Timur Hicyilmaz

A recent post on the high performance benefit of demonstrating greater discretionary effort generated some questions on what exactly sales people should be asked to do. Should we expect sales people to manage everything themselves or liberally reach out to others in the organization for support?

Creating a sales support system

Our database provides a clear answer: high performance is about effectively leveraging support resources (tools, access to experts, sales specialists and the like) rather than doing everything yourself.

To come to this conclusion, we once again isolated two behaviors:  (1) whether or not sellers are likely to resolve customer requests themselves and (2) how effective sellers are at leveraging available support resources.

The analysis is based on 25,815 observations and calculates the probability that a seller will be a high performer based on whether he or she demonstrates neither, one or another, or both of these behaviors.

In our data set, the average probability of being a high performer is 20.4%; or roughly every fifth person, though that number can vary somewhat by company.

Maybe not surprisingly (see the chart below), a seller who isn’t intimately involved in resolving customer issues (either alone or with the help of others) is half as likely as the average of being a high performer. A seller who actively tries to do everything himself or herself gets closer to the overall high performer probability (about 12% below the average).

But the greater benefit comes from involving others in resolving customer issues. A seller who is highly effective at leveraging support resources, even without the initiative to resolve issues on his or her own, is nearly 3% more likely than the average of being a high performer.

The winning combination, as you might guess, is a seller  both effective at using support resources and who makes it his or her own job to resolve these issues. That person is 47.1% more likely to be a high performer than the average.

There is a lesson here for management, which is that sales people need guidance in understanding those in the organization who can provide them support with customer issues. But, at the same time, managers must empower sellers to ultimately take ownership in issue resolution. The best path is an appropriate blend of these two.

As attracted as we are to tales of heroic individuals, the truth is that lasting success is more likely if you own the solving of a problem, but in doing so (in a nod to Tennessee Williams) rely generously on the kindnesses of strangers.

Timur Hicyilmaz

Timur has been conducting research for most of his career. He was part of the team that researched many of the original concepts behind Challenger. Mostly focused on trying to better understand how commercial organizations succeed, Timur has spent time working on everything from trying to understand consumer attitudes toward energy consumption to identifying best practices for hospital operations leaders. His passion is for trying to identify strategies that are more likely to deliver a desired outcome than any others.