The Lucky Few

Let’s say you have a sales team of 20 people. How many of them are sales rock stars? Chances are, no more than 2 or 3. You probably have another 5 who are pretty good. They can get the job done, with a bit of guidance. What about the rest? Perhaps they show potential, but they need a lot of sales coaching and guidance before they can really start bringing it. This is true for most (77%) sales organizations according to 2015 CSO Insights study on sales coaching. And it’s just not good enough.


There are many reasons for this unhappy talent situation faced by organizations everywhere. For one, formal education in sales is not often an expected prerequisite for a sales job, especially in organizations with large feet-on-street sales teams. Most organizations don’t demand a degree or diploma in sales before hiring, and few credible educational programs exist to provide such qualifications.


Companies rely on their sales training programs to a large extent. These programs, usually just a few days long, cram a lot of topics ranging from selling skills to sales processes to sales performance metrics to sales management to leadership skills. Such programs, typically classroom based, are akin to drinking water from a fire hose. Research has shown that retention of classroom training can drop by 90% in 30 days, especially when there is very little post training follow up.


So, sales people are expected to learn on the job. But, from whom? Ideally, their sales managers, who are themselves often under immense pressure of deadlines and quotas and more importantly, aren’t necessarily equipped with the sales coaching skills to guide their young reps. It’s the lucky few, who happen to cross paths with leaders who have the inclination, skill, and experience to coach them in the art and science of sales. These coaches play an instrumental role in defining and molding their protégés and teaching them the “stuff” of sales – discipline, planning, goal-setting, positioning, strategizing, listening, connecting, storytelling.


If you ask the two or three sales rock stars on your team if they’ve ever had such a fortunate relationship with a coach, they will likely say yes. You’re probably thinking of your own mentor right now.


The problem, of course, is that such coaches are not easy to come by. The smarter sales organizations do invest in grooming their managers to play a greater coaching role. They ensure that sales managers have ready access to tools like mobile CRMs and sales dashboards that show the latest data, so they are equipped to have data driven sales coaching conversations with their teams. However, widespread availability of coaching skills, sustainability, and scalability continue to be roadblocks.


Two rock stars out of a team of 20 is not a good enough number, and leaving the development of the rest to the “chance” that they’ll find a good coach is not a good enough option. What is your organization doing to provide coaching at scale to all their sales staff – not just the lucky few?

1 thought on “The Lucky Few”

  1. This is spot on! Individualized, personalized coaching from a mentor who really cares is rare, and really can’t be replaced. But, the need for skill building in sales is so high, and much of the problem can be tackled through technology – it’s worth investing in even as we wish for more mentors.

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