The Science of Achievement Applied to Sales Success
Dave Kurlan is a top-rated speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and highly regarded sales development expert.
I finally read Malcolm Gladwell's great book,Outliers: The Story of Success, where he relates the histories of some wildly successful and unsuccessful stars and common folk, and the underlying reasons for their achievements.
He concludes that while they were all talented, it wasn't the talent alone that made them successful as much as it was the opportunities of timing, parenting, location and the time and desire to practice and perfect their various skills. He showed how intelligence only mattered up to a point, and only if it was practical intelligence; people skills, problem solving skills, and the ability to advocate for one's self.
As powerful as all that was, there was one paragraph that stood out for me. Regardless of their career path, those who were THE MOST SUCCESSFUL had two things in common:
- 10,000 hours of "practice"
- 10 years to perfect their skills.
Many salespeople have been in sales for ten plus years and aren't the best of the best. They're not even in the top 26%. I will use science to explain this. If we go back and look atObjective Management Group'sdata on the 500,000 salespeoplethat have been assessed so far, we find that 22% are not trainable (no incentive to change) and another 10% shouldn't even be in sales. So that leaves 42% unaccounted for. What about them? I dug through the data and found that:
24% have been in sales for less than 5 years.
21 % have been in sales for between 5-9 years.
Of the 55% that have been in sales for at least 10 years, only 20% are in the top 26%. That means 80% of the ten year group, despite their 10,000 hours, have not become remarkable. The data shows that they have not been an example of sales best practices for their time in sales. Their weaknesses and skill gaps are well documented and certainly part of the problem. Here are ten possible explanations for why that is so:
- lack of commitment to sales success
- they didn't practice (the rule, not the exception)
- lack of training (especially in small businesses)
- low expectations
- lack of single minded pursuit of sales excellence
- not exposed to best practices, including having a formal, structured sales process
- lack of accountability (less than 15% of sales managers hold salespeople accountable)
- didn't work where there was a strong sales culture (very common)
- ineffective sales coaching (84% of sales managers just plain suck!)
- not aware that the world of selling has changed so dramatically in the past 5 years
- evaluated the sales force
- created a formal, structured, best practices sales process
- developed a best-practices sales recruiting process
- created a staged, criteria based pipeline
- developed metrics to keep the pipeline filled, moving and drive revenue
- close the skill gaps
- overcome the weaknesses
- develop sales management's ability to coach and hold salespeople accountable
- use of sales 2.0 tools
- ongoing sales training
- update the compensation plan
- use of incentives
- update selection criteria
- improve ability to on board new salespeople