Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

Moving the Needle and other Sales Enablement Challenges

Posted by Mark Gibson on Fri, Aug 07, 2015

Recently I met with a top sales enablement professional whom I'll call Bob, to exchange ideas.

During the meeting I was introduced to the concept of the Three Humped Camel. Bob wishes to remain nameless as he started a new job and does not wish the camel phenomena to be tied back his prior employer.

13% of Salespeople produce 87% of Revenue

I raised a question which prompted the discussion after reading Mike Bosworth's recent book, "What Great Salespeople Do". In it, Mike quotes a study of 1100 B2B companies by Greg Alexander of Sales Benchmark Index, which reveals that the old maxim of 20% of salespeople selling 80% of the business is no longer true.

According to Sales Benchmark Index, now 13% of salespeople are selling 87% of the business.

When I asked Bob to draw the quota distribution graph for his old firm, he drew something that looked like this.
This is obviously just a quick hand-drawn sketch from memory, but the point Bob was making is that the majority of the sales team were not making their numbers and were dispersed around 40% of quota achievement, with a smaller hump around 100% and another hump at around 150% of quota achievement. 

Why Three Humps?

When I asked Bob why the three humps, he explained that the majority of salespeople were not making their numbers for a variety of reasons:
  • New hires had not been on-board for a full selling year and sales ramp is 9 months,
  • Individuals had not adopted the sales training and enablement tools and had reverted to prior behavior and leaned on PowerPoint to do their selling,
  • Weren't going to make it and would soon be leaving,
  • Buyer behavior has reduced their status in the relationship to that of order-takers as they were incapable of engaging buyers earlier in the buying cycle and influencing buyers prior to an RFP.

"The salespeople who were busting their numbers were naturals and would be successful selling anywhere.

They lapped up the sales training and new tools they were given and practiced the techniques... but most of all they were great communicators and were confident in themselves and in their knowledge of the product and their industry." 

"Don't get me wrong, these guys are hard workers too....any salesperson knocking it out of the park today is working their butt off." This supports Mike Bosworth's theory in his book, What Great Salespeople Do.

The top 13% oif salespeople are great communicators and great listeners. Most of the sales training and process steps for the last 20 years have served to make the best sales people better and have done little to improve performance of the core group.

The next question I asked was; of all the programs you implemented at the old firm, what were the things that actually made a difference in moving the needle i.e. moving the core group up in quota achievement?

What's Working in Sales Enablement


Reinforcement following an in-classroom training event was critical. Those salespeople that worked closely with their managers to master new skills and techniques in the 3 months post-training were most successful.

Those that did not would revert back to their prior behavior and familiar tools. Key coaching point is to work on one skill improvement area at a time per month.

Streamlined Opportunity Management

"We had a prior generation sales process and opportunity management system that was too complex and just didn't mesh with buyer behavior. We dumped it a couple of years ago in favor of a lightweight sales process we developed in house. 

Pipeline milestones are calibrated against customer verifiable outcomes based on best practices, which gives visibility into the individual selling effort. This enabled sales managers to identify missing steps in the selling process and manage sales reps through what is a complex and lengthy selling cycle."


"The World we are operating is becoming ADD as a whole. Salespeople have very short attention spans.

If a sales tool or technique takes more than 5 minutes to learn, or a concept more than 5 minutes to watch/do in an E-Learning environment, salespeople will not use it.

"We created an accreditation framework backed by classroom and small-chunk E-Learning and in-field coaching from sales managers that enabled salespeople to manage their way through acquiring skills and conceptual knowledge.

Salespeople are able to progress from rookie to sales manager over time and at each level they are given accreditation in conjunction with achieving their sales quota."


  1. Understanding buyer behavior, buyer risk tolerance and adapting and integrating marketing and selling systems to match the behavior of target buyers is key to survival and growth. 
  2. Creating and adapting sales enablement tools and programs that salespeople will actually use and that make a difference is a work-in-progress in most companies. (Visual Storytelling is one of the things that is working.)
  3. Understanding what great salespeople do, will be the subject of a subsequent blog and review of the book. In the meantime, don't wait for the review, get the book. Better still, if you want to learn what great salespeople do, you can join Mike Bosworth for a Storyseekers Open workshop in the Twin Cities in Minnesota in October.
StorySeekers Open Workshop Registration

Topics: mike bosworth, sales training, sales enablement

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