Why Sales Talent Regresses To The Mean

Pick your number – 70% of sales reps in B2B enterprise technology sales do not make quota. Some say 80% – whatever it is, it’s the majority.

Everyone is familiar with the common excuses – customers find what they need on the internet. Companies have all the technology they need, so new stuff doesn’t get traction. Buyers don’t want to meet with salespeople; thus it is very hard to apply sales skills even if one had any.

There is a different way to look at this problem – understand the terrain.

The terrain is the buying environment, and it is not particularly harder than 20 years ago – it’s just different. The winners are the ones who adapt to this new selling environment. They thrive. That is if they could ever get hired in the first place.

One of the main reasons buyers do not want to talk to or see a salesperson is because they know they enter the dreaded “sales funnel.”

Download the brochure, the chirpy BDR (business dev rep) calls incessantly.

Take a phone call, on a cell, DiscoverOrg and RainKing sell your phone number to the planet.

Take a meeting, the rep shows up with a sales VP, probably several other mid-level, useless tag-alongs. There are never enough chairs.

This is the terrain. Everyone knows it. It’s been this way for 20 years.

Why not hire that bright, clever salesperson who thrives in this terrain? They thrive by ignoring nonsense and giving the prospect what they crave – information they could not find themselves that helps their business.

They skip the nonsense of sending endless SPAM emails. They bypass the leads provided by the hundreds from a useless marketing department. Page after page of Hotmail and Gmail accounts from low-level desk lurkers in Bangladesh get ignored.

They skip day-long quarterly business reviews listening to 20 reps lay out the “strategy” for bringing in that $20,000 license before the end of the quarter.

Oh my! They are not driven by manufactured pressure to shoehorn prospects into end-of-quarter madness.

The problem, dear reader, is they would never get hired.

The reason B2B selling is so challenging is that everyone has mechanized the useless, easy stuff at scale.

Thousands of emails drive hundreds of useless leads from people more curious than interested.

Sales teams have become extensions of the Marketo-SPAM activity machine where process is revered and imagination is a threat.

Process is king and anything that challenges process is evil.

What’s the clever, imaginative rep to do? They know these programs are terrible. They are embarrassed when their prospect, in a buying cycle, begs to be unsubscribed.

Perhaps they go to the marketing VP and sales VP with a better idea. Right!

Just try to do anything inconsistent with this madness. If a new idea is tried, it takes resources away from the declining marketing machine. If it works, it proves the marketing and sales processes are hideously useless.

This is the world of venture capital-funded nonsense where the drive to apply metrics across every activity forces people to be stupid.

Sales reps, some few who know better, understand they need to carve out some secret time from this activity trap to do something imaginative.

Maybe they can squirrel an unreported meeting with someone they know has the buyer’s confidence. Perhaps they can learn from that trusted advisor about the buyer’s unreported requirements. They might just find out the buyer’s team is in peril of being eliminated if they do not solve a specific problem.

That kid BDR certainly won’t find this nugget upon which a sale might just pivot. The SPAM marketing department won’t find this clue in their database of Mumbai Hotmail accounts. Trade shows won’t get this little gem of knowledge into the salesperson’s hands.

Imagination, cleverness, and insight by the salesperson is the only way to find this kind of hidden data that accelerates a sale.

Unfortunately, it will not happen because today’s salespeople have had imagination eliminated from their requirements list. The ones who get hired are the talentless drones who think their company’s sales process will drive the prospect.

Imagination not required. Just send in the talentless who will do what they are told.