Small increments in the Olympics and in Sales can make a seismic difference

Martin Allison

By Martin Allison

Sales teams missing target happens far too often! You are not alone if missed targets are high on your list of worries. It can happen to elite performers in many walks of life including Olympians.
With the Beijing Winter Olympic Games taking place in early February 2022 we thought it interesting to reflect back on some previous moments.

In the Men’s Downhill race at Whistler 2010, for example, the winning time of 1:54:31 was posted by Didier Défago of Switzerland. The time among medalists was the closest in Olympic history, and while Mario Scheiber of Austria posted a time of 1:54:52 – just two tenths of a second slower than Défago – he finished out of the medals in fourth place.

In bobsleigh, hundredths of a second can be lost in the tiniest of miscalculations and likewise has been the difference between medalling or not! And when it comes to selling then the markets can be equally cruel.
In a 2017 Selling Power Survey of 400 sales teams, in 20% of teams, 75% of salespeople are missing target. Even in high-performing teams, 25% of them miss the target.

In most operational areas, that level of poor performance wouldn’t be tolerated. Imagine production failing to meet 25% of quality thresholds, or logistics missing 75% of delivery time slots. Finance teams would be fired for admitting to these levels of inaccuracies. So why does management put up with these consistent issues with sales teams?

Missed Targets

In decades of working on sales performance and our first-hand sales experience, we believe there can only be two reasons targets are so often missed:

  1. The targets are wrong, illogical or widely unrealistic.
  2. The targets are correct, but the sales team or individuals in the team are underperforming in some aspects.

We’ve identified a list of common reasons why targets are set wrong and we will share these at a later date but if, however, these targets are right, then the issue lies in one of these three areas:

1. Activities: Are your salespeople active enough? How many calls and meetings do they take every day/week or month? How much time does administration and other tasks take out of sales activities? What is the optimum number of customer contacts?

Increasing activity ie. the number of sales calls and meetings is the quickest way to improve sales performance. We can show how a 25% increase in sales activity will improve performance within twelve weeks.

2. Concentration of focus: Do you know if your team are talking to the right prospects and accounts? Are they only going for an easy chat and biscuits, or are they working on a deal that is worth the effort?

Focus the team on the right people in the right customers and ensure they talk about the right things. Getting the focus right can radically improve conversion-ratios, cost of sale and relationship strength. Analysing the data and acting on the analysis can be transformational.

3. Effectiveness: If you’ve found that your team are hitting their activity targets and meeting with the right people, then the issue is probably their effectiveness.

Lift effectiveness through robust diagnosis of existing knowledge and skills, innovative development and reinforcement and (where appropriate) formulating new tools and ways of working.

As a sales leader, you need a clear picture of the TASK (talent, attitude, skills knowledge) of your sales team whilst having clear metrics for each stage of the sales process.

Using Saleslevers diagnostic tools you can implement an improvement plan for your team based on our tried and tested methodology, processes and systems.
Like competing in the Olympics, selling is a discipline where fine margins can make a big difference. Get it right and you will walk away a winner. Fumble your preparation, and you could end up out of the medals!