A Sales Management Dilemma: Is Your Top Rep a True “A” Player?

June 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM

“I can’t scold him though, he’s our top-performing Rep.” The Sales Manager said.  We were reviewing complaints by the team of Sales Engineers. They were understaffed, and consequently overworked.  This ‘A’ player was recognized by the Sales Engineers as one of their biggest users.

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“How often is he requesting a Sales Engineer?”  I asked. 

“About twice as often as the rest of field, I think.  And actually, it’s usually not a sales engineer, it’s one of the top Sales Engineers.  If he can’t get the SE for that appointment, he’ll shift the appointment to another time.”

“Can you show me a log of the total hours each resource spends with a Rep?”

The next day, the Sales Manager and I pored over the data from the last 3 quarters and compiled it into a spreadsheet with resources used, costs, and Sales Rep revenue.  Download our template here for an example.  When the final calculations were tallied, the Manager was correct.  The ‘A’ Player represented 14% of the Total Revenue generated during that time period, but accounted for over 27% of the Sales Engineer hours.  Once you factored in resource costs, the “top performer” was in the middle of the pack.

“Why is this guy using SEs so often?  Is he engaged in complex deals that require product expertise?” I asked.

We pulled his recent wins.  In fact, the data suggested completely the opposite; his average Sales price was 76% of the total Sales Force’s median sales price.  He was the Ichiro of Sales, no home runs, but a consistent singles and doubles hitter.  We followed up with the Sales Engineers.  Although ‘A’ Player was a favorite among the group, known for his tenacity and hustle, they conceded that his product knowledge was sub-par. He overutilized the resources available to compensate for this weakness.

The Resource Hog Rep comes in many forms—the Rep who demands a large percentage of time from Sales Engineers and Product Specialists, the Rep who buys business with grandiose dinners and a bloated expense account, or even the savvy veteran who has defended any attempt to downsize his territory despite it being twice as all the others. 

How are Resource Hogs created?  Two ways:

  1. Management creates special exemptions for them under the guise that “they just do things differently, but I can’t risk losing them”.
  2. There is a lack of enforcement or policy on how a Sales Team’s most valuable resources should be utilized.

This is not simply a Field Sales problem.  At SBI, we’ve encountered this problem with ‘A’ Channel Partners, ‘A’  Strategic Account Sales, and ‘A’ Account Managers.

Download our Sales Rep Resource Report Here to determine if your Best Performers are still tops after allocating costs.  In this example, you’ll see how the Top Producer falls back to earth once Soft Costs are factored in.

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As a manager, your essential function is to allocate your resources to their highest value.  This means putting your best rep in your best territory, dedicating your valuable time to growing and improving your sales force (not closing deals), and ensuring that the weapons at your sales force’s disposal are properly allocated to their best use.  

Think back to our ‘A’ Player.  Because of his insufficient product knowledge, he monopolized one of the top Sales Engineers, chasing small wins.  What the manager and I were never able to calculate was the Opportunity Cost.  Was there a potential home run that slipped away from another Sales Rep using a less proficient SE?

After our conversation, the Sales Manager brought in the Sales Rep, and had him go through further product training and development with the Sales Engineer Staff.  She placed a tiered amount of hours the Sales Engineers could dedicate to an Opportunity depending on the deal size. The humbled ‘A’ Player, freed of depending on SEs, actually took the time to learn the product and its features, and is now a true top producer.  Sales Engineers hours are now back under control, and the Sales Manager has a better understanding of who her top performers are and who needs additional training.

Sales Managers and Reps, where have you seen resources stretched thin?  How do you effectively mitigate this from occurring?  Please post in comments below.

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Topics: Sales Analysis, Talent Management, Sales Management, Sales Force Effectiveness

Posted by Drew Zarges

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