The results for the end of the quarter are becoming clear. Deals continue to push. They slip from Commit to Upside and then fall out of the forecast. The picture is alarming. The original outlook for the last month of the quarter is now officially in jeopardy. This shouldn’t be happening after two strong quarters, just when things seemed to be predictable.
Many sales leaders face this lack of dependability. They achieve the revenue and profit targets some months. But they can’t do it with consistency. There are a wide variety of root causes, but they tend to fall into two general categories:
- Talent – hiring the people with the right competencies and developing their skills
- Performance Conditions – providing an environment that supports success
Sales leaders and their HR business partners struggle to understand where to make corrections. If you are like them, you are asking the same question. “How can I tell if the problem is the people or the performance conditions?”
This post will give you a starting point to set you in the right direction. It also includes a free download that will help guide your team forward to reliably Make the Number.
The “Make the Number” Quadrant
Question: What are the root causes of inconsistent sales performance? The Make The Number Quadrant shows four options:
1. If you have weak performance conditions, strong people might overcome the bad environment. Their drive and creativity may work around inefficient systems and processes. If the conditions are tolerable, strong talent can even help pinpoint and prioritize deficiencies.
2. If you have strong performance conditions – the right environment – the systems and processes may help weak talent to overcome their deficiencies. Results will be spotty – consistency elusive.
3. If you have both weak talent coupled with inadequate systems and processes – you will regularly miss the Number. Everything is working against repeatable success.
4. Finally, if you have the correct talent and strong performance conditions you have most likely stopped reading this post and gone out to dinner to celebrate with your team. Congratulations!
Where to Start
Each year, SBI conducts research into quarter-over-quarter consistency. Results from 2013 showed that 78% of sales organizations fail to achieve consistent results. This is defined as 5 or more consecutive quarters of Making the Number. Most sales leaders perform in Quadrant 2 or 3, struggling to reach Quadrant 4.
To reach the Make the Number Quadrant, start by assessing your talent. Once you are sure you have hired and developed capable people, then look at the systems, tools, and support structure. Talent assessments are generally performed when there is a major organizational change. This is not frequent enough. It fails to account for the compounding effects caused by small changes. Buyers change, sales people turn over, and the competitive landscape is always in flux. The people on the sales team may have had the necessary competencies when they were hired. But are they the right players for today – and tomorrow?
If you have not assessed your sales talent recently, now is the time.
A Tale of Three Sales Teams
We have seen the impact of sales talent in three recent engagements. Their talent needs were evolving rapidly as their business changed.
- The first is a young technology company with ingenious product developers who created a superior solution. Initial market demand provided an exceptional tail wind. The nascent sales force quickly became efficient at helping prospects to place orders. Over time, the reps were able to make a comfortable living from existing customers. But no one could win a new logo and their success stalled.
- The second is a software company that had generated extraordinary demand and brand awareness through viral marketing. Social media delivered a steady stream of curious visitors to the website. The sales force converted inquiries to orders. The customer base grew to a formidable size. But the sales force was incapable of stimulating latent demand. They missed the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell.
- The third is a capital goods provider of a technically complex and highly engineered solution. The top sales reps had developed strong technical skills. They were practically presales engineers. Hiring from the industry had been effective for over a dozen successful years. Then retirements came in waves and replacements struggled to master the steep learning curve.
The Talent Inflection Point
What do these 3 sales organizations have in common? They all faced inflection points caused by their sales talent. Fortunately, all three have recognized the root cause and are making good progress. Talent programs are the foundation.
Each company enjoyed rapid and profitable growth. But as their business evolved it became difficult to sustain the growth trajectory. This exposed weaknesses in systems and processes. Like many, they had field adoption issues with CRM and their sales process. Compensation and quotas have been in turmoil. Ineffective segmentation of the market, accounts and buyers has made equitable territories impossible. In other words, the performance conditions were not perfect.
But the starting point for each was to assess their talent. They figured out what an “A” Player looked like for their unique situation. Then they used that knowledge to source, hire, onboard and develop consistent sales talent. They solved the first 50% of the equation that leads to Quadrant 4 – Make the Number.
Build a Strong Foundation – Start Now
The free Top Sales Talent Assessment will help you get started. Download it and see the ten most important traits of top sellers. The characteristics of an A, B, and C player are identified for each competency. Using this guide will give you a guide to your talent needs. The ten competencies listed may not include everything essential to success on your team. Every sales environment is unique. Follow the format and define additional competencies specific to your case.
If you need help using or customizing the tool, please contact me. Focus on your sales talent first. Your efforts will build a sturdy foundation to consistently Make the Number in the future.