The definition of insanity, as attributed to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When talking with sales leaders, I’ll often modify this definition and apply it to their circumstances. I’ll ask, “This year, if your sales professionals do exactly what they did last year, will they get the same sales performance as last year?”
If their company grew exponentially last year, they might say yes. More often than not, sales leaders reply, “If they do the same things as last year, we might grow a bit, but not as much as we need to.” If, however, sales were down the previous year, the reply will be, “If our sales professionals do what they did last year, we’ll be in bad shape.”
For most sales leaders, no matter whether they did well or not, the objective each year is to improve sales performance and grow revenues. To me, the sane conclusion is that sales teams need to do something different if they aim to achieve different results.
During these conversations, once we get to the point of agreeing that something has to change, I share four areas where change can make a difference in results:
- Sales skills: Does the sales team use the Six Critical Skills—Presence, Relating, Questioning, Listening, Positioning, and Checking—for client dialogues to develop and expand relationships.
- Sales talent: Are the right people in the right roles. Sometimes it takes the right tool to find out. A tool like Richardson’s SkillGauge™ offers an online predictive assessment that helps sales leaders match people to roles that fit their strengths. This works both in recruiting and in working with the current sales force.
- Sales activities: Do sales professionals engage in meaningful, measurable, and predictive activities related to opportunities in the pipeline.
- Sales process: Is there a consistent and repeatable sales process for sales professionals to follow – one based on best practices of the organization’s top performers in winning opportunities, increasing selling efficiency, and improving opportunity forecasting.
Each of these areas is important. Taken together, there is tremendous opportunity to change sales performance outcomes year over year.
Consider this question: If your middle-performing sales professionals operated like your top-performing sales professionals, what impact would that have on revenue? The answer can be substantial. It also points to the potential in raising the game of middle performers to be more like top performers, who are obviously doing something differently or have a different skill set.
What this mental exercise does is to follow the logical thought process in identifying the need for sales training within an organization. It shows the value of investing time and money in sales teams to develop middle performers, at the very least, but all sales professionals ideally to refresh, update, practice, and improve skills to the highest levels.
As a follow-up, I often ask sales leaders this question: “If you do nothing this year, will your middle performers figure out on their own how to operate like top performers?” The answer, of course, is “No.”
So if sales professionals are important drivers of revenue, but sales leaders don’t do anything to improve their skills, activities, and process, what will be the outcome? My best bet is that performance will be similar to the prior year. To expect anything different would be insane.