The poorest performing salespeople are invariably put on on an individual performance plan, or a personal improvement plan. Sometimes this is because the person they work for cares enough about them to help them succeed. Other times, the intentions are not so nice, and the performance improvement plan is the step required by human resources before releasing the under-performer.
The highest performing sales people are never put on a plan. They get a lot of individual attention because they make things happen. It’s easy to get attention from your sales manager when you are creating and pursuing a lot of opportunities. By creating a lot of opportunities, you also get the coaching and the resources to help make sure you win them.
If 20 percent of the sales force is underperforming, and if the top 20 percent is the top 20 percent, that leaves 60 percent in the no man’s land that is the middle of the bell curve. The people in the middle of the bell curve aren’t doing poorly enough to be put on a plan to improve their performance. Nor are they doing well enough to get the kind of attention normally reserved for top performers.
Many in the middle never do so poorly that they are removed from their role, and never do well enough to threaten the top 20 percent. But there will always be a top 20 percent, and there will always be a bottom 20 percent. The goal of the sales manager or sales leader is to move the entire bell curve to the right.
If you can imagine a curve with a line drawn right through the middle at the 50 percent mark, your goal would be to move the line that is the 50 percent mark to the right, maybe where the 60 percent mark is now. You would want to pull everyone in that direction. The top performers would perform better than they are now. The next 30 percent would perform better, as would the 30 percent behind them. In the bottom 20 percent would all be a little bit to the right of where they are now.
Everyone on your team needs a plan to improve their performance. The top performers are capable of more, and both you and they know it. Some of the bottom performers may struggle, and they may need to find another line of work if you can’t help them perform better. The middle neglected 60 percent can all do better, but they would need some attention to turn in that performance.
The top performers need a plan to stretch them and help them reach their full potential. The middle 60 pecent need a plan to grow from where they are, some of whom may eventually end up in the top 20 percent. And until you are certain you’ve done everything in your power to help the bottom 20 percent, you need to invest the time and energy to help those who are willing to perform better.
Put yourself on a plan to put all your people on a plan.
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