Get More Sales with the Same Headcount... Sound Familiar?


Your task is to increase sales year-over-year without adding headcount. Does that sound familiar? If you have been a sales leader long enough, I am sure this is one of the challenges you face as you enter a new fiscal year. It sounds so simple and yet can be such a difficult thing to do. As I think about my experiences, as well as experiences working with many of my clients, there are many places one could start to handle this challenge. For the purposes of this discussion, let's think about how to get better performance out of existing team members.

To meet the challenge of increasing sales without adding headcount, we need a strategy to “up everyone’s game” and get our “B” players to perform like “A” players. In sales, we rarely suffer from a lack of data or information. We can look at past performance to determine who the A’s, B’s and C’s are. Chances are, our findings will mirror a study by McKinsey, which plotted the average sales team on a bell curve (see graph).

bell curve with numbers.png

The study reveals that “B” players produce at about 104% and “A” players produce at about 152%. So, let’s get some “B”s performing like “A”s, right? The challenge we face is figuring out what enables someone to be an “A” player so we know what levers to pull to create performance improvement. The bell curve does a nice job of showing historical performance but, by itself, cannot predict performance.

A New Way to See Performance

What if there was a way to look at your sales team that provided historical performance as well as useful insight as to what might lead to future performance improvement? Let's take a step back and focus on two areas we have found that are leading indicators of sales performance. The first is the sales person’s level of skill. The second is the sales person’s will, or motivation, that keeps them focused on not only achieving but exceeding targets.

Here is a simple exercise I'm sure you could do with a pen and a blank sheet of paper in fewer than 10 minutes. I invite you to think about each of your key players in the following way:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest:

  • How would you rate this individual’s skill level?
  • How would you rate this individual’s will level – their desire or motivation to succeed?

Draw the grid pictured here and place a dot where the two ratings intersect for each individual. Identify each dot with the individual’s name. If you decide to play along, you might arrive at a result that looks something like this.

skill will new names.png

Here is where we can find some golden insights. You have now plotted each of your team members in one of four quadrants:

skill will sections.png

Now let’s take a fresh look at the original challenge, getting more sales from existing headcount. We have a strong and long-standing belief that great sales leaders are also great coaches, so let’s put our coaching hats on and think about where to focus our energy. Some very useful and powerful insights reveal themselves on the Skill/Will Matrix regarding who to coach and how to coach them.

  • Excelling – These are the “A” players, whom we often ignore. They are most likely working with our best clients on our best deals. While we may not spend a large percentage of time with them, they need our support.
  • Capable – These are generally “B” players. This group has the skill and ability to do great things. They need to be challenged. Perhaps they are capable of 200% of plan, but happy and content at 105% every year. Challenging them to a new level of performance will move the needle quickly.
  • Aspiring – This is a fun group! Bursting with motivation and a desire to be the next “A” player, this group of “B”s can achieve greatness with the right investment of the coach’s time and energy to help develop skills and experiences.
  • Doubtful – As we think about the original challenge in this blog post, we need to make some difficult choices with this group, the “C” players. Which reps should we invest in? How much time are we able to take away from the other three groups if we are to successfully grow sales with the same headcount?

My sincere hope is that this exercise will provide you with a simple yet powerful way to view your sales team and quickly develop a plan to coach your sales reps to the next level of performance. I have found that the Skill/Will assessment not only moves the needle but is also noble work. We are impacting the lives of our sales reps and their families by focusing our time on helping them reach their goals!


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About the Author

Ray DiCenzo

Ray DiCenzo has been leading Transformational Sales and Leadership Initiatives for the past 30 years. His focus has consistently been on optimizing sales performance and effectiveness at every level, both in the companies he has worked for, and especially in the sales organizations of his clients. With a rich and diverse background in sales excellence including Complex Business to Business Sales, Global Account Management, Sales Leadership, Global Sales Operations, and international channel sales, Ray has built a track record of turning around under-performing sales organizations, and producing immediate improvement and sustained results.

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