The Stupid 80/20 Rule……..A Series Part 1

Last week I wrote a blog ( about how I think the 80/20 rule in sales is stupid. The point I tried to make was that sales managers/Directors/VPs (whatever title you have) should not accept the rule and not allow the majority of their sales force to underperform. I loved the back and forth debate that resulted and have decided to write a short series of my opinion on how to turn around the 80%ers and make them more successful. Part 1 (today) is about understanding/evaluating the individual sales person Part 2 (9/16) will be about why many exceptional sales people make horrible sales managers Part 3 (9/23) will be about the process needed for sales success Part 4 (9/30) will be about how to put the entire process together to increase productivity of the 80%ers As a small business consultant, the first thing I do when I have been hired to turn around a broken sales team is give every person a survey questionnaire. One specific question asks them to tell me the three things they would change if they were the CEO. Another question is “do you feel your suggestions/ideas are being heard by management?” This gives me a baseline of the person and an understanding of what they consider the good, bad, and the ugly of their department/company. I then take this information and using the SPIN selling process, interview the sales people, managers, and key decision makers for the company. What I am looking for is the Situation (why the sales person has this job), the Problem (why they are one of your 80%ers), the Implication (how much they cost you in revenue and how happy/unhappy they are in their role), and finally the Needs Payout (what they can do if they have the right motivation and process). The next thing I do is to find out what specific motivation each person has. See my blog ( on the different types of motivators people have. People are driven or motivated by many different things, the most common are money, praise/accolades, advancement, or flexibility. Once you understand this you can “push their button”. You often have elements of several involved in a person’s motivation, but one should be the overall driving factor. Now, let’s put this all together and see what we have. I know the sales person’s emotional feelings on the company, what they would do to change what they don’t like, and what drives them in life. Sometimes with a large enough team, I would immediately have changes that need to be made as a company in order to improve sales. Other times, I would find people in sales roles that needed to be set free to pursue their life’s goals (fired). From this “evaluation”, I can lay out a plan on how to motivate each person. This is not an easy process and takes considerable time. For a sales manager wanting to improve sales though, it is vital to creating success from your 80%ers. Stay tuned for next week’s addition to the series.


Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonist. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and lets nothing or no one go unnoticed.