Last week, I was presenting our newest program, Building a Scalable Lead Generation Engine, to a Vistage group in Minneapolis. I started the program by asking the CEOs in the room to share the biggest challenge that was weighing down their ability to accelerate their growth predictably, sustainably and scalably.
About half of the group expressed frustration with building their sales teams, with a specific focus around the problem of attracting “great” salespeople to their companies. As the CEOs were sharing their common frustrations, I realized that the time had come to share a truth that very, very few small and mid-market (SME) company executives want to face:
Great salespeople simply don’t want to work for your company, so stop working so hard to attract them.
I’ll explain this further in a moment. I’ve realized that far too many SME’s are asking, “How can we get great salespeople to want to work here?,” which is the wrong question to ask if you’re working towards growing your business.
So, what’s the right question?
The most important question you can answer if you want to build your B2B sales team to create sustainable growth is, “How can we scale our business with average salespeople.”
Before I expand on my previous point, let me provide some clarity. There is nothing wrong with average. The vast majority of people are average (hence, the definition of average). Also, I don’t mean mediocre. Though I’m sure some English majors may argue with this, the meaning of the term “mediocre” is closer to the definition of poor than it is to the definition of average.
For all of the Topgrader fans who are shocked by this statement, please don’t email or leave comments talking about “A” players, or top 10%.
SMEs cannot predictably accelerate their growth and value by relying on great salespeople in order for the company to be successful. This is true for three reasons:
- There aren’t enough great salespeople to go around.
- You don’t need great salespeople to scale growth.
- As mentioned before, great salespeople don’t want to work for your company.
Look, I understand that your company does really neat things. Your customers love you. And, yes, the sky’s the limit for that salesperson who can come in and make it rain.
The problem is that great salespeople are either working for large companies that have huge playgrounds and systems in place that allow the salespeople to sell, or, even more likely, they’ve already started their own business.
The effort put into getting great salespeople is like borrowing money from a bank: The bank will only lend to you if you can prove you don’t need the money. Great salespeople are ridiculously well paid, and unless you’ve developed the system that will allow them to come in, be immediately successful, and do only the things they love to do, there is no reason for them to work for you.
As the chart (from Sales Executive Council) shows, if you’re really looking to improve the results of your organization, the leverage is in the middle of the bell curve, not the edge.
IBM did not become the largest company in the world, or the most successful sales organization, by attracting “great” salespeople. Instead, they created a system that allowed normal people to achieve great results.
And, therein, lies the biggest opportunity for SMEs to grow sales, profit and equity value. Stop relying on great performers to bring the genius and do all the hard work for you. Build the system yourself instead, and you won’t have to worry about it.
As a final note, I hope that no one takes what I’m saying here as an insult to SME salespeople. The reality is that they are great, the problem is that they’re being put into systems that are designed to fail.