I recently had the opportunity to hear Mike Kunkle, Senior Director of Sales Enablement at Brainshark, speak about Top-Producer Analysis (TPA). As usual, Mike’s talk was informative, thought-provoking, and memorable. This is information every sales leader and sales enablement professional should be considering if they’re looking to improve the performance of their sales team. I was left with several important takeaways:
- Analyzing and replicating what top performers are doing right can be extremely valuable to the organization
- Misidentifying top producers or replicating the wrong behaviors can be a costly mistake.
- If we’re going to conduct a Top-Producer Analysis, it’s worth taking the time to do it right.
So, with Mike’s permission, I’m providing a very simplified summary of his Top-Producer Analysis presentation.
Why should we study our Top Producers?
One of the most important jobs of a frontline manager is to identify what’s working and replicate it. TPA identifies the mindset, traits, knowledge, skills, and behaviors of top producers as a blueprint for replicating that profile across the sales organization. Conducting a TPA:
- Provides more effective sales onboarding
- Closes the sales productivity gap
- Produces better business outcomes
- Improves the sales training ROI
I’ve taken the liberty of boiling down Mike’s thoughtful, fact-based, and comprehensive TPA process into three main steps:
1) Identify the Top-Producers
The first step is to identify the performance criteria that determine who the top sales performers are. Look across a number of different metrics and create a weighted scoring system to categorize top, average, and low-producing reps. Criteria such as the number of sales, sales volume, sales velocity, average sales per rep, average volume per rep, and margin should all be factored in.
Once you have the criteria set, interview and survey sales management and your leadership team to verify the data; building consensus as to whom management sees as top performers and why. Interviews, group meetings, and ridealongs may be helpful in expanding the input. Carefully identifying what is meant by “Top Producer” is critical: Highlighting the wrong criteria may result in replicating poor behaviors. In that vein, keep in mind that top performance is not just about top sales numbers. As part of the identification process, it’s equally important to determine who not to include. If the numbers are good, but the rep achieved them by inheriting a great territory or winning a major deal that accounted for the majority of their quota, but due to the efforts of others, you should exclude them from the study. The key is to find the performers who you want to replicate.
2) Analyze what Top-Producers are (and aren’t) doing
Once you’ve identified the true top producers, the next step is to determine what behaviors are present and how they affect performance. What explains why top producers are out-producing their peers? Surveys and interviews can help weigh the frequency and proficiency of each behavior, how well the general sales team performs specific skills versus Top-Producers. The overall question here is: “What are the Top Producers doing differently and how is it affecting performance in a positive way?” Are they making more calls? Are they asking better questions? Are they more tenacious? Are they challenging or nurturing their prospects and clients? What are they doing that the average and poor producers aren’t doing? What are the average and poor producers doing that is negatively affecting their performance that the top producers are not? It is important to agree on which behaviors to study so they can be isolated and replicated.
3) Replicate Top Performance Behaviors
Finally, the goal of the TPA is to replicate the top producers’ skills and behaviors across the rest of the organization in order to improve the selling process. Put the results of the analysis phase to work: Do Top-Producers spend more time in discovery phase before crafting a solution? Grow that skill in other reps. Do Top-Producers excel at qualifying and disqualifying opportunities, focusing their time on higher quality deals? Help other reps hone that skill. Whatever the case, use the analysis to improve the overall sales process and supporting tools.
Also, understanding better what Top-Producers do in the field can help improve the sales training programs. Use the TPA to inform both what to train, and how to customize the sales training programs. Apply the results of the TAP in the development of robust reinforcement and coaching programs, focusing post-training activities on replicating the most critical skills and attributes. Capitalize on the skills and behaviors of Top-Producers to train, replicate and effect behavior change across the rest of the sales organization in order to address performance improvement. In essence, you are building a library of best sales practices for your company that your sales managers can assess and coach on, to improve performance across the organization.
TPA is not a magic bullet. But Mike Kunkle’s methodical approach to performance improvement is a huge leap forward from training and sales enablement programs based on intuition and generic best practices. TPA sets the stage for effective sales onboarding and overall sales training that will produce better business outcomes based on the what is actually working in the field.
About Ray Makela