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Sales Effectiveness

A recent Harvard Business Review study determined only 37% of salespeople are effective in doing the very thing are paid to do: sell. After observing 800 sales professionals in live sales settings, HBR categorized the personnel who were successful in completing a sale into three personas: Consultants, Closers, and Experts.

Consultants are salespeople adept at tailoring the presentation or sales pitch to the buyer’s needs. Closers are blessed with the gift of gab, and always have an answer for their customer’s toughest questions. The rarest type of effective sales personnel, the Expert, can make selling seem easy and consistently ranked near the top of their peer group in sales performance.

The same Harvard study concluded the remaining 63% of salespeople tended to not have any impact on a buyer’s decision, or worse, have their performance negatively impact the chance of making a successful sale.

Where do your salespeople rate? Do you have any Consultants, Closers or Experts? The numbers suggest there is a good probability some of your team is actually hurting your organization’s sales performance, and once you identify who needs additional training (hint: it’s probably the whole team) the question then becomes, “Where can our salespeople improve and how can they make those strides?”

In Anova’s research across a wide range of verticals, sales personnel generally rate higher in attributes such as responsiveness, preparedness, and product knowledge – things commonly referred to as true Sales 101 qualities. It is the more advanced skillset where many drop off and even less can consistently complete at a high performing level.

The ability to differentiate is consistently rated as the lowest-scoring attribute for salespeople in Anova studies, followed by the ability to customize a presentation and tailor a pitch to address a prospect’s unique needs. It seems like common sense: to win the deal you must connect the prospect’s needs to your offering and demonstrate how you are better than the competition. However, as the Harvard study shows, these skills are not mastered by the majority of salespeople.

If you are like any ambitious business leader, your 2017 sales goals have been set and you are relying on your top performers to get you there. But maybe it is time to think about the other 63%. How are you helping them raise their game and develop into a Consultant, Closer, or Expert? Feedback on where they can get better and how to improve could be the missing piece to the puzzle.