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Creating Space for Risk in the Sales Organization

“Manage the middle” to influence change is not a new concept. The ends are comprised of top performers who will find ways to continue their success and bottom performers who need to shape up or ship out. It’s not to say that the best don’t need coaching or that the bottom can’t be saved — to the contrary, we believe strongly that both are true. However, to have the biggest impact, focus your sites on the middle…

Cruising quietly in the middle lane of every sales organization are the 70%ers, a vast group of sales reps whose performance lands them square on them on the hump of the sales performance scale. And their potential is huge.

“A 5% gain in the middle 60% of your sales performers can deliver over 91% greater sales than a 5% shift in your top 20%.” – Qvidian

What differentiates this group from their incentive winning peers? Aptitude for risk-taking. 

The best salespeople are excellent problem solvers. They anticipate obstacles and devise creative means to overcome sales objectives. They go out on a limb and reach out a 5th time to a “cold” lead. They aren’t afraid to ask about budget and priority changes (including, but not limited to COVID-19).

In short, top performers are more willing to take risks – some of which will ultimately pay off for the sales organization and some of which won’t.

When risks pay off, they can change the course of a rep’s selling behavior. For example, a sales rep takes a risk with one prospective customer which pays off with a closed deal. You can bet that they will use the same approach next time they are presented with a similar situation. 

Over time, this approach becomes part of their selling behavior. Every subsequent deal that rep makes could be positively affected by taking that one risk. But not everyone is willing to take the risk.

As a whole, 70%ers are less apt to take risks. 

But, risk-takers aren’t just born — they can be made.

Encourage Calculated Risks to Level Up Reps’ Performance

Getting reps to take more risks sounds like an oversimplification of a complex problem. But it’s actually one of the key ways that behavior is effectively changed. 

Risk taking can sound, well, risky. Especially since it is something that every sales organization tries to minimize and whole corporate departments are dedicated to mitigating. Taking risks may be something 70%ers have done since childhood. 

Kids jump down from a platform on the playground and learn the limits of their own physical capabilities. They argue with friends over whose turn it is and in doing so learn how to wield the power of persuasion. Play is a safe space to take risks and test different outcomes. 

Sales management can also create a safe space for sales reps to take risks. One where an entire deal isn’t on the line. 

Setting reps loose inside a risk-free virtual sales environment allows them to go head to head with a virtual customer – get immediate feedback – and try again. All without the risk of blowing a deal – or a customer relationship.

The power of the 70% lies in their scope and scale. Even a small across-the-board increase from middle performers translates into a massive boon for the sales organization.

Author: Nick Rini

Nick Rini, with an extensive tenure in tech as an entrepreneur, has led three companies as CEO, and served as an advisor to several tech company CEOs. Nick’s experience includes raising venture funding, mergers and acquisitions, sales forensics consulting, sales, marketing, and sales management.


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