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The Key Questions You Need To Ask To Improve Sales By 20 – 30%

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Who’s up for the Pot of Gold?

Last week we started exploring a key topic for all organisations:

For Companies: How to improve sales?

For NGOs: How to improve fund raising?

We talked about a simple calculation:

  1. Order the sales force by performance from top to bottom
  2. Call the top third: 100%
  3. Divide the middle third into the top third and the bottom third into the top third.
  4. This creates a team sales productivity curve (SPC)

We suggested that an ideal curve looks like the green one below and a less ideal curve, like the red one.Improving Sales

The difference between the two curves is anything from 20-30%. A pot of gold for any sales manager.

If you do the calculations or think your team might be on the red line, here’s the next step:

Define the capability of your top people: What makes them capable of good performance?

If you want to improve sales, think about some or all of the following questions:

  1. Do they have a certain level of education? Matric, Certificate, Diploma, Degree or Post Grad?
  2. Have they attended specific certificated non-sales training that you think makes a difference to their performance?
  3. Have they attended specific certificated sales training that you think makes a difference to their performance?
  4. How many years of experience do they have in your industry or in a similar industry?
  5. How many years of experience do they have in sales?
  6. How many years of experience do they have in your company?
  7. How many prospecting call sessions do they attend monthly?
  8. How many sales appointments do they complete monthly?
  9. How many proposals do they write monthly?
  10. How well do they present to an audience of a few people or more?
  11. Are they particularly professional in their approach to work?
  12. Do they keep their promises and deliver OTIF (on time, in full) most of the time?
  13. What technical competencies do they have?
  14. What software tools are they proficient in using?
  15. Do they adhere to company systems, processes, and values?
  16. Are they confident, outgoing, impatient, target oriented, happy to ask for the business, not scared of rejection?
  17. Do they lead, own their work, handle conflict and frustration, solve problems and build relationships?
  18. Are they quick, resilient, responsive, disciplined, altruistic and self-confident?
  19. Are they co-operatively or assertively involved at work?
  20. Do they have a track record of prior performance?
  21. What did previous employers say about them?
  22. What do colleagues in the sales team say about them?
  23. What do staff from other departments say about them?
  24. What do clients say about them?
  25. What do you say about them?

If you struggle to answer all of these questions, ask HR for help. They have access to the tools, assessments, surveys, and methods to answer all of these questions.

A strategic partnership with internal or external HR Business Partners has a big impact on performance.

You can improve sales by 20-30%. That’s appealing. Isn’t it?

Thanks for reading this. If you have time to comment, please do. I value all comments and feedback.

Next week: An example of a scorecard that summarises many of the questions above into one scorecard on one page.


  1. Michael Webb
    August 31, 2017

    Sorry, Steve, with all due respect, I don’t think you understand what you are talking about.

    I did something like this once with a client. We ranked their salespeople from highest to lowest close ratio. Noting that lowest performer was noticeably lower than the rest, my statistician told me privately, “The client should probably fire that guy.” When we showed the bar graph (which included individual’s names) to a room full of the client’s salespeople, they reacted with gasps, giggles, and some shuffling. What were they thinking?

    The guy with the lowest close ratio was the top salesperson in the company!

    Why was his close ratio so much lower than anyone else’s? Because he, alone among the salespeople, was religious about entering every possible sales opportunity into their CRM system. We learned, in fact, that the only way the sales V.P. had been able to get participation in the CRM was to require salespeople to use it to issue quotes. Most salespeople only entered sales opportunities into the system when they needed a quote.

    There are lots of ways to measure sales performance. And every one of them is guaranteed to be completely wrong if you make the mistake of assuming sales is merely about what salespeople do. It isn’t.

    Salespeople are trapped in a system, just like everybody else. That list of questions you provided are tangential to the issue, at best. That is why you have “huge cacophony” when you bring up process improvement to the sales department.

    If you expect the sales department to pay attention, you have to have at least some understanding of what adds value, and what doesn’t from the perspective of the sales department (and the customer).

    • Steve Rogers
      August 31, 2017

      Hi Michael, thanks for your comment. The mistake you made with a client was a mistake based on a limited amount of data. That’s ok. We learn. I had a similar issue when I assumed that someone’s performance would be limited because of a result of an assessment. He was actually a good performer. That’s what led me to start defining capability. What is it? Can you measure it? I wrote this blog a while back about it: http://www.rightpeoplerightjob.com.www101.cpt1.host-h.net/performance-looking-past-capability-looking-future/. We’ve had some interesting projects on the topic and while not perfect, I intend to pursue the topic because of the absolute fortune we spend on people. Imagine if we can improve the ROI by 10 or 20%?

      To your other point: I agree that sales people can’t be measured only by what they do. But where does one start: the system, the people, the management? I don’t mind. But the fact is that sales is not famous for analytics. Sales is a raw gutfeel thing. To win the war, beat the target, get the prize. My starting point is the sales person and the sales management. The recruitment, development and retention of sales people is not ideal in many companies who hire people and shrug when they leave. Something wrong in that picture. All best.

    • Steve Rogers
      August 31, 2017

      Hi Michael, had a quick look at your website. Very interesting. Be good to connect offline.