Have you personally experienced the Sales Paradox?

Building the machine

Working in sales is possibly the least predictable thing one can do. Taking a step up the chain, imagine the nightmares involved in running one.

Everything we do as sales leaders attempts to make the act of creating revenue less of an art and more of a science. When we look at why a rep succeeds in their role – an anecdotal assessment of ‘what’ makes them good is simply insufficient. Instead sales centric organisations are using both technology and data analysis to understand at a fundamental level why certain reps out-perform others.

At a baseline level measures of activity like emails per day & dials per day go a long way to show which people are putting in effort. Then success metrics like calls/demo allow us to see if they are putting this effort into the right areas. Finally – measuring the efficacy of sales enablement tools like distribution of content or engagement on proposals – allows us to find ways to fine tune the machine.

Forgetting buzz words like AI or big data- if an organization is able to understand the level of effort, the context of this effort and track tools used to support this effort; optimization of sales processes can be attained at a relatively low level of cost.

However how does this all relate to the title of the article and what is the ‘Sales Paradox’?

The Sales Paradox

In my opinion there are only two types of sales organizations. Those with working sales engines and those without. When hiring – this has obvious implications for new sales people who join the company.

In the case of organizations who have successfully set up a process – the opportunities for a new rep to join the organization are limited based on the incumbent sales growth formula. Promotion is a certainty after a level of experience and quota has been reached, yet it is rare for individuals to leap frog up the ladder unless they are in the top 1%. Due to the scale and methods involved; each person is entirely replaceable and rightly so; for any reliance on a particular employee  for success constitutes a potential risk factor in the event of that person leaving the company.

On the other hand – organizations without working sales engines often attempt to obfuscate the true nature of internal processes when attracting new talent. New hires are often faced with a sink or swim kind of environment – where individual drive and success can be the defining factor in a company without a consistent working model. Furthermore; a rep can be instrumental in defining the new components of the sales process and contribute revenue which redefines the course of the company. The only problem is that in companies like these – most people simply do not have the skills or the drive to make it in such an adverse environment, thus most new hires fail.

The sales paradox exists based on the above conditions. The more defined our sales processes become – the less we are reliant upon individual contributors within the team and a cultural shift occurs which fosters uniformity in approach and behavior. Therefore – we see a rise in the amount of market level reps which emerge, but a decrease in the amount of reps who have individualized styles, thus paradoxically all sales people start to appear similar to prospective buyers in the market. As a result, the buyers journey is more open to disruption by competitors who develop reps who offer a more unique, refreshing approach. Have you noticed that every Linkedin rep sells the same way? They perform well – but given that they are all trained on mass;  the scale of their organization betrays the sincerity of their personalized approach.

Conversely – less rigorous companies suffer the sales paradox in the inverse manner. Although the conditions they create often cause the best people to emerge from the ashes – the less predictable models are rarely conducive to business success nor do they structurally promote the development of employees to gradually improve their skills.

What does this mean for me?

For individuals looking for sales roles – you face a Catch 22. The roles at small startups may offer a faster pathway to management and may actually be more flexible in terms of compensation – but unless you are self-sufficient, you face an uphill battle to build the skills required to succeed in the role. This is reflected in the amount of sales volatility young startups experience with an average retention time of sales development representatives of 12 months. If you do succeed however; every role therein will be a piece of cake, especially in the larger enterprise companies.

If you opt for the larger companies – despite the culture you may grow to love you will always be replaceable. You will be trained and develop crucial skills – but rarely will you perform well enough to avoid falling into the standard path of corporate monotony.

For managers- we must find the balance in our organizations. We must build the sales engines which turn C level recruits into A level performers but must balance our obligation to foster individual techniques and talents. In terms of compensation – we must also provide continual incentives to drive performance and focus our efforts on supporting reps to succeed through sales enablement and removing impeding structural elements rather than dictating performance guidelines.

The Sales Paradox faces us all as we look to scale – how will you deal with it?

About The Author

Dailius Wilson

Dailius Wilson is the 24 year old founder of WolfofYorkStreet.com – helping the world's top SaaS companies to optimise their sales and marketing efforts. Dailius is currently a Director at TrustRadius and a digital blogger at increasemyonlinebusiness.com. Dailius was named as one of the Top 30 Entrepreneurs in Australia for 2015 by Anthill Online and was ranked in the Top 100 SEO Experts in the World. Dailius has also been a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show and has over 10,000,000 views on Youtube