A Knowledge Gap or an Execution Gap

By Mike Philie
In May 7, 2013

The gap between the sales reps who employ the proactive and effective selling skills necessary to succeed today and those who aren’t really selling but only reacting seems to be growing. The question needs to be asked, is it a knowledge gap or an execution gap?

With seemingly more and more sales training resources available today from both industry-specific as well as general sales practitioners, there is an abundance of available assistance for those looking to improve their skills. In speaking with a business owner this week, they shared that the sales process training package they purchased 16 months ago is finally being rolled out to the sales reps. What happened? Is it a knowledge gap or an execution gap?

No doubt that selling print and print related services has gotten harder as the overall volume of work has decreased and individual company capabilities become harder to differentiate in the marketplace. The search continues for that superstar sales rep that’ll move all their business to your company as your next sales hire. What you usually get though is the rep whose business is on the skids and is looking for a new home as they try to salvage the business they have. It’s a new game, a different game. The existing sales reps in the industry will have a very difficult time surviving without the ability to change and the desire to add to their selling skills. Is it a knowledge gap or an execution gap?

From the NAPL White Paper, How CEOs can Transform the Sales Process, “Many legacy sales forces are not well prepared for a market that is changing before their eyes. It’s up to leadership at the top to move proactively and realign this critical function with the reality of today’s business landscape. It has become the responsibility of the executive suite to restructure the direction of the sales organization.”

These issues are not new in 2013 but have been magnified since the economic trauma of 2008 and the need for margins in a mature industry that is in transition. Is it a knowledge gap or an execution gap? The answer is yes. Industry veteran Bob Rosen talks about how many reps are not “wired” to be effective in sales. Caliper recently studied a large group of salespeople and determined that the majority of existing salespeople were in the wrong job.

Have you hired the right people with the right skills to be effective in your market? If you realize that you have the wrong people, what can you do? It would be very difficult to just wipe the slate and start over with the “right” people. Not realistic. One option you have is to create tiers within the sales organization. Perhaps there is a top tier for those that are doing all the right things (i.e. Senior Sales Representative): making their budget, growing their business with work that has margins in it, cross selling your different capabilities, using the CRM as directed, managing their sales funnel, etc. Reps in this tier have the ability to earn your highest scale. A second tier might be for those that are not doing these things but are in a reactive account management mode (i.e. Account Representative): quoting on work and trying to protect the business they have. This tier would pay a lower scale than the top tier.

Creating sales tiers is one option to deal with this situation and I’m sure there are many more out there. Doing nothing though is not a good option. As a business leader, it often comes down to making choices about how to improve a situation. Bridging the gap between knowledge and execution is a leadership issue that cannot and should not be overlooked.

Mike Philie

Mike works with printing companies that are not satisfied with their sales and business development performance, and are looking to get objective advice and strategic direction on how to improve the results of their business. His engagements can range from providing input on the overall sales strategy to building business development pipelines while training the processes of “selling” in today’s marketplace. Mike quickly establishes himself as a trusted resource and advisor to the owners and senior staff of his client companies through his personal involvement, and very quietly and effectively becomes an extension of their staff.

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