Not all salespeople are the same. Even if you try to bring out the best from them, there usually is a group of the top 20% that brings in almost 80% of the sales. This isn’t limited to only one sector. In fact, this applies everywhere. So companies have found a solution to their stalled growth, by hiring star sales players.
But is that the only possible solution to the problem? Or should it be looked at from a different perspective as well ? As sales leaders, should we not try to find ways where average or below average performing reps start performing good enough? And will we be always able to hire star closers?
Important questions, right?
In this blog, you’ll learn, how to close skill gaps, the most prominent gaps for any sales team, and different methods for coaching and developing sales reps so that they can close their performance gaps.
The All-Stars Approach And Its Effect
Finding the star performer for your team is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Since everyone is fighting around to get the star performers but there are only a few of them that are available in the market.
Also, as per Harvard Research , there are very high chances that the sales rep who was a star performer in the organization A may not deliver the same performance in organization B. Now we need to understand that even if the top performers of the company contribute to 80% of the revenue, the performance of the team will still be at a growth. This in general is something to be concerned about.
It does not mean that star performers are not needed, because they really do. But organizations should not start relying on other thighs than using the all-stars approach.
A great example of this is the Software-As-A-Service SaaS companies. In the initial days of the company, the stars do perform on a huge scale bringing bulk revenue deals closing them one by them. They are feared and respected for this. But as the company scales and matures, they can close a few high deals a year but this will limit the growth as the SaaS model requires very high volume.
But since the SaaS model is easier to build than to scale, one important strategic solution to the above problem can be improving the in house team. Coach and develop your sales reps in such a way that they become the top performers too. Moreover, you don’t have to hire the all-stars now as you have prepared and created your own all-stars.
But to do so, you need to understand the most common sales performance gaps.
Most Common Sales Performance Gaps
There will be a lot of sales performance gaps that your sales reps will have to fill and it is better to take a shield before the bullet is shot. Now without further ado, let’s dive into the most common performance gaps that we come across in the sales.
Pricing And Its Discussion
The top-performing salespeople bring up the topic of pricing in the latter part of this conversation with the customers which helps them to be a larger number home.
The other salespeople with average performance, have a habit of discussing the pricing in the very initial stage in order to check the intention of the customer. But according to this research of sales hacker, if you bring up the topic of pricing early on a call and talk about it for more than five times or less than three times, then your chances of closing the sale might shrink.
This may be due to the fact that the best time to discuss pricing is after you have learned the customer’s requirements and shown how you will address those needs.
The Talk-Listen Ratio
It has been observed that the difference in the performance of the top sales reps and the ones that are average and in the bottom can be understood by their talk-listen ratio.
For a rookie or a new sales rep, they should be listening more than they talk. According to research, this ratio should be 72:28. For the mid performers, the ratio is 68:32 and for the top performers,46:54. This means that if you try to be aggressive or dominating in the conversation, your chances of closing are minimal.
The above numbers can change and may differ from one business to another. But there would be the only marginal difference. To make it clear, understand that If you talk too much to the customer you might reveal the wrong information and bring all your winning efforts in jeopardy. But a simple explanation is that the sales should always be a customer-focused process. It is about understanding the needs of the customer, not convincing them to buy your solution.
Blame the articles or movies or books, where sales always have been presented as a task where all you need to do is use your communication. It is a primary skill but there are a lot of skills that one needs to develop.
Nowadays the sales reps directly jump on the discovery call coming unprepared. This lands them in a deadlock situation when things go south. Instead, there should be a proper process of researching and preparation before the calls.
Have a backup plan/pitch if the customer starts asking questions that you are not in your book. Research who your customer is, what is their product, why your solution is a perfect fit for them etc.
Look At The Conversation Data
The reason why an average sales performer is tagged as average is that they are unaware of what the top-performing salespeople did and talked about. Athletes tend to improve with great coaching but performance data that shows how they are doing and which areas they need to improve upon.
Targeted coaching hasn’t been transferable to sales because sales performance hasn’t been measured in minute detail. That’s changing because of conversational intelligence platforms that can find patterns in natural conversations.
Now since we know that the sales performance gaps exist, we will talk about how we can solve these gaps.
Solution to Common Sales Performance Gaps
Sometimes these sales performance gaps can be very easily closed but sometimes they need to be reviewed.
Here are a few situations that happens almost all the time:
Situation A – Minor sales performance gaps.
Say one of the sales reps does not follow the sales process that your organization has, what do you do?
Coach them. If it’s confusing, or not working, revise it and retrain the team.
For preparation – ask the sales rep to do it, and add repetition and sleep to make it a habit.
Situation B – complex sales performance gaps.
Say your company launched a new service or product or product feature. And the reps that were doing good earlier are finding it difficult to get this important thing up on their pitch.
These are for gaps that require a bigger behavior change, it requires a more structured approach.
First, being a sales leader, you have to identify the performance gap and its cause.
Second, the sales rep needs to acknowledge the necessary change.
Lastly, action needs to be taken to close the gap whether in the form of coaching or retraining.
Identifying Performance Gaps & Their Causes
Every sales performance gap needs a different identification. The only way here is to record the sales activities. If you already have call recordings or a conversation intelligence platform, you just have to make time to listen.
Knowing why a particular sales rep fails to perform well can reveal a potential solution and point to actions to take to address it. For example, if a rep struggles with closing and asking for the sale, then, the logical action is to coach them in closing techniques more.
The most common causes of sales performance gaps are:
- Poor coaching
- Lack of confidence
- Lack of business knowledge
- Lack of knowledge of the support options
- Not understanding the processes
Let The Sales Reps talk
Ask your sales reps to open up and talk about their skill deficiencies. Most of the coaching sessions end up like they are a feedback meeting. It is very ineffective. Review sessions should be opened with “How do you think that went?” before getting into the manager’s thoughts.
Shrink The Gap
This is the final step. Do whatever it takes to eliminate the performance gap. Most of the managers fail in this very step. They do not follow up with the sales reps once the coaching is done. The same thing happens with training and only a few % of it is retained after 30 days. To close the sales performance gaps it needs consistency and accountability on both the sales reps and the coach’s part.
The sales Performance gaps have become a part of every sales team now.
Companies that look for long term goals, coaching their sales reps, and even their other employees, definitely see a huge surge in the form of higher revenue, better customer retention, and happier people.
Taking the time to identify, address, and close performance gaps will strengthen your sales reps skills, improve productivity, and ultimately give your team an advantage.
Results first, payment later.