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In Their Corner

Focus your coaching efforts where they'll pack the most punch--on your top performers.

This story appears in the June 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When it comes to coaching your sales force, you musn't wander down Egal-itarian Avenue--it's a corridor of dashed expectations and unmet challenges. Well-meaning entrepreneurs may be forgiven for thinking a sales team should run like a democracy, but don't confuse the wonders of our social and political structure with the rigors of sales management. It's imperative that you focus on the fundamental few salespeople who'll afford you the lion's share of the results. Squeamish about playing favorites? Vanquish any unease by digesting the following reasons for devoting your coaching time to your elite sales performers:

  • The money's at the top. For centuries, economic theorists have fashioned elaborate formulas to arrive at what you know from just taking a look at your receipts: About 20 percent of your employees are pulling in 80 percent of your business. So it just makes good fiscal sense to put the majority of your resources where you expect to getthe greatest return on your investment. Alan Fine, a sales coach, is the president of InsideOut Development LLC in American Fork, Utah. Fine, who has spent time working with both top golfers and tennis players, equates outstanding sales performers with professional competitors: "You coach and support the top athletes because that's where the greatest ROI is."
  • Coaching marginal performers is a waste of time. You must take care to differentiate between average and awesome. Todd Duncan, the author of High Trust Selling: Make More Money in Less Time With Less Stress (Thomas Nelson), argues that coaching average performers is largely worthless. "In selling, you either have players or pretenders," Duncan asserts. "Players shouldn't have to compensate for the inadequacies of pretenders."

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