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Selling As A Profession

I'm a surfer. I own a surf board, surf shorts, and have photos of myself and my friends surfing. I'm also a golfer. I own clubs, I have golf shoes, and I have the receipts from the clubs at which I've played. I am, however, good at neither, and certainly not a professional by any measure or standard. My near-drownings and summer temperature high scores on the course will attest to that. But, no one can tell me I'm neither a golfer nor a surfer. I've done both.

In sales, the barrier to entry seems equally low at times. Simply carry a business card with the title sales, visit a few clients, sign a deal and you're a salesperson. It's that easy, right?

In other professions, it's a little easier to qualify and quantify, to identify the professional from the amateur. If a construction worker, you can inspect the quality of the finished product; if an architect, the soundness of the construction; if a chef, the presentation and taste of the prepared food. Likewise, for most degreed professions, licensure distinguishes the layperson from the professional. A lawyer, his law degree and the certification of the Bar; for the doctor, the medical school diploma and the board certification.

But, for the sales profession, there exists no standard for licensure, no set standard or barrier to entry. We often are told about the "Sales Personality" and the "Born Salesperson." And we are rated most often by our sales performance. And although this is a good measure of success from a business perspective, I have found that this singular standard quite ineffective as a consistent barometer in determining the true competency of the professional. And it is my experience and hypothesis that this archaic method of establishing competency within a sales organization is directly responsible for millions of dollars in lost revenue each year. Let's provide an example:

Salesman A has a territory with an annual quota of $1.5M.
Salesman B has a territory with an annual quota of $1.5M.

Salesman A finishes the year at $1.8M in sales and is awarded a $30k bonus and the company trip.
Salesman B finishes the year at $1.3M in sales, is awarded no bonus and is placed on a performance improvement plan.

Within six months, following the close of the year, Salesman A is promoted and Salesman B is let go, at which time, Salesman A absorbs Salesman B's accounts into her territory.

If closer attention had been paid to the individual accounts, it would have been revealed that Salesman A's accounts had all fallen off by 10%, except for one account, which accounted for all of the growth within the assigned territory, and which was forced to utilize the company's product because of a government contract. Further investigation revealed that there was an additional $300k in uncovered potential. Additionally, a competitor was slowly chipping away at A's core business and was well positioned within the largest accounts in the territory for a full takeaway of the business in the subsequent year.

A close look at Salesman B's territory revealed that 5 of the accounts within the territory had folded due to government intervention, a condition outside of the control of the B. However, B had been able to take away business from several competitors, resulting in over $200k in organic growth and built in-roads for the company for a long-term project that was due to come to fruition within 2 years.
So, in one case, Salesman A should have finished at around $2.3M, and left at least $300k in unrealized potential on the table, while weakening the company's position in the territory, while Salesman B built strong inroads and pathways for the company for future growth in a territory that should have fallen an additional $200k. Yet, we reward A and penalize B.

This is a simple example, but an important distinction. In the world of complex sales, there are simply too many factors that go into the equation to simply look at the outcome. As in math, the work that comes before the solution is often a better indication of the knowledge and ability of the mathematician than whether the final answer is presumed correct.

If this is the case, then the logical question is, "Is there a way to better identify and qualify the true "Sales Professionals" within your organization?" And the answer is, resoundingly and thankfully, "Yes!" And that's what we at Wheeler-Wilkins have spent a sales lifetime perfecting. In subsequent posts, you'll learn more about a formula called "I-Q-P-C" and how you can apply it to your business - whether you're a single person office, or a multi-billion dollar organization.

Until next time!


Raleigh Wilkins
Raleigh Wilkins

VP of Sales Enablement and Chief Sales Architect at Wheeler-Wilkins

November 29, 2017

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