Recent research from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) examined data from over 6,000 sales representatives and concluded that less than 10 pre cent of sales people exceed sales targets.
This is supported by our own experience, which shows that one of the big challenges companies face is with sales performance linearity; sales performance is not spread in a balanced way across the sales force and too few are hitting their performance goals effectively.
Naturally, this is very much front of mind for the many CEOs who are rewarded on factors influenced by sales performance.
So, what do CEOs think of sales force effectiveness? Research from Forrester in 2011 highlighted the following frustrations:
- Speed: the sales force is always 12-18 months behind strategy
- Calling too low: sales reps are not getting to the decision makers
- The sales force can’t tell the story: the focus is on price and not on the full value and quality of products
- We have the wrong people: they are not smart enough and not tuned into the market
Yet, when sales performance drops, travel and other restrictions come into force and, even though training budgets themselves may not be cut, sales performance training initiatives are cancelled as people are not allowed to travel. All at a time when additional pressure is put on the sales force to meet targets.
Of course, this is counter intuitive at the very time that sales people need the most help.
Most organisations have a sales performance culture but learning is seen as a “utility” – something that is turned on or off; often with little notice.
Turning the tap on and off
A learning culture will only co-exist if there is a strong belief that it will have a direct impact on performance and therein lies the challenge. It is notoriously difficult to correlate learning to performance and it takes time to see the benefits of learning. Can Boards, therefore, be blamed for turning the learning tap on or off?
With this in mind, we have gathered academic research source data on learning effectiveness from many different sources.
According to Dr Brent Petersen at the University of Phoenix who conducted research on training effectiveness, part of the problem is that many learning initiatives fail before they start.
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