According to the most recent U.S. Census, there are over 5,000,000 B2B salespeople in the US and over 10,000,000 in total. If each of these salespeople could only be 10% better, they could significantly improve the gross output of the companies they represent. That could be worth multiple billions of dollars to our economy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad salespeople selling good products. I have the opportunity to be in front of a lot of salespeople in different industries and there are far too many salespeople and managers that are not up to par. Some are OK, some are good, very few are exceptional and most are bad.
Managers are not much better. By and large, because of the pressures on them, and the lack of training they receive, they add no value to the sales process, or in developing their people. They have been relegated to be problem solvers, panic control, e-mail responders, forecasters and administrators.
Is it any worse than it has always been? I think so, significantly. Let’s make some comparisons:
Area VP: should be very involved in setting a S.M.A.R.T. sales structure so all people (sales, service, support, HQ, OPs, etc.) are aligned, have clarity in their responsibilities and are more efficient. A sales structure should prevent as little waste of time as possible, focus on the most important things to make sales and not waste time otherwise. This was an absolutely integral part of a sales culture.
Sales Managers: Sales managers were part of the above process, were responsible for fostering it and developing it so salespeople were as productive as possible.
SE or Technical Managers: were also brought into alignment so they knew who the top prospects and accounts were. They were responsible for attending to and supporting salespeople and accounts based upon their size and value. They were heavily involved in forecasting because they kept the sales people straight. They were responsible for developing their people's technical and selling skills.
Sales OPs: was very good, very efficient. In part because of the importance of them processing orders properly, and also because they understood their function, which was to keep the integrity of the process and support salespeople to be selling more.
The sales team was very strong. There was always the 80/20 rule but it was closer to 70/30 There were more B players than A's, and C's churned quickly. It certainly vacillated between the three but those are fair numbers.
Let’s compare that with today's environment:
VP of Sales: The VP’s I work with are very bright sales and business people. For the same reasons as their managers and the pressures they are under to make their number, they do not spend as much time establishing the proper sales structure and processes as they should. Most sales cultures I work with are monthly, or sometimes weekly driven. It is impossible to do things more strategic because of such short term focus.
Sales Management: is in general, weak. There is very little development or structure for them. They tend to be put into the position without understanding its import and value. Sales managers are way too focused on the day-day or month-month business. There is very little longer term strategy at all. From the outside, it seems even less time is spent on developing people, teams and processes.
Technical Support, Account Management and Admin Teams: current teams tend to be strong, perhaps to offset the weakness in management and processes. The problem is turnover is too high because of the pressure put on people.
The sales people: are not strong. I would say it is 15% A, 30-40% B and the rest are bad and that is being kind.
It is a sad state of affairs that our salespeople are so poorly prepared. Perhaps that is why marketing has taken the lead role in generating revenue, or because of this, sales is being short changed in developing their people. In either case, they need to slow down, be better prepared, skilled and more strategic. If that can be done, our economy will recover more quickly.