Applying The Pareto Principle To Bridge Sales Gaps
Not all salespeople perform equally. Generally, an organization’s top salespeople will generate the most sales, but this sales gap means you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. How can teams close the sales gap for good?
The Pareto Principle In Sales
Many of us are familiar with the Pareto principle. It’s an idea that comes from the early 20th-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto noticed that roughly 80% of Italy’s wealth was controlled by 20% of its citizens. As Pareto tested this idea, he found that it applied everywhere.
Like most organizations, 20% of your reps drive 80% of your sales. This is great for that 20% but highlights a problem for sales leaders. How do you close the gap between the 20% and the 80% and keep it closed?
Often, sales leaders think the answer is to hire better salespeople. This isn’t easy, and it’s very costly. Replacing a team member costs 200% of a sales rep’s annual salary plus benefits. Too often, sales leaders throw more sales training at underperformers. Sometimes this works, but it typically results in a version of the whack-a-mole game—maybe you close one performance gap,
but then another one pops up, then another, etc.
Sales performance gaps cannot be permanently closed by hiring better talent or training. To close gaps permanently, sales leaders need to instill three things in their teams:
A System Of Success
Sales performance gaps are rarely present because of a knowledge gap. Everyone receives the same training, but the difference lies in attitudes and behaviors. The top 20% have the internal drive and know-how to get where they need to go, while the other 80% do not. This is where a system of success is critical. Sales training is crucial but throwing more training at people who aren’t practicing it won’t close the gap. A system of success shows teams how and when to use the tools already in their kit and how it fits into the broader sales plan.
A Culture Of Improvement
Culture drives organizations. It provides identity and defines a protocol to behave within the organization. Sales leaders who create a culture of continuous improvement will more consistently hit their goals. Why? The basic idea behind this principle is simple: “We get better; that’s just what we do.” All the best salespeople intrinsically understand this, so the goal is to instill this culture in the other 80%. This isn’t easy, but the results are worth it. Encourage your team to identify new opportunities, markets, and efficiencies and evaluate their processes and outcomes. Drive a culture of continuous improvement and watch the sales gaps close.
A great system and a culture of improvement are great and necessary things for permanently closing sales gaps. However, without accountability, performance gaps will persist. The term accountability often has negative connotations. Most people relate accountability with punishment. When employees feel like they are walking on eggshells, you create a fear-based culture. This works against the gaps you’re trying to close. Accountability needs to be holding your team responsible when things go wrong, but it also means recognizing and broadcasting their successes.
Accountability isn’t just an individual’s responsibility—it’s systematic and cultural. Sales organizations need to set goals and establish paths to success together. Corrective action must focus on attacking the problem, not the person. Rewards must also be in place to recognize strong performance and encourage those who hit goals, and inspire others to follow suit.
Sales performance gaps plague most organizations. Sales leaders are constantly watching top performers and looking for ways to get the rest of the team to catch up. Hiring ‘better’ or more training does not fix the problem. The only way to close sales performance gaps for good is to design a system of success, create a culture of improvement, and generate proper accountability within your team.
Download the eBook Closing Sales Performance Gaps Using Gamification to identify and address pain points that prevent your sales teams from achieving their goals. You can also join the webinar to learn how to close gaps for good and help sales reps who struggle to meet their quotas.