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It's Not A Salespeople Problem

by Doug Davidoff | Apr 18, 2011 4:33:00 AM

With increased frequency I'm getting requests from owners, CEOs and VP's asking for recommendations for a recruiter who can "find 'good' salespeople."

What's unfortunate about these requests is that even if these companies do find good salespeople (a difficult task in and of itself) there's still only about a 10% chance that the salesperson will be successful. A study reported in Harvard Business Review revealed that only 1 in 250 salespeople actually exceed their targets.

It does not take a genius to realize that a 99.6% failure rate is not a people problem. It's a system problem.

The traditional selling system is broken.

There are two fundamental problems with traditional selling.

    • Second, traditional selling (as it is implemented in 95% of small and mid-market B2B companies) puts way, way, way too much of the client acquisition burden on the salesperson. In today's complex, fast-paced, ultra-competitive world there is simply too much pressure on the capabilities of an individual to succeed. As a result, the rate of commoditization, and failure, increases.

Great salespeople, and great selling organizations, are the result of excellent systems. IBM created the greatest selling force of all-time, not by hiring great salespeople, but by plugging normal people into a superior system.

There are four parts to every effective selling system:

    1. Solid positioning. A successful sale begins long before a salesperson arrives - it begins with effective positioning. Do you have a clear, powerful message? Is your value proposition understood, and valued? Are you clear on who your core customers are? Is your pricing strategy clear?
    2. Outreach. Great selling organizations are very focused in their go-to-market approach, while average ones are tactically opportunistic. Are you earning and capturing the attention and awareness of your best few markets? Do your salespeople know precisely who to focus on and what the resonating issues are? Does your marketing efforts clearly support your sales efforts?
    3. Cultivation. The buying process is far, far longer than the selling process, beginning even before the potential customer knows that they are looking to buy anything. It is triggered when the customer starts to investigate their issues and uncover their problems. This is where the fundamental flaw of traditional selling rests - and 95% of small and mid-market B2B companies completely skip this step. If you're not optimizing this step of the system, your results could be negatively impact by as much as 75%. Are you regularly creating content that educates your customers and causes the sale?
    4. The Sales Process. The fourth - and final - part of an effective selling system is the sales process. An effective sales process ensures consistency, repeatability and effectiveness. It unleashes the power and capability of good salespeople, making them great. And it makes great salespeople stars.

To win in the competitive world that we find ourselves, you can no longer rely on hiring good people alone.  You must match good people with effective systems.