A “failed” effort at sharing Best Practices

failureHad lunch with a past client last week – a VP of Sales. I had worked with him and his company on a Sales Process Engineering project over the course of 21 months. We use a “teach ’em how to fish” approach, with “18 months or so” as the duration of The YPS Group’s active engagement; in other words, pretty normal.

By all measurements, the engagement was a success. The VP was satisfied. The SPE team members were satisfied. The CEO was satisfied. My business and personal relationship with all involved has remained good. So frankly, I was really thrown off base when he told me that:

“Sharing sales best practices just doesn’t work.”

Huh? Identifying and sharing sales best practices doesn’t help sales reps sell more in less time? “No,” he assured me. “We still have the same 20% of the reps producing the same 80% of sales.”

It was the only downer part of our conversation, and it bugged the hell out of me until just a few minutes ago when I sat down to write this post. That’s when I remembered another comment he made in a different context. “Our average annual sales per rep went from $1.3 Million to $1.9 Million. We’re really proud of that.” Well you know what?

I want to “fail” again by helping to increase average sales per rep by 46%. I want to fail like that all the time!

The “failure” in this case, was to change the shape of the bell curve. So what? Is it the least bit realistic to think you can repeal Pareto’s Principle? I don’t care if 80/20 still applies, as long as my 80/20 is better than their 80/20 and is continuously improving.

I don’t really care if the one best practice I’m focused on gets totally and completely implemented.

SPEeffectI DO care that when Mary has to sit in a sales meeting and hear Bill talk about how great he is at X, she responds by getting better at Y and increasing her sales. As the sales leader, it’s not X or Y or whatever that matters. It’s growing sales by getting each of my reps to individually think deeply about how to do what that will generate more sales.

Look at the chart to the right. The red bell curve is the starting point. The green curve is the end point. Exactly the same 80/20 distribution, but everybody is performing better.

So here’s the point, sales leader. Work like crazy to identify best practices and teach them to the entire team. Measure everybody’s performance against those best practices.

Doing so is what creates the real magic. It drives your reps to prove that their way is the better way. Each one of them wants the recognition of being the best at X. Who cares what X is, as long the pursuit of the next new best practice relentlessly increases average sales per rep?

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