Hire to Replace Mediocre Performers or Train To Instill Best Practices?

The world, as we all have known it during the late 90s, is gone. No longer are sales executives order takers and if they think this is the game, the awakening has been and continues to be rude. Culpepper Sale Study, a benchmark for the world of sales, released the following statistics:

1… Fact: 94% of all sales veterans have had less than 5 days of any formal sales
2… Fact: 87% of all sales managers have had less then 8 days of any formal sales
3… Fact: 98% of all salespeople don’t follow a consistent sales methodology.
4… Fact: 93% of all sellers volunteer a price decrease without being asked.
5… Fact: 87% of prospected inquires are never followed up by a sales contact.
6… Fact: 81% of all sales take five calls or more.
7… Fact: 80% of all salespeople are willing to accept a 90% rejection rate.
8… Fact: 40% of all sales veterans experience bouts of call reluctance severe enough
to threaten their contribution in sales.
9… Fact: 93% of all sales veterans have had no training on how to generate their own

With a much smaller bench of good talent, I am wondering if CEO, COO, and VP sales are now thinking about training
the sales people they have and the sales people they are about to hire to instill best practices, or, as it was the case a few months ago, replace B players with the hope to hire non available A players.

We all know that hope springs eternal and that changing behaviors is not an easy thing to do. If the executive team is having such dilemma, I thought that Board members, venture capitalists, or financing sources would be smarter and more appropriately recommend a course of action to their investment companies. Oh boy was I wrong.

As point in fact, picture this… I was having a conversation with a leading venture capitalist a few months ago on Sand Hill road. During our conversation he proceeded to share with me his inclination to recommend to fire non-performing VP sales when faced with an under performing sales team. I asked if he understood the consequences to the company he had invested in. With some blank stare, I proceeded to suggest that between headhunter fee, ramp-up time for the new executive, loss of momentum with existing opportunities, buyout contract clauses or in other words severance pay, and other costs, every time he replaces a VP sales it costs his investment a minimum of $500,000. Un-phased his answer was “oh well.”

The tragedy in his answer was that in the past two years, one of his investments had turned its sales VP four times. $2 million spent for little to show but an organization that is still not meeting its revenue targets, with a Board that cannot trust or rely on the company created forecast because it has not been met in 5 consecutive quarters, and the continuous intent to achieve different results while doing the same antiquated things over and over again. Once upon a time I thought this was the definition of insanity.

So where does this leave us? Reviewing Culpepper’s findings and seeing the results companies we work with have achieved, there is a beginning of an answer. But first let me offer this context. A sales organization committed to consistently meet or
exceed its revenue objectives and maintain its state of competitive readiness, must establish andmaintain a ‘high performance sales culture’. There are four (4) key elements necessary to establish and then maintain a high performance sales culture:

• A repeatable and auditable consultative sales process that is aligned with your target market’s purchasing habits.

• A sales training program, taught and coached by sales professionals, that provides attendees with the tactical selling skills and practice required to execute the company’s defined consultative sales processes.

• A sales management program built around the basic management skills of
planning, organization, delegation and control, that focuses on:
o Pipeline analysis
o Opportunity assessment
o Qualification and coaching
o Sales skill assessment and coaching revenue forecasting

• A commitment to sales process and skill maintenance that includes:
o Sales tools and job aides designed to help your sellers develop an in-depth
knowledge of your prospect’s critical business issues and economic drivers
o Custom designed workshops to address identified needs and skill
improvements within the sales organization
o Coaching of individual sales people and sales management on an as
needed or remedial basis conducted by sales professionals

I know this is the goal of every CEO, COO, and most of the VP sales. Unfortunately, looking at Culpepper’s findings, few if any have the talent, knowledge, or experience and expertise to put such a culture in place much less the methods and processes to effectively and efficiently manage and drive its performance.

About the Author

Philippe Lavie

Philippe Lavie is the president of KeyRoad Enterprises LLC, dedicated to helping companies sustain and accelerate their revenue growth.