Let’s face it, selling isn’t easy which is why top reps across most industries make serious cash. If it was easy, everyone would be making a killing at it…which is not the case.
With most sales teams, the law of averages applies; there are top sales performers, a few underperformers and a large group of average reps in the middle. Variables on the curve may exist depending on whether or not your team is incented on net new business (new clients) or development of current accounts (more account management). Regardless of the sales team structure, effectively managing a group of sales reps requires that your sales manager have clear insights to business trends and capabilities of the team. Accountability to sales growth is always the top priority of sales leadership, with ego management and sales training a close second. Integration with marketing, managing the CRM/data, hiring/firing, and other internal processes also get thrown into the mix. Delivering excellence in all of these areas requires special leadership skills.
One key to keeping a sales team performing at an optimal level is to make sure that the average quota (new accounts, revenue, profit) for each rep increases year over year. Typically, the above average reps will continue to push themselves to the next income level, while others remain stagnant. If you are finding that the performance across the sales team is above or near the average against market standards, but production decreases or stays steady after a certain period of performance, the “comfort zone” might start becoming an issue. Of course, factors such as the economy, team turnover, or personal matters always need to be considered. Regardless of the reason for stagnant production, it might be time to take a deeper look into a few metrics to see if the comfort zone factor is in full swing.
- Peak and Valley Activity. If you have a consistently average performer that has upward trends in new sales activity after loss of commission streams, it’s likely that this person is not achieving to their maximum potential. They are comfortable carrying a certain level of sales that results in the outcome they expect. If the numbers show consistent peak and valley activity, the rep is comfortable and likely underperforming.
- Average Rep Income Year over Year. Top performers are always looking to increase their income, while average performers fall into grooves that align perceived effort against total income. It’s not to say that these performers aren’t keepers, but at what point do you determine overall profitability of the sales investment when the comfort zone status may be more costly (higher fixed costs)?
- Hunting Activity has a hard time finding its way onto the Calendar. The hardest part of selling is closing new business, and comfortable sales reps always have reasons not to hunt. It’s common to have reps spend time on the “busy work” associated with their roles and responsibilities. When it’s time to hunt, there are usually other activities that fill up the time. It’s an easy mindset to be in when lifestyles are being met and business from current clients keeps rolling in.
It’s important to understand the right points of analysis in order to effectively identify comfort zone reps. Sales process, sales lifecycles and type of service/product sold can make all the difference in understanding whether or not your team members are coasting once they’ve reached a certain level of sales. Some companies are perfectly fine with managing average performers, assuming they are profitable. Other companies look for Top Sales Performers and maintain a recruiting pipeline in order to continue building a team of top sales reps.
The big question is what do you do about it?