Buying, like a golf ball, is a dependent variable. Buyers will buy what, when and how much they please, but their behavior is dependent on other variables.
To become a decent golfer, one needs to focus on the variables one does have control over. We call these independent variables because they don’t depend on anything else. We have complete control over them. For example:
Although none of these actions have anything to do with the ball, together they collectively influence the flight of the ball so that it is predictable. In fact, failure in any one of these elements will result in disappointing performance on the golf course.
If you want to see a predictable improvement in the flow of business from your B-players, don’t focus on the transaction (the dependent variable) they have no control over. Focus their attention on variables in the selling process that they do have control over. Figure out what you’re A-players do in the following 5 fundamental areas of selling. Then train and coach your B players to master these basics. This will dramatically improve their performance.
All top salespeople excel in identifying who all the major influencers are on any significant deal they are pursuing. They make it their business to understand the needs and objectives of each stakeholder and the political landscape they operate within.
A-players do not accept a superficial understanding of the prospect’s needs. They go deeper and ensure that they understand the implications of the needs. Furthermore, as has been brought out eloquently in the book, The Challenger Sale by Matt Dixon, they will push back on the prospect and challenge them to rethink their perspective on their issues. To A-players, problem definition is more important than solution development.
A-players make it their business to talk to the stakeholder(s) that actually own the evaluation process. They ensure that they understand the specific sequence of the buying process and the specific criteria that must be satisfied for each organization and each project they are working on. They ensure that their sales process adds value to the buying process and meets the specific needs of individuals at each stage of the buying process.
A-players do not sell products and services. They provide specific solutions to well-defined problems.
Because of their in-depth understanding of each key stakeholder’s needs (both personal and professional), A-players are able to articulate the unique value of their solution to each stakeholder. They understand, in detail, what their solution means to all the key players.
As in golf, the collective mastery of the five fundamental elements will result in predictable buyer behavior. And as in golf, failure in any one of these areas will result in disappointing performance.
Imagine the impact to your business if your B-players suddenly began performing as A-players! You can make this a reality by coaching them in the fundamentals. This is not as difficult as it sounds. The ARPEDIO application, which will soon be available on the salesforce.com AppExchange, can do the heavy lifting for you. It enables salespeople to self-diagnose and self-correct, and it enables sales managers to provide focused intervention.
Adrian Davis, the author of Human-to-Human Selling: How to Sell Real and Lasting Value in an Increasingly Digital and Fast-Paced World, is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and an expert in strategic selling and account management. He is frequently called upon to advise senior management teams and sales groups on the optimization of sales performance and the development of strategic client relationships. To book Adrian for your sales or leadership conference, or for a complimentary consultation, you can reach him via Twitter (@TheSalesOracle) or LinkedIn. Find out more at www.whetstoneinc.ca or www.adriandavis.com/blog.