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performance & Measurement

Optimizing Teams for Best-In-Class Sales Performance

Written By: Sean Frontz

September 12, 2023 – 6 min read

In today’s highly competitive business environment, talent development is a crucial factor for success. This article explores the challenges facing sales teams in the life sciences industry and what sales leaders can do to optimize their teams for best-in-class performance.

The Performance Challenge

Many life sciences organizations invest heavily in their employees’ training and development, spending around 7% of their annual budget on these efforts. However, despite these investments, sales performance remains a persistent problem. One of the main issues is the complexity created by these efforts. As we continue to create new systems, technology, tools, and processes to help sales, we are inadvertently contributing to the problem rather than solving it.

Complexity interferes with success by blocking performance predictably. In other words, the more complicated the sales process becomes, the less likely it is that reps will be able to sell effectively. Complexity creates two significant issues. First, it creates more work. The average sales rep spends an average of two-thirds of their time in non-revenue generating activities, leaving only 35.2% of their time for functions related to selling. Second, it diminishes the opportunities for coaching. According to a recent study, 73 percent of sales managers spend less than 5 percent of their time coaching. Coaching is a critical aspect of sales development and is critical to talent development and performance. Given that, on average, only 24.7 percent of reps hit their annual targets consistently, it’s time to address the complexity challenge.

“As a sales leader, your primary responsibility is to drive revenue growth for your organization. To achieve this, it’s critical to focus on advancing your sales team’s talent and skills.”

The Role of the Sales Leader

As a sales leader, your primary responsibility is to drive revenue growth for your organization. To achieve this, it’s critical to focus on advancing your sales team’s talent and skills. Not only is it imperative to recruit and hire the right people, but you must also create a system so that each person may perform optimally. This process may look different for each team member. Your job as their sales leader is to stay attuned to their needs and provide consistent coaching and feedback to allow them to improve and grow professionally. By focusing on talent, revenue growth will follow exponentially.

Introduction to the Performance Matrix

Optimizing and developing sales talent requires a system of continuous improvement. The Performance Matrix is a simple framework to help identify the needs and wants of each of your team members and then support them in getting the very best out of them. The Performance Matrix follows a typical bell curve. Within the matrix, you’ll find that 20% of your team will require significant coaching and support (these are your C players, 60% will be somewhere in the middle (B players), and 20% will require very little coaching and development (A players). What does this look like in practice? A Players know what to do and do it every time. B Players know what to do, but they can’t figure out how to get it done consistently. And C Players are struggling most of the time.

The Knowing/Doing Gap

The key to advancing talent is bridging the Knowing/Doing Gap. The Knowing/Doing Gap is one of the most studied concepts in human psychology. It’s the idea that we all struggle to do what we know we need to do. We know what needs to be done, but many times, we simply don’t do it. For example, we all know in order to live a long and healthy life, we must eat right and exercise regularly; however many don’t do this consistently for a myriad of reasons.

Why does a majority of your team know what to do and fail to do it? We call this an E.F.F.—Excuse for Failure. For example, B Players who know what to do and can’t get it done create an excuse for failure. As a sales leader, it’s your job to help the B Player recognize and remove the E.F.F. that’s holding them back from success. Not all will have the same E.F.F. The key is to understand where individual team members are as it relates to their abilities and motivations and what they need from you as their coach.

The Performance Matrix is all about understanding the interplay of ability and motivation to map out your team so that you can build a best-in-class sales organization. It’s a simple, yet powerful way to view the talent you’re currently leading.

The Performance Matrix examines two factors:

  1. The person’s will—drive, energy, motivation, grit, stick-to-itiveness, and passion.Will is non-comparative and should be based on the same objective standards.
  2. The person’s skill—not just the skills that got them the job, but the skills needed to advance the business objectives. It’s the skills needed to succeed tomorrow.

The key to understanding and overcoming the “Knowing/Doing Gap” is to identify where your individual team members are regarding their abilities and motivation to perform their job successfully. Coaching and feedback are critical to helping your team members identify areas for improvement and continue to advance.

Exposure to Biases and the Performance Matrix

The Performance Matrix is a powerful tool for optimizing team performance by identifying and understanding the abilities and motivations of each team member. It can also expose a leader’s bias toward their team members—both good and bad. Biases are blind spots that prevent leaders from seeing their team members objectively, which leads to poor decision-making and missed opportunities. It’s important to realize that everyone has biases. It’s not a matter of whether or not we have them, but whether we can recognize and address them. Leaders who are unaware of their biases are more likely to make poor decisions based on subjective factors rather than objective data.

“Biases are blind spots that prevent leaders from seeing their team members objectively, which leads to poor decision-making and missed opportunities.”

In Sum

Moving the performance needle isn’t about adding more systems, tools, and processes. It’s about providing the optimal systems, culture, and accountability to create an environment for success. The Performance Matrix provides a simple yet powerful framework for sales leaders to identify the needs and wants of each team member and support them in achieving best-in-class performance.

By focusing on talent and continuous improvement, you can optimize sales performance and drive revenue growth for your organization. When people succeed, business succeeds.

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