Example #1 - Unsuccessful Sales Team
A medium-sized company had developed and patented several significant innovations in their industry. These innovations had the potential to give the company a dominant position in their market. Despite this promise, for the first few years, the company struggled to produce sales. Why were they failing?
First, the company’s product used a highly sophisticated technology to deliver customized solutions. Salespeople had to master this complicated product knowledge and be able to explain it to potential customers. In addition, the sales strategy was to offer an integrated solution that touched many areas within each customer. This meant that multiple individuals within the prospect must each be persuaded to make a buying decision. The company felt that this approach gave them a competitive advantage over their competition. What was not apparent at that time was the extent to which this strategy challenged the job capabilities of the sales team.
This was a complex sale, and learning the necessary product knowledge demanded the ability to learn and process information very quickly. Persuading several different buyers required a high level of assertiveness and the willingness to deal with confrontation and objections of different kinds. DATA was used to inventory the relative strengths and abilities of the sales team. The charts below show the distribution of the company’s sales team on the two critical factors of learning speed and assertiveness.
Four of the salespeople (red squares) learn slowly, which means they are not going to be successful in a role that requires learning quickly. The next chart shows the remaining six salespeople on a scale of persuasiveness.
Four of these salespeople are not persuasive (red squares), and therefore cannot be successful at closing sales.
The DATA strengths inventory clearly shows that only two of the ten salespeople have any chance of being successful. It is important to note that the eight unsuccessful ones were educated, hard working, and likable employees. They received considerable training, including specialized sales training. Yet the inability of the company to recognize that only 20% of their sales team could sell their products almost led to their complete failure. The good news is that once the DATA revealed the cause of the problem, effective solutions could be seen and implemented.
Example #2 Small Training & Consulting Company
After a successful career in a large chemical company, one of the senior executives started his own business doing what he loved best, training and consulting. He bought a license for an outstanding program of training materials and went through the appropriate certifications with top marks. A few of his close friends engaged his services, and his work in helping them was exceptional. Unfortunately, as the next two years went by, new engagements were not realized, despite the fact that he regularly attended networking events and followed up with many leads.
DATA was used to map his hard-wired strengths and abilities so that they could be compared to those that were critical to the training and consulting business. In terms of operating the business and delivering excellent training and consulting services, his strengths were perfect. However, training and consulting engagements must be sold. That requires strong levels of assertiveness and the ability to deal with stalls and objections. The chart below shows exactly why his small business was failing. It represents a normal bell curve with extremes of behavioral strengths on either end. This type of sale typically requires a level shown by the yellow squares, and this entrepreneur level is shown by the red square with the asterix.
In his small business, he had no one to bring in engagements but himself. No matter how hard he tried, he did not have the ability to do that.
It is important to note that in each of these examples, the business idea or model was sound. The cause of the struggles and in the second case, the failure of the SME’s was the lack of people to perform the critical jobs within the businesses. Other examples of this have been:
The importance of having the right people in the right roles is paramount for both small and medium-sized enterprises. DATA can certainly be used to diagnose the cause of many business challenges, but it can also be invaluable as a starting point with any business evaluating how well its human resources match the needs of the business strategy.
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO