I know. This is heretical. Most of you spend a lot of time testing, hiring, onboarding, sales training and training and training, performance evaluation, re-hiring, more onboarding…. You get the picture. Because you desire to have a sales team that consistently meets and exceeds your sales goals and objectives.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this model. If every sales team embracing this model were successful, there wouldn’t be as many sales training programs and consultants around as there are.
It is not easy to achieve homogeneous results, especially if you are targeting the latter third of the proverbial Gausian Bell Curve instead of being complacently happy with folks who fall into the middle. You desire the top 30% of achievers. More like the top 5% of a skewed curve. What you get is the average.
Trouble is, you are looking for needles in haystacks to operate homogeneously in a buying environment that’s not at all static or homogeneous. It’s like hitting a constantly shifting target. Piece of cake, huh? (You should try this with Six Sigma).
Let’s take a page out of agriculture. In fact, let’s talk about breeding cherries and a story from NPR. As a former evolutionary geneticist, I’m attracted to this kind of information. It makes me think about how these biological insights can be applied to other types of organic systems. Like sales teams, for example.
Fact of the matter is that when 100% of the cherry tree genome in Michigan is identical, and there is an early Spring (durn those groundhogs) and a late frost, there’s catastrophe. Which is why there were virtually no Michigan tart cherries in 2012. The answer? Seeking genetically diverse, equivalent species for cross breeding.
How genetically diverse is your sales team if you are constantly selecting for an identical sales DNA? How responsive to sales, buying, industry, regulatory, economic and buyer persona trending can your homogeneous sales team be, if they are trained to see the same situation the same way, always? How innovative, collaborative, and competitive can your team be, in comparison to every other company’s homogeneous sales team – over the long haul?
Instead of seeking diversity in your sales team, however, you let your new biz sales underperformers go without ever evaluating whether they might best function as your retention specialists, as their numbers showcase. You know, customer retention played pretty large in 2008, when new biz dried up. You let your geeky sales team members go (the ones that understand all your new technical products and can converse with both the sales types as well as the engineering types) because they want to build clocks during sales meetings and therefore prolong sales cycles on your more complex technical offerings, instead of going after the higher commission short-cycle items on your product menu.
Are there any trailblazer sales teams out there who might want to have a diverse set of sales specialists and see where that model leads them by the end of the year? Are there any trailblazer sales managers who are comfortable leading this type of team in this type of diverse sales environment? Are there any trailblazer sales cultures who might adapt this diverse team model into one which eliminates territories as well and fosters collaborative cross-selling in its broadest sense?
Seller-Doers understand this principle. So do startups. Often their companies are small, and their sales teams are either composed of themselves or a small group of staff wearing multiple hats. It’s all hands on deck. I’m not saying they practice sales team diversity any better. They just have no other choice.
Sales life certainly isn’t a bowl of cherries. However, I’m wondering whether you and your sales people are under-utilizing the breadth and depth of the available sales DNA on your team by focusing on homogeneous outcomes.
You never know when a late frost is going to hit.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo back into small and mid-sized businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector. She builds vibrant revenue-producing business strategies for technical start-ups seeking investors and early customers.