The Magic Middle



Sales people quit when they lose confidence.  The top 20% of reps are confident because they consistently hit quota.  You don’t make the number on the top 20%.  You make it on the magic middle.  The Magic Middle is the 70% of reps performing somewhere between poor and excellent.  This is the group that keeps sales leaders up at night.  As the head of sales you need to retain them and improve their performance.  This post provides ideas on how to retain and enable the magic middle.


The problem is that sales people are losing confidence.  Selling has become more difficult.  More pressure is being put on reps to perform.  Time horizons are shorter.  More products and solution are being introduced that are sold to “new buyers”.  You can’t have the magic middle constantly in a state of flux. High turnover within this group will consume your front-line sales leaders.  These conditions result in reactive behavior. 


The magic middle relies on active demand from established contacts within current accounts.  Active demand occurs when customers bring you a defined problem to solve.  The sales rep doesn’t get engaged until late in the buying process.  As a sales person, active demand is messy.  Active demand neutralizes the skill of the sales person.  Opportunities become a price game. Sales people don’t see all the potential within their accounts.  They lose confidence.  They quit.  


Download the Grow Your Wallet Share Mini-Playbook  to enable the magic middle.  This tool will help you get more out of the 70% of middle performers.  As performance improves, turnover declines.  This tool includes instructions on how to execute this concept in the field.


Spread within current accounts.

Start by helping your sales people grow their footprint within current accounts.  Don’t minimize the effort to get access to new buyers within customers.  There is a reason that sales reps gravitate towards lower level contacts.  People inherently descend to the path of least resistance.  If you allow this to be the norm, your wallet share will shrink. Enable your reps to reach higher level buyers and new buying centers. 


What Should You Do?

Build confidence in approaching other buying centers within current accounts.  This focus on growing wallet share will help sales people get quick wins.  Access to new target buyers is a great leading indicator of success.    


There are 3 simple steps:


    1. Educate: Build Buyer Personas for each stakeholder involved in the buying process.  Personas help the sales rep get inside the mind of the buyer.  Personas build confidence.  The rep now knows what the buyer cares about and how to approach them.  Train reps on each potential buying center within their accounts and the corresponding Personas. Role play the conversation:
      1. What questions will they ask?
      2. How will you respond?
      3. How can you bring them value and a good 1st impression?


    1. Access: Sales leaders minimize the difficultly of reaching other buying centers.  They think that since it is within a current customer, it should be easy.  Buying centers can be completely separate and the Personas don’t know each other.  Teach your team to leverage social prospecting to get referred into other buying centers.
      1. Update their LinkedIn profiles to appeal to the other buying centers
      2. Extend their reach to Personas in those areas and referral sources
      3. Ask for the referral.  The way you do this is very important.  Don’t just ask to be referred.  You need to be specific and provide the message you want to be sent.


  1. Prepare:  Approaching these new buying centers is a new skill.  Reps will be hesitant and lack confidence.  The Personas will have different needs and the offering may be foreign to the rep.  Don’t send them in to these calls unprepared.  If you do, you will only hurt their confidence more. Ensure your sales leadership team has a preparation cadence.  Sales leaders should review the following tools with reps prior to meetings with new buyers.
    1. Buyer Process Maps locate where the buyer is in their buying process.  This can help you prepare for the next meeting.  You know what the buyer will do next and what they are thinking.
    2. Persona Based Call Plan have clear objectives for the call.  Speak to the objectives and obstacles of each Persona.  Anticipate resistance.  Leave the meeting with clear actions. 


A gift for you 


If the magic middle has confidence to spread in accounts, they will sell more.  As they sell more, their confidence grows, and morale improves.  Download the Grow Your Wallet Share Mini-Playbook to help your team execute these 3 steps.   This will reduce turnover and improve results.




Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

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