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posted: 11/13/2017 6:00 AM

Business owners: Do you accept mediocrity?

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Dear Business Owners:

As we progress toward the end of 2017, it's time to evaluate the talent on your sales team to ensure you have the right players for 2018. All professional sports teams go through a stringent talent assessment at the season's end in order to strengthen the team for the upcoming one. The data it provides and their analysis helps them determine the necessary improvements they must make for heightened performance the following year.

The same process rarely happens with sales teams as you and your sales managers seem to be willing to live with the talent you have no matter how much your findings might justify the need for changes. The average sales team is made up of a mixture of high, mediocre and low performers. In fact, studies show that just 20% of any given sales team are considered high performers, 60%, mediocre and the remaining 20%, low or non-performers! I contend that these percentages are the result of poor hires, unproductive sales behavior, an absence of key performance indicators, (KPIs), and ineffective sales management, all of which reflect their leadership's acceptance of unacceptable performance.

If I were sitting in front of you, the #1 question I would ask you is: "How much turnover do you have on your sales team?" I predict that most of you would proudly respond, "We experience very little or no turnover!" Although my reply would assuredly sound harsh, it would be, "Then, either you are consistently achieving your sales goals or you have a major turnover problem!"

To be clear, I'm not encouraging a "slash and burn" mentality where salespeople operate out of fear, but I am strongly recommending a critical evaluation of whether they have earned the right to be on the team above and beyond just quota attainment! This involves creating a success profile for their position, developing comprehensive hiring practices, emphasizing a culture of accountability throughout new hires' on-boarding process, monthly performance evaluations utilizing KPIs, strong sales leadership and, finally, turning over consistently poor performers until acceptable results are achieved.

Here's what you can do to eliminate mediocrity in your sales team:

1. Develop a "success profile" for the sales position that enhances its job description by detailing the behavior, beliefs and skills required for minimally acceptable performance.

2. Upgrade hiring practices to include a methodical way of objectively qualifying or disqualifying applicants. A critical element is an ARM, Always Recruiting Mentality, meaning prospecting regularly for new talent resulting in higher caliber performers.

3. Create a culture of accountability where performance expectations and results-oriented behaviors are clearly delineated. Stop accepting mediocrity and all the excuses that go with it!

4. Develop a list of the top 10 behaviors for the sales team and make sure you have 5 KPIs that represent the results if behaviors are properly and skillfully executed.

5. Build a system of evaluation for sales managers and eliminate excuse-making for poor performance.

6. Develop strong managers who are ambitious, driven to succeed no matter what and will not be held hostage by their sales teams.

7. Terminate consistently low-performing sales personnel after you have given them a 90-day opportunity to show a dramatic improvement in their behavior and results.

Refuse to live by the definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results!" Analyze the problems of the past, learn from them and lay out your game plan for a triumphant new year! Go conquer your worlds!

• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. bbartlett@sandler.com. Text "SalesTip" to 71813 to receive Bill's bi-weekly newsletter.