Last year, research colleague Steve W. Martin, a sales expert, USC professor and author of the “Heavy Hitter Sales” series, and I conducted a study that assessed a key shift in the sales industry: the overwhelming movement towards inside sales and away from field sales. While researching this topic, we also uncovered stark discrepancies between average and high performing sales teams.
As a result, Steve W. Martin and I decided to start a new project, which would uncover common characteristics of top-performing sales organizations. In our recent study, “The Sales Organization Performance Gap,” we identified four key traits specific to high-performance sales teams:
Team mentality: One of the most significant findings highlighted that team-based cultures yield the very best sales teams. Rather than the mentality of having a select few top-performing sales reps to carry the team, high-performing organizations focus on the team as a whole. In fact, high-performing sales teams were twice as likely to describe themselves as a “cohesive group of like-minded individuals” than people at average or underperforming organizations. Additionally, the top teams also viewed individual talent as less crucial to sales success, but were less likely to have below-average salespeople – curating an all-star team.
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Ambitious goal setting: Quotas have always been a controversial topic among sales organizations. How high or low are you supposed to set them? Through our research we found that the chances of hitting sales quotas actually increases the more aggressive you get. In fact, 64 percent of top-performing sales organizations set quotas on average 10 percent or more above what they are accountable for.
Cutting Ties: Dancing around the rules of termination is yet another ongoing dilemma for sales leaders. While there should always be an allotted onboard and ramp up time associated with a new position, sales leaders should be very clear on expectations for the rep and be quicker to terminate underperforming reps. Our research found 18 percent of top-performing sales organizations clearly outlined that sales reps will be terminated for poor performance after one quarter, compared to the 2 percent of average and 5 percent of low performing organizations.
Process oriented: Low-performing sales organizations operate under the myth that a select few high-performing sales reps can achieve quota and carry the team. Sales leaders at top-performing sales organization are outlining specific processes of their best reps and enforcing them across the organization though technology. High-performing sales organizations were almost twice as likely to describe their sales processes as “closely monitored” or “strictly enforced or automated” compared to average or under performing organizations. Additionally, high-performing sales organizations ranked “disciplined sales process and systems usage” as the second most important differentiating factor of top and average performing organizations.
Ultimately what we found is that the key difference is that top-performing sales teams revolve around a team-oriented culture focused on achieving success together.