Is it Time to Get Rid of a Few Salespeople?



“So Jonathan, are there too many salespeople in the world?”

That’s not really a question one expects to be confronted with at a private dinner party. Unfortunately, like those poor medical practitioners who are regaled with requests for advice on everything from ingrowing toenails, to hemorrhoids, I have kind of accepted that if any of my fellow guests have a beef about sales-related issues, then I am going to be in the firing line.

I usually begin by trying to explain that everybody, everywhere, sells every day: Then I have to elaborate, and eventually, I find myself defending this fine profession, which actually, after a couple of glasses of a decent Burgundy, I can do all evening – even with my eyes closed.

But let’s take a more pragmatic approach to the question: Are there too many salespeople in the world?

What we do know is that there are too many under-performing salespeople on the planet – about 52% of the current sales population according to Aberdeen’s recent report, which I am about to digest in full – I’ll report back on the findings shortly.


That is a far more complex question to answer – that is to say, there are several answers.

To begin with, most companies, in most industries, find it easier to keep hiring new salespeople, rather than investing in those that they have already: Rather than stopping and taking stock of their current assets, and thinking about what it would take to get that team operating at optimum performance levels, they play the numbers game, which of course is a complete nonsense, and totally unjustifiable financially.

Let me give you an example. What % of sales leaders do you think could accurately answer the following questions about their own team?

-        If you benchmarked your team on an individual basis against the best in your industry/sector how would they fare?

–        What would it take for them to become the very best?

–        Are you able to measure the impact of any investment you have made in training and developing the team in recent years? – I.e. what return have you seen on that investment?

-        What further development is required in order for them to achieve optimum performance levels?

–        If any members of the team are currently underachieving do you know why and do you understand what will be required to get them back on track?

-        Who in your team is capable of much higher levels of achievement, if they were to receive appropriate coaching?

And then follow that up with:

When thinking about your own sales force:

– Do you understand their motivators – what is driving them?
– Do you have visibility of their numbers – year to date, forecast vs. required performance?
– Activity levels – are they working hard and smart enough?
– Engagement – are they talking to the right level in their prospects/accounts?
– Messaging – are they capable of delivering an appropriate message at the right level?
– Qualification – are they only spending time on deals where they can compete and ultimately that they can win?
– Closing – are they constructing successful campaigns and closing business?

I’ll repeat the question – what % of sales leaders could accurately answer those questions?

Let me give you a clue, it is more than 1% but less than 5%.

That is pretty frightening isn’t it?

Secondly, H.R. are getting in the way: They don’t mean to, but particularly in the corporate space, they have far too much authority and far too little experience to make the decisions about sales team development that they are making.

In my experience, in this critical area, most H.R. departments are about as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. They should stick to what they are good at, like looking after employees welfare; ensuring that the company adheres to the maze which is today’s employment laws, and spending as much time as possible at conferences and on training courses, to add another qualification to their CV. Not in your company? You are very lucky!

Finally, unlike most other professions, there are no qualifications required to become a professional salesman or woman: I find that very disappointing, and I am also deeply concerned that even the super-rich corporations, who used to put their latest intakes on a solid two year program, before letting them loose on an unsuspecting audience, now believe that around two weeks of product training is quite sufficient.

However, those companies who have implemented their own “academies” – including most of my clients – are reaping rich rewards: Turnover has been reduced to virtually nil; teams are happy, and feel valued; staff typically work longer hours, but are also working smarter, and they are totally committed. None of that should come as a surprise to any of us. When a company demonstrates its commitment to its employees by investing back into them, those employees are anxious to repay that faith – it is a “no-brainer” and definitely “win-win”

How about you, are you really valued by your company? Or are you one of the at least 80% of sales professionals who remain underqualified to do your job properly?


News: If you missed the momentous event, we did finally launch “Top Sales Blog Posts” yesterday, together with the week’s first ten nominees. We also announced February’s first Top Sales Article of the Week - and this week’s ten nominees. That just 48 hours after publishing what has been described as the best Top Sales magazine yet. Can it get more exciting than that? Probably; let’s see what next week brings! As someone said to me yesterday, “If you were in sales, wouldn’t you be delighted that you had so many free resources at your disposal?” I replied, “I am in sales, and I am delighted to be providing some of those resources” Her reply? “Oh yes, of course” (Lights were on, but nobody was home apparently)

Finally, as a P.S. Good chum, Kevin Eikenberry is leading a webinar tomorrow – Thursday – called “How to Write Better Blog Posts Faster and More Effectively” I am definitely signing up, and you might want to too, and enjoy his pearls of wisdom HERE

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