Do you have a bad sales force?

A stunning new article on the nation’s sales force by Dan Lyons out on Hubspot reveals what many of us have long suspected:

Most salespeople aren’t very good at their jobs.

The article quotes Dennis Connelly, of Massachusetts-based sales consultancy Kurlan, as saying, “For lack of a better word, they stink.”

sales forceKurlan found that three-quarters of all staff employed on the sales force are incompetent, based on reviews of 700,000 employees over 24 years.

The question is, why?

Lyons offers some rationale:

  • Most people in the sales force have no formal sales training. Unlike engineers or doctors, they didn’t study salesmanship as part of their formal higher education.
  • Just because someone is extroverted, driven or competitive doesn’t make them good sales force candidate. Introverts also make good salespeople, and someone may be driven to be a CEO, or driven to be an entrepreneur, but not a salesperson. A competitive ex-athlete may be very competitive on the football field, but not in the business world.

Most people on the sales force didn’t study salesmanship as part of their formal higher education.

Lyons writes that Kurlan says the most important component of success in sales is simply a desire to be successful in sales! It also requires commitment, accepting responsibility and a positive outlook on life.

What does this mean for CEOs and marketing directors? There are several implications.

  • Companies need to evaluate their sales force. They should determine who has the crucial skills to be successful and who doesn’t. Those who are low sales achievers and don’t appear to have desire, commitment and a positive outlook on life and work should be let go. Those who seem like they do possess the necessary temperament should be trained in sales techniques.
  • Spend more time and money on sales training. Since so few salespeople have any formal sales training, it seems logical that companies should address this deficit. While successful salespeople may have a certain biological makeup that predisposes them to sales success, techniques like closing a deal aren’t always instinctual.
  • Spend less on things that don’t matter. While a great website, sales brochure or Facebook presence may be necessary for successful sales, they aren’t sufficient. It may not matter so much which shade of blue the background on the prospectus is, if the salesperson can’t get a meeting with the decision-maker. Remember that sales are based on relationships, and that sales collateral reinforces those relationships—it doesn’t create them.

For more, check out Lyons’ article at Hubspot.

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