Only 37 Percent of Your Salespeople are Effective. Do You Know Who They are?

Research published by The Harvard Business Review found that salespeople can be segmented into eight different types, but only three of them are consistently effective at selling. That means for every rep you hire only 37% of them will be consistent performers. Worse still, the research found that the remaining 63% demonstrated behaviors that actually drove their performance down further. So if you keep hiring the same type of reps you may never actually get them to ramp up effectively unless you know what areas to focus on.

The researchers observed how 800 reps applied 23 different sales skills that had been identified for success. These skills fell into seven different categories:

  1. Meeting preparation
  2. Customer interaction
  3. Company presentation
  4. Presentation rapport
  5. The sales pitch
  6. Storytelling
  7. Rising to the challenge

Sales coaching can make all the difference

The good news is that each of these behaviors can be learned and improved upon with the right training, coaching, and reinforcement activities. This is where managers have a large role to play. As

Tamara Schenk, Research Director at CSO Insights explains, “Lasting behavior change requires ongoing reinforcement. This is where coaching comes into play.”

But sales coaching for the sake of coaching isn’t enough. For managers to coach effectively they need a structured process to identify gaps and fill them. Without a structured coaching program, you’re just leaving your sales success and revenue to chance. Even the best reps can use some tips to help them improve their behaviors and win rates. There are eight types of reps, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. We also share some effective sales coaching techniques for each kind of seller.

1. Experts

As natural salespeople, experts know what they’re doing and customers love them.

Coaching opportunities: Step up to mentor their peers and share their best practices is a growth opportunity for experts.

2. Closers

They can close a deal, but these smooth talkers can turn off customers

Coaching opportunities: Focus on coaching on softer skills can help closers improve their selling style and keep them engaged and motivated.

3. Consultants

These problem-solvers listen to their customers well but overlook case studies that can help them extract more sales value.

Coaching opportunities: Focus on how they interact with customers, engage in storytelling that can help them build deeper relationships.

4. Storytellers

With the gift of the gab, storytellers could sell ice to the Eskimos but they often lack efficiency and structure in their selling process.

Coaching opportunities: By helping a storyteller focus their meeting agenda, set targets, and improve self-awareness they can close more deals quicker.

5. Aggressors

They may win the deal, but their aggressive approach toward price can put some customers offside.

Coaching opportunities: Aggressors can improve their sales results by rounding out their skills so they focus on value more than price. Coaching on softer skills may also help them build a stronger rapport with their customers.

6. Focusers

No one knows their product better than a Focuser, but their lack of confidence can make it challenging for them to identify what their buyer really needs.

Coaching opportunities: Focusers can benefit from coaching that helps them identify an opportunity, understand their customer’s pain points and articulate your value proposition.

7. Socializers

Everyone loves a socializer, but the pleasant chit-chat can get in the way of making a sale.

Coaching opportunities: Moving from a good rapport to talking business is a behavior that can be improved by setting short-term targets and close guidance.  Socializers may also need help understanding their sales funnels, so they make the most of the opportunities they have.

8. Narrators

A good sales script can be a useful guide or a hindrance. For narrators, it’s a case of the latter, where they feel lost without their script.

Coaching opportunities: Customer conversations are rarely scripted, so Narrators require coaching that helps them understand their customers, tailor a pitch to meet their needs, and handle objections confidently.

6 Things to Consider when Developing Your Field Sales Enablement Strategy


“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days” ~ Zig Ziglar

field_sales-enablement-StrategySales enablement is more complex for a distributed field sales team. After all,  employees don’t have the luxury of wandering across the hall to ask a question. To get you started, here are six points to consider as you’re developing your field enablement strategy.

1. What is the role of sales enablement and management in your organization?

Understanding who has responsibility for what in your business can influence how you structure the development of your sales enablement initiatives. In some businesses, sales enablement takes on the broad role of enabling the entire sales organization, while in other organizations they just focus on providing sales collateral and product content. This leaves local and field enablement in the hands of sales managers, who may also be distributed, making it even harder to develop effective enablement initiatives.

Another factor to consider is the proximity of each team. If your field teams are all located in the same state, there may be more opportunity for them to meet periodically to discuss issues and updates and share success stories. Whereas if you have a globally distributed team more enablement effort may be required to foster collaboration and communication between teams and individual reps.

2. What are your business objectives?

Your business objectives are the guiding light that drives all aspects of your enablement strategy. While increased revenue is a given objective for every business, your underlying business needs may differ considerably depending on the agility and stage of your sales organization. If you’re a high growth startup that’s scaling rapidly by hiring, ramping up reps in remote locations is likely to be high on your agenda. Whereas if you have a large and distributed sales team, then feeding them ongoing competitive updates and ensuring your reps are executing your business strategy effectively is your number one priority.

Regardless of your industry, accountability is key for field sales enablement. Particularly as your managers can’t be physically present to see the activity or application of knowledge by each rep every day. This means leveraging technology, to track their knowledge and how they apply it, is essential.

3. What type of sales do your reps need to do?

Field sales reps tend to focus on either complex or consultative selling (like selling security software to a Fortune 500 company) or simple commodity selling (for example selling FMCG beverages and electronics to mom and pop stores). Being agile at scale is a priority for both scenarios. This is where enabling mobile communication with bite-sized push notifications is important.

Pro tip: We’ve seen gamification work really well to drive engagement in these circumstances.

By the nature of their role field sales reps also tend to work remotely. This means they miss out on water cooler conversations with their peers about how they closed that big deal. Peer success stories that can be delivered through a mobile app are a good way to open up communication across geographies and learn from each other.

4. What kind of sales culture do you want?

There is often a danger that field sales reps can miss out on being part of a team culture or even develop their own individual work culture. Because many field reps don’t see their colleagues regularly that doesn’t mean they can’t be part of a broader team culture, it’s just harder for you to create.

The first place to start is by clearly defining what type of sales culture you want your team to have. How should your reps position themselves when in front of a customer? What values should they share? Once you have defined your vision you can then determine how to execute it. Whether it’s through a weekly podcast where you share business updates and wins or structured coaching programs.

With field teams, it’s also important to pulse check their engagement more regularly to ensure they’re still satisfied or have any feedback to improve the culture. This can be achieved by pushing a quick survey to their mobile device each month or quarter. This one small exercise could potentially save you thousands of dollars in staff turnover in the long-run.

5. What does your industry/product/customer require?

As field reps tend to spend more time out of the office, their mobile device can become like a pseudo office if they’re enabled well. This is where the value of mobile sales enablement really comes to the fore for a field rep. So if they’re selling FMCG products they’re likely to need access to large catalogs, promotional and pricing updates, while a niche software rep may need access to complex product information.

Enabling your field reps with content that they can access on their mobile device, even when they’re offline, that is easy to search and bookmark can be a life-saver. They won’t be left fumbling through huge documents when they’re sitting in front of a customer and can quickly search and read up on something before a big meeting.

6. When do they need information?

Field reps are time poor and always on the go. While it may be convenient for you to push out information as it becomes available, it may make more sense for them to have periodic updates. By feeding your field sales reps information and content when they actually need it, they are more likely to consume it. So consider whether a spreadsheet of next month’s pricing updates should be sent out now or at the end of the month.

These six points each help provide the basis for putting in place a comprehensive framework for field enablement. Once you have a framework in place and your initiatives outlined, you’ll be on your way to achieving your business objectives.

[Podcast] How to Enable Your SDRs for Success with Inside Sales Bootcamp (Episode 9)

In this 15 minute interview Duchen and Reisert outline:

  • What makes a great SDR onboarding program;
  • How you can reduce the ramp up time for your new SDRs;
  • What role a manager plays in the onboarding process; and
  • What sales enablement professionals can do to improve the success of their SDRs.

To download or subscribe to the Sales Excellence podcast login to SoundcloudStitcheriTunes or find it here
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inside-sales-bootcamp-podcast“Onboarding SDRs can actually be really tricky especially for an organization that is doing this for the first time,” explains Ryan Reisert who’s seen his fair share of inside sales onboarding programs.
Along with Mike Duchen, Reisert is co-founder of Inside Sales Bootcamp, a sales acceleration engine for high growth. They help companies onboard and ramp up their SDRs.

“I see a lot of companies struggle when they start to create their outbound program. Because they’ve had success with inbound, they’ve got a lot of leads coming in, but they start their outbound function without actually going through the data or at least trying to understand what expected outcomes can look like. Without setting that up front, you’re set yourself up for long term failure,” he continues.

“This is not an easy role when you look at what the day to day of an SDR actually looks like,” adds Duchen.  “A rep will be doing 100 activities per day, every day. It’s a lot of work. And on top of that, they’re probably getting rejected eight or nine out of ten times.”

Inside sales is a tough job, which is why every enablement initiative you implement that helps your SDRs do their job will lead them (and you) on the road to success.