It’s a question I hear from front line leaders all the time but it may have the biggest impact on performance with a sales team. Data collected by the Corporate Executive Board show that companies tend to spend too much time coaching the top 20 percent of performers and trying to improve the bottom 20 percent. There’s an argument to be made that a 10% improvement from the top 20% of performers translates to more top line revenue than it will if we invest the time in the middle 60%. That may be true if you’re focus in on the short term. The reality is, in my humble opinion, that it’s this middle ground that needs to be cultivated in order to show sustainable growth.
Matt Dixon, managing director of the Corporate Executive Board, suggests that "for true under performers, no amount of good coaching is going to make them better at their job". My experience has been that there are two distinct groups within the under performers at virtually every organization I've worked with. The first group are tenured, veteran employees that for a host of reasons just don’t perform to expectations. The second group are often new to the organization or new to sales and haven’t learned the craft yet. This latter group requires an investment of time, effort and energy in the form of both training and coaching if you expect to see consistent results. The former group unfortunately falls into the category of dead weight. While I don’t subscribe to the Jack Welch theory I do believe that any sales leader worth their salt is constantly assessing the situation and recognizes the need to make some tough decisions.
Accountability, it’s what we’re all looking for, from everyone in the organization. The Merriam-Webster definition is “the quality or state of being accountable; especially an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions”. The problem is that in most organizations we don’t coach for accountability. That's mainly due to the fact that our managers/coaches don’t know how to do that. Why you ask? The answer is simple, it’s because we failed to teach them how to coach effectively.
Assuming that you've got a great sales manager in place, the starting point is effective, one on one coaching. I subscribe to a couple of different theories when it comes to coaching. The first is that there has to be a simple method for your sales manager to follow in order to coach for performance effectively. The second is that the same approach likely won’t work for every individual on the team. You absolutely have to treat each of them fairly and with respect, however, the approach you use with each one of them is probably going to be a bit different. By that I don’t mean that the simple system used to coach effectively changes, I mean that the approach taken by the sales manager must take into account the individual preferences.