I’ve seen this happen in youth baseball so many times. Let’s say it’s a ground ball and the third baseman boots it for an error. Of course, the next ball is hit right at the third baseman again and this time he fields it cleanly, but makes an error on the throw. And just as if it were programmed to happen, the third baseman is suddenly a target, balls coming at him and him alone, as he appears helpless and unable to make a clean play to put a merciful end to an inning. You could say he has been busy, but not very successful.
Are there sales versions of this? Do you have salespeople who are busy, but struggling to succeed? Do you have salespeople who are putting in long hours, but don’t generate enough business in relation to the time invested? Do you have salespeople who find enough opportunities, but struggle to get them closed? In my experience, there isn’t a correlation between busy and successful. Oh sure, successful salespeople may be busy and busy salespeople might be successful, but one being true does not necessarily mean that the other is true as well.
An example of a successful, but not necessarily busy salesperson, would be the one whose two whale-sized deals generated three times more business than the rest of the sales force combined. I’m not saying she didn’t work hard to land those two huge accounts, but she can’t be as busy as the salesperson who sold 80% less to 50 new accounts. In the process, our rock star salesperson reset the bar for what would now be considered successful, automatically making salesperson #2, with his 50 new accounts, unsuccessful, despite how hard he worked and how busy he was. Everything is relative.
Here are my top 5 examples of salespeople who are busy, but not very successful:
- They spend long hours researching companies and prospects, reach out on LinkedIn, send InMails, emails and make calls, but have few takers for meetings.
- They spend long hours making cold calls, reach very few people, and most of those people are completely disinterested in talking or meeting.
- They find a few opportunities and spend hours writing and delivering proposals, presenting, following up and chasing closable prospects with little to show for it.
- They spend a lot of time calling on and visiting accounts with great potential, who are doing business with your competition, but have very little success capturing that business for you.
- They attend every networking event they can, participate in networking groups, invest a lot of time talking each day with people in their network, but rarely get introduced to a quality opportunity. Everyone knows them, but people aren’t buying from them.
What can we do about the salespeople who are so busy, but have so little to show for their effort?
First and foremost, we must determine whether there is hope for them. Can they be saved? Can they be trained to do things more effectively or, if necessary, in a completely different way? Can they be coached up or not?
Don’t rush to an answer. The two mistakes that so many executives make are:
- The belief that their hardworking, but unsuccessful salespeople can be saved. They remain hopeful, but without any science on which to base their hope.
- The belief that their unsuccessful salespeople cannot be saved. They give up, but don’t make changes.
Statistically, about 30% of the 750,000 salespeople who Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated, aren’t trainable. Some of those are successful salespeople, but if we look only at the unsuccessful salespeople, or the bottom 74%, we’ll see that some of them can be saved. The magic is being able to identify which ones. Let’s say that you have 10 salespeople and 2 of them are A players. You have 2 B players and you have 6 C’s. When the science can show you which of the 6 can be saved, trained and coached up to be A players, and which can mercifully be replaced with A players, you have the power to completely transform your sales force in one year’s time.