February 09, 2009

Closing The Performance Gap Between Your Best & Worst Performing Sales Person

Some sales people perform better than others.  In fact, the top 20% of your sales people often account for 80% of sales revenues. 

But, what does this chasm in performance really mean?  Is it something you just got to live with, or something that can be changed?

'Mind the Gap'

One of our clients has a sales team of 15 people serving a construction related industry that has enjoyed over a decade of continuous growth, but is not suffering a significant decline. 

Interested to understand how effectively the organisation was responding to the new competition for customers we asked some questions about the levels of sales activity and effectiveness across the company's sales team.

In a typical week the company's best performing salesperson closes 3 times more deals than his poorest performing colleague.  The higher performer was not only closing 45% more deals, but was meeting 7-10 more customers per week.

The gap between the best performing and most struggling rep was as follows:


Number of Meetings

Conversion Rate

Average Value


22-25 per week




15 per week




Quantifying the Opportunity

It is not unusual to find these disparities in performance across a sales team, either large or small.  However, that does not mean that such chasms in terms of performance cannot be leaped.

If all the sales force is struggling then attention logically turns to market conditions, the sales proposition and sales strategy.  However, when some sales reps are performing and others are not, then sales productivity and sales effectiveness immediately come into focus. 

Why are some struggling, while others are performing?

Sales people differ in terms of  their attitude, product knowledge and sales skills level.  However, although this is generally the first reason cited for gaps in performance we prefer to look other places first.

We find time and time again that the below average sales person can achieve above average results if her, or she is provided with the right systems, structures, leadership and support.  In general we find that there is too much emphasis on the sales person to the neglect of all those other factors vital to sales success.

Modest Improvements, Significant Results

Modest improvements in terms of sales activity levels and conversion rates, at different stages of the sales cycle, can have a significant overall  impact on results.  For example, if the average rep did just 3% more calls, increased win rates by just 3% and increased average order value by just 3%, the resulting increase in sales would be greater than 10%.

Of course, it would be naive to expect that most under-performing sales people can be transformed into high performers, or simply into average, or better performers.  Indeed, there is no getting away from the fact that some sales people are simply in the wrong company at the wrong time. 

This aside, however, there are few sales people that cannot be assisted in increasing their levels of sales activity and sales effectiveness.   A focus on these two areas generally results in one of two outcomes – an improvement in performance, or a decision by the sales rep to move on – both of which can be a positive step forward for both the rep and the manager.


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