The Middle Ain't Such a Bad Place
Quick, what pops into your head when you think of “the middle?”
The middle child syndrome? There’s no middle ground, death in the middle, caught in the middle, stuck in the middle? No one instantly thinks, "wow - the middle - that’s a fantastic place to be!" At best, we think of the middle as average.
Well, when it comes to running a sales-focused organization we suggest you think differently about the middle. This is exactly where success is or is not achieved; the Mighty Middle. We say that if you want to really move the needle, focus most of your attention on the middle. Middle Sales Performers, Middle Managers and Middle Customers.
What does that look like?
Middle Sales Performers
Companies are made up of a performance bell curve of approximately 20% high performers, 60% middle performers and 20% low performers. Most sales leaders' time is spent in two areas:
- Giving the high performers the attention and resources they need to keep performing
- Trying to get the low performers to perform and/or devise plans and all the associated work to get them out of the organization.
The least amount of mind-share and time is given to the middle performers. The 60% of the workforce!
According to CSO Insights Research and contrary to popular belief in the 80/20 Pareto Principal, the top 20% performers deliver 60% of the company revenue. Considering that, a 5% gain in revenue from the middle 60% of your sales team can deliver 2-4 times more sales revenue than a 5% shift in your top performers. Figure out how to give your middle performers more training and more skills practice. Guess where most of your top performers come from? Those formerly in the middle.
Many organizations have middle managers that act as “player/coach,” meaning that they are responsible for a book of business and also responsible for managing a team, making it even more difficult to find the time to focus on the middle.
This group of leaders has the highest influence on your results - how they communicate the company vision, how they develop people and how they manage your customers. The middle of the organization leaders that build collaboration, consistently coach and have an executable plan deliver consistently higher results. Give them the training and tools to:
- Seek knowledge from people and groups within the organization and look for best practices, thus breaking down silos and creating strong internal networks.
- “Shift the performance curve” through a disciplined and rigorous review of the true drivers of success for complex sales, as well as “meat and potatoes” transactional sales, comparisons of the differences, and selection of the right portfolio of opportunities and behaviors to motivate sales professionals.
- Become great coaches. They need skills for on-the-spot coaching, delivering feedback and goal setting.
Customers that land in the middle sector of both your revenue and margin segments are what we are referring to here. This segment is where you have the most opportunity. But growth won’t happen without a focused strategy.
These are also the clients that have the highest amount of risk of defection without a focused customer engagement strategy. They don’t get the white glove treatment like your highest revenue clients. Often, these are clients that are on “auto-pilot.” True to the definition of being in the middle, these clients are usually pretty standard in how you service them and what they buy, they aren’t terribly demanding and they make up a large portion of your revenue and probably a large portion of your churn. Create an approach to gather feedback on their perception of you through Voice of the Customer data and create a roadmap to expand your share of wallet, gain referrals and reduce churn.
We all want top performance. We all want superstars. We all want the impressive logos and the huge revenue accounts. Let’s face it. What we really want is an organization that has ever increasing revenues and profits. You can have it all if you put more of your attention in the middle.
Butler Street helps companies and their people grow through a disciplined approach to acquiring, retaining and developing your clients and your people. It would be our pleasure to be in the middle with you! Give us a call.
Mary Ann McLaughlin serves as a Managing Partner at Butler Street, a leading management consulting, training and research firm that focuses on client and talent development. Prior to Butler Street, she served in executive roles for 13 years including chief operating officer, president and managing director. A Six Sigma Champion certified executive, McLaughlin leverages her robust process background with 32 years of sales and operational experience.
A recreational triathlete, McLaughlin has completed three marathons (Chicago 2x, Marine Corps) and numerous triathlons. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from Bradley University.