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The Data On Sales Success Is In!

by David Brock on May 21st, 2015

We’ve run across some startling data on sales performance:

  1. 99% of sales reps making quota pee at least once a day!
  2. 98% of sales reps who show up for work on a regular basis are more likely to makes quota than those who never show up for work!
  3. 96% of sales people making quota, brush their teeth at least once a week.

From these startling pieces of data, clearly the secret to sales success is peeing at least once a day, showing up for work, and brushing your teeth at least once a week (sorry we didn’t test daily brushing, so we don’t have that data).

Frankly, much of the data on sales success is just as silly as the data I’ve quoted.  But there are any number of people quoting statistics try to get you to believe that all you have to do is whatever they sell, and you will be successful.

  • All you have to do is use social selling and you will be successful.
  • Using CRM causes you to make quota.
  • All you have to do is have at least 5000 LinkedIn connections and you will be highly likely to make your quota.
  • People who take this sales training program are more likely to make their numbers.
  • 14 “touches” of a prospect is all we need to do to get them to respond to a marketing campaign.

I could go on and on, but you know the point.

Using numbers is very powerful.  Numbers tend to have authority, even if they are meaningless, we tend to believe something that has a number–particularly a % associated with it.

But we always have to drill down beneath any number to understand cause/effect relationships and what they really mean.  We have to understand specifically what drives success (and it’s never one thing) then sharpen our ability to do those things.

What we do know about success is top performers do more of the right things and don’t waste time on the wrong things.  And they do this day after day, relentlessly!

So top performers:

  • Use a sales process, always.
  • Leverage CRM and other tools to improve their efficiency.
  • Are constantly building relationships, and trust.
  • Are visciously protective of their time.
  • Plan and prepare rigorously.
  • Prospect.
  • Create value in every encounter with their customers.
  • Are constantly learning.
  • Are very disciplined.
  • Are interested in their customers success.
  • Collaborate well.
  • Actively seek coaching, feedback, and try to improve.
  • Leverage referrals effectively.
  • Have great product, market, customer, and business knowledge.
  • Are great problem solvers.
  • Are constantly networking, leveraging every tool possible.
  • Put in the hours.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Focus on the customer and what they are trying to achieve.
  • Are comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Are appropriately confrontive and challenging.
  • Are comfortable talking about money.
  • Seek to be accountable and responsible.
  • Are appropriately skeptical.
  • Are fact and data driven.
  • They use the telephone, email, social media, snail mail, face to face meetings and whatever works to connect and engage.

……. and I could go on.

What’s interesting is that bottom performers do lots of this stuff too!

So what’s the difference between top and bottom performers?

I think it’s really boils down to a few key issues:

Top performers do more of these things more consistently than bottom performers.  Bottom performers may try some of them, but not consistently, nor do the do as many of these things.

Top performers know why they do these things, where bottom performers are just going through the motions.

The quality of how they top performers to these things is far different than bottom performers.  Both may put together a deal strategy, but the quality of thinking and analysis from the top performer is far different than the bottom performers.

Finally, it’s how top performers put all these things together that separates them from everyone else.  They are obsessive and relentless in what they do!

I’ll stop here.  I have to run to the bathroom.  I don’t really need to go, but figure, if I pee 2 times today, perhaps my results will be twice as good.


Afterword:  Be sure to read:  How To Lie With Statistics by Daniel Huff and Irving Geis.  It’s a fascinating, fun read!

After-afterword:  To those of you who may be new, please don’t be offended by my examples, sometimes we have to just laugh at the ludicrousness of things.


 Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. Doug Schmidt permalink

    Dave, great post as usual alerting us to the habits of top performers – back to the basics! As a follow up to your insights I would be interested to see this research – the impact of sales leadership practices, principles and habits and how it relates to create a high performance sales culture that produces top performers. Anyone interested?

  2. Dave, sorry for my slow reply. I did catch this yesterday on mobile (yes, I get your posts via email – but no news there, I make a lot of bad decisions ;- ), but I’ve been traveling since last Saturday and yesterday was crazy.

    Love this post. Curmudgeonly and irreverent. Two of my favorite qualities.

    You have the distinction of one of two bloggers I know who have used the word pee in a professional post; the other is Laurie Ruettimann (HR blogger and speaker, go figure). So, there’s that.

    I don’t know why, but for some reason, this reminded me of your posts on the best sales and sales management “hacks” (which aren’t hacks at all, they are just timeworn smart selling and smart managing).

    I suppose the similarity is that many have gotten in the habit of tossing research stats around like they actually mean something, when in many cases, we don’t know the first thing about how the study was conducted. Who participated? Were demographics (like industry, company size, and others) ignored or controlled? Was the study biased? Was it validated in any way? What were the research or analysis protocols? Was there a hypothesis they were trying to prove/disprove? Were the results peer-reviewed? If a survey, how well were the stems and answers designed? I usually have more questions than answers. In that vein, this is a skepchick post that I caught on SciBabe’s Facebook page (I loved writing that) and thought you’d enjoy it:

    As we all know 57.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot (or at least that one was).

    I suppose the one thing that annoyed me about your article is that I saw myself in it. I admit that I occasionally get caught up in OPD (other people’s data) and perhaps don’t disclaim enough that I don’t have full details about the study protocols. I try, but you’ve reminded me to do better.

    At ATD this week, I talked about finding the *differentiation* between top and middle performers. And then Jenny Dearborn talked about the same thing based on her work at SAP. They hired data scientists to do some intense work for them that yielded very relevant, validated, and predictive (lead indicator) insights about what top producers were doing that led their results, that was specific to their organization. This is where I wish more of us spent our time and effort, rather than quoting every 57%, 67%, 70% stat that the entire industry is tossing around.


    P.S. Love the Lie with Stats book. Great read.
    P.P.S. Couldn’t help but wonder what the results are like for the 4% of sales people who don’t brush their teeth once a week? Nevermind; don’t answer that.

    • Mike, thanks for the great comment! After detailed regression analysis of all your comments, 98.734% of the time you are right on target, Hmmm……….

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