McKinsey: It’s Time to Treat Our Sales People Like Customers

By Bob Apollo

As a recent McKinsey article points out, as much as half of a company’s value creation rests with its sales force. Their findings confirm what many other researchers have also found – that the sales experience is a top factor when it comes to buying decisions.

But there’s a perhaps unexpected twist: McKinsey’s study also shows that top performing sales organisations pay as much attention to the rep experience as they do the customer experience: in other words, they treat their sales people like customers…

There are many more valuable takeaways in the McKinsey report than I can possibly hope to cover in this relatively short blog: I strongly recommend that you review the full article. I want to draw your attention here to a few of the most profound findings, and offer my take on the appropriate responses and actions.


Firstly, there is a growing gap between top sales performers and the rest. The difference is at its greatest in complex B2B sales environments, where it is not unusual for performance to vary by a factor of six or seven times between the top tier and the bottom.

This is fundamentally a talent management problem. Even when organisations can identify who their top performers are, they often struggle to understand what sets them apart. They fail to identify the key characteristics, skills and behaviours that characterise their most effective sales people.

Some of the gap can clearly be ascribed to innate capabilities – something I’ll return to when we consider the hiring process. But in my experience a significant element of the performance gap is actually related to learned behaviours – and these winning habits, if they can be understood, can be replicated.

If we can identify these behaviours – you can think of them in simple terms as what the top sales performers have learned that they need to know, do and avoid at each stage of the buying process – then we can train, equip and coach the “willing middle” to adopt them, in the confidence that their performance will improve accordingly.


It’s probably worth explaining what we mean by the willing middle: after you exclude the top and bottom performing tiers, the majority of the sales force sits somewhere in between. A sub-set of this group (the “willing middle”) is open to the idea of learning from the best. They have the clear potential to improve.

The opposite part of this tier (the “unwilling middle”) are either unwilling or unable to change. Assuming that we’ve made reasonable efforts to educate them, the obvious conclusion is that these people are bad hires without the potential for improvement, and their unsatisfactory performance means that – along with the persistent bottom performers – they are best persuaded that their careers should go in a different direction.

Our skills development programmes will have the greatest impact when they are focused on making it as easy as possible for the willing middle to embrace the top performers’ winning Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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