A Widening Sales Talent Gap

Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson in their book “The Challenger Sale – Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” (a must read), talk about the gap between the sales person via the transactional model vs the solution selling model.

The transactional sales model is the old way of selling individual products or services based solely on price and/or volume. It is hard to differentiate yourself when you go this commodity route. Selling has evolved from this transactional model to a focus on broad based consultative sales of bundles of products and services. Bundling offers overall value, helps to keep competitors at bay and lets you hold on to your pricing points.

According to the authors over 75% of businesses deploy solution sales and it has become the dominant sales strategy across almost every industry.

They address the performance gap between the sales rep selling transactional vs solutions. They say, “In a transactional selling environment, the performance gap between average and star performers is 59%. So the star performer sells about one and a half times as much as the core performer. However, in companies with solutions selling models the distribution is very different. There, they outperform by almost 200%. The gap is 4 times greater. Put another way, as sales becomes more complex, the gap between core and star performers widens dramatically.”

They then comment on narrowing the gap between the core and star performers. In the transactional world, the value of getting someone just halfway from good to great is a 30% improvement. In the solutions environment this shoots up to 100%. It is much harder to close the gap for solutions sales.

What are the implications from a sales talent acquisition standpoint?

Simple. You need to find top notch sales talent with a solid experience in solutions selling. The gap between the average and start performers is too high to go for the low performers. Find out the types of solutions/services have they sold. Query them on the intricacies of selling solutions. What type of objections do they encounter? How do they diagnose? How good are they at tunneling down to the root causes? How do they handle latent pain? Check their closing skills. Can they hold engaging conversations with folks high in the company? Do they exude confidence, are curious, are great listeners and are subject matter experts within their industries.

Last but not least, be realistic. Understand you company’s branding in the marketplace. Do not go for the IBM’ers or Oracle’rs. One, they will be too expensive. Second, they will be a cultural misfit. And third, they will not come to work for you. At least, not the top notch ones.

Fish within your pond. Research your star competitor companies and then headhunt your next star employee from here!

Happy Sourcing!!

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