Most sport teams no matter what the league talk a lot about balance. Baseball has the top of the order where the top two hitters, in theory anyway, are good hitters who have speed on the base paths. Batters three through six are the beef of the order because they tend to get the big hits. The seven through nine hitters….well,, we’ll let those guys for another post. Basketball teams have “balanced scoring” from all their players. Football coaches have an offensive balance between passing and running the ball.
Sales teams also should have balance. For example, in a sales region or division where there are 7 reps, balance translates out to 2-3 mature, professional salespeople with at least 10 years of sales experience. This group is followed by 2-3 mid-level reps who have decent experience but who haven’t displayed the skills of the sales pro-yet. The last group are the younger or less experienced salespeople who are, for all intents and purposes, green but are willing and able to learn sales.
How many sales groups have this structure? Not many! Why? Because this “structure philosophy” is more business lore than it is a sales management principle discussed in books or blogs.
Does the structure make sense? Absolutely, and here’s why. A good sales professional understands that part of their responsibility is to take the fledgling sales rep and coach them about how to be a sales pro. They don’t replace the sales manager as coach but they augment what the manager teaches. That’s why many sales organizations have some designated senior people who the newer reps travel with so they can observe how the pro talks about the product, organizes their territory, closes business etc. If you don’t have senior people doing this you should. It’s good for both the junior and senior people.
Not only is this a good ego boost to the experienced rep but it might indicate to management that this person is a good candidate for sales management, if that is what they want for a career step. If I were the manager setting this up I wouldn’t give the senior person much direction in the beginning. I’d want to see how they handle having another rep work with them. Eventually, I would set up a more strategic plan for what I wanted accomplished but it’s never bad to see how people handle themselves without the direction.
The mid-level reps are the ones that, with good coaching and time to mature, can work their way into the top level of sales. Do all of them want that? Not necessarily. Is that bad? No. There are salespeople who basically want to do their job, earn what they’re earning and live happily ever after. They don’t want sales management and they don’t want the pressure of being the “big chalupa”. There are plenty of pro athletes who won’t make the hall of fame, earn most valuable player status or make the mega-salary. Teams need these players and sales teams need these types of salespeople. By the way, the mid-level reps are not “sales bottom feeders”. They are successful, their customers love them, they generate steady revenue; they just aren’t “hard wired” to be the all pro.
Call this the sales team bell curve. Your top reps are to the right, your average reps are in the middle and the less experienced reps are to the left. As a sales manager I wouldn’t want all my reps in the middle or to the far left; I want a mix. So, you’re all thinking, why not have all experienced reps and forget the blend. Hey, if you can do that then by all means do it. In my opinion there aren’t enough solid, mature, and experienced reps to fill all these slots in every company. If you think there are then you and Aesop have a lot in common.
The Final Thought: Determine the skills sets of your sales pros and hire new reps based on those skill sets.