If you conduct a Google search for “sales excellence studies”, you’ll find more than 20,000 results. I’m sure that some results point to surveys which were conducted by others, but either way, that’s a lot of studies on sales excellence. If any of those studies were actually ground-breaking, insightful or truly representative of sales excellence, there would probably be fewer than a dozen. But there are not. There are many reasons why these studies are so lame, but let’s name just a few:
- They’re not really studies, rather they’re surveys.
- They survey anyone who wishes to participate.
- People are included in the survey regardless of whether they employ best practices.
- People are included in the survey regardless of whether they’re successful.
- They take the successful companies’ most popular responses and refer to them as best practices.
- It’s not a best practice just because a company is succeeding.
- Most participants are from very large companies.
- Most big companies are succeeding – not because of their sales organizations, but in spite of them.
Let me give you an example: At Objective Management Group (OMG), we’ve assessed (not surveyed) 650,000 salespeople and sales managers. One of the single most common findings (to the tune of 91%) is that salespeople are not following a formal, structured sales process. The ironic thing is that if we surveyed those 650,000, many would have responded that they do follow a process. That’s what happens with surveys. But, OMG’s are sales force evaluations. So, we ask multiple questions to determine for ourselves, based on our criteria, whether they do or not. A sales excellence study using our data would likely show that not following a sales process is a best practice because that was the most common finding.
Here’s Another Example: Outsell’s 2013 Sales Excellence Study identified six influencing factors which most affect a firm’s sales performance potential. This study is flawed simply by including the word “potential”. What does that have to do with performance? One of their six factors is “salesperson compensation structure”. Again, this factor is made totally useless by including the word “structure”. While it would be a stretch to suggest that compensation influenced performance, calling it compensation structure is ridiculous.
If I wrote a Sales Excellence Study based on OMG’s data from 10,000 sales force evaluations and decided to narrow it to six factors which impact sales performance, I already know that they’d be:
- Effective Sales Selection for Appropriate Sales DNA,
- Effective Sales Coaching,
- Effective Sales Accountability,
- Formal, Structured Consultative Sales Process,
- Sales and Sales Leadership Training, Coaching and Development and
- Hunting for New Business.
I don’t need a survey to identify these, as most companies absolutely suck wind at all of them, but when they fix these problems, their revenue often doubles within 24 months.
Take most sales excellence studies with a grain of salt. Most are simply seasoning to make their product offerings smell and taste better.