Too Many Sales Reps Are Wimps


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In general, sales reps represent themselves as a pretty tough, resilient, independent bunch. I’m not so sure about that.

Virtually every time I work with a sales team to continuously improve its sales process, I run smack into a “they’re too delicate for that” problem. It’s never phrased that way. It’s always couched in terms of “not our leadership style” or “I don’t manage that way” or some other noble-sounding axiom. As soon as the metrics come out of the bag, though, the back-pedaling and wimping-out begins.

To illustrate, consider a simple situation where we’re using 3 metrics; one for results and the other two for process:

Amy 1,500
30 days
Bill 1,100
31 days
Chuck 1,000
28 days
Doris 900
33 days
Ed 500
18 days

The immediate reaction to presentation of data like this is defensiveness from reps and protectionism from managers. Ed says, “But, but, but…” The manager says, “We can’t embarrass Ed by telling him he’s fifth of five in sales.” Bull feathers! That’s totally missing the point. Both reps and managers need to realize that the objective is continuous improvement.

If there’s no data, there’s no baseline of performance. If there’s no baseline of performance, there’s no way to tell if things are getting better or worse or staying the same. If there’s no way to tell if things are getting better or worse or staying the same, there’s no way to know if improvement is happening or not. In other words, if there’s no data there’s no commitment to continuous improvement.

Everybody needs to understand that everybody’s goal is continuous improvement. It’s not about embarrassment. It not about beating up the reps. It’s about clearly identifying your flaws, accepting them, embracing them and figuring out how to reduce them. Ed needs to know he’s dead last in sales. Chuck needs to know he’s dead last in value of identified opportunities in his funnel. Doris needs to know she’s got the longest sell cycle.

That’s when the flip side kicks in. Everybody also needs to know Ed’s got the shortest sell cycle. Why? How does he do it? What techniques and tools does he use? How can everyone else learn his tactics and apply them using their own personal style and spin?

Everyone needs to know that Amy’s really good at identifying opportunities. Why? How does she do it? What techniques and tools does she use? How can everyone else learn her tactics and apply them using their own personal style and spin?

Get it? Demand data! Know your flaws. Announce you flaws to your teammates. Enlist their help. Stop being such a baby. Improve continuously!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Todd Youngblood
Todd Youngblood is passionate about sales productivity. His 3+ year career in Executive Management, Sales, Marketing and Consulting has focused on selling more, better, cheaper and faster. He established The YPS Group, Inc. in 1999 based on his years of experience in Sales Process Engineering – that is, combining creativity and discipline in the design, implementation and use of work processes for highly effective sales teams.


  1. First things first, Todd 😉

    I think it is critical to, first, evaluate whether the reps are committed to working hard and not being slackers, as wayyyy too many are, as we well know. Too many reps have an excuse a minute for their poor sales numbers when it really comes down to their motivational level that falls short.

    And, getting past the slacker crowd, I don’t know one rep who is dedicated and committed to clinching a deal that wouldn’t be receptive to constructive criticism, ongoing sales training, evaluation of his/her numbers and just basically having a custom-tailored one-on-one with the boss to better his/herself. Hey, if I, as a rep, know that I could be more productive and make more cha-ching, I wouldn’t even think of this approach as embarrassing or flaw-exposing. From my experience, only the slackers get this defensive…..well…..maybe the wimps, too…you know, the “sensitive” ones. LOL The restof the team that is putting their nose to the grindstone will embrace this type of coaching. Of course, they will have to fit it into their 60-70 hour work week…but they will fit it in. (hint to those who are slacking off and get off your a$$es and get to work.)

  2. Yes Todd I agree, there are several compelling benefits in this approach:
    1) It’s better to manage the cause of sales and have more time to react;
    2) To be able to spot what aspect of your sales activity is letting you down eg: number of calls or order value and focus on its improvement;
    3) To moniter the team more objectively and remove apparent subjective bias towards individuals;
    4) For me the biggest benefit – to have in place a self-managing system for the team where they take ownership of their activity targets, and commit to their own improvement targets.

  3. Great article Todd,
    As yourself, I work as a consultant in Norway within the area of sales improvement with more than 20 years of experience.
    Although you use strong adjectives to make headlines and reactions, I could not agree more. It is really about creating a culture receptive for continous improvements. Detailed sales pipelines and openness around the facts are the only way get the necessary picture for what needs to be done. It is about learning, improving, closing higher value deals faster and having fun. Your story is not about firing people.

  4. Patti – Thanks for your comments. Great to know there are others out there who believe in coaching based on facts, vs. gut feel. – Todd

  5. Rick – So you’d rather NOT know what your weaknesses are??? How on earth else can you know what areas of your skill set need work? Oh, by the way, I’ve been selling big ticket B2B since 1976. – Todd

  6. Bob – I with you all the way on the self-management concept. That and the removal of subjectivity. – Todd

  7. Arne – You’re right about the strong adjectives… Figured I give it a try to see what kind of reaction it created. It was quite a reaction! Seems as though, like you, got the real message about continuous improvement based on objective facts vs. subjective opinions. – Todd


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