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Training the 'D Team'

by Jacques Werth
© 2007 All Rights Reserved

Jon Marks, director of sales training for a Fortune 1,000 company, was on the phone (not his real name).

He said, “I want you to develop a course that will teach our poorest performing salespeople to sell the way our top producers sell. We have 120 people who are in that low performing group. What will that cost?

“How many top producers do you have?,” I asked.

“I’m talking about our *worst* producers.”

I said, “I know, but I need to understand the whole picture.”

“We have 32 top producers,” he said.

“Do you refer to them as the ‘A group'?”

“No. They are the ‘A Team'.”

“Are there B and C Teams?”

“Yes, we have about 120 in the 'B Team' and 300 in the 'C Team'.”

“And the lowest group is the D Team?”

That’s right; the 'D Team' is the one that needs training.”

“Let’s compare that to a major league baseball team.” I said. You take 10 new players to Spring Training. One makes the first team; you keep two "bench-warmers;" three who might eventually develop into major league players are sent down to the minors; and four are permanently released. They do not have a D Team.You should not have a D Team, either.”

“Are you telling me that you cannot train my D Team to be good producers?”

“We might be able to train some of them to be C or even B producers- probably no more than 20% of them. For about half a week’s salary each, we can tell you which of them have the best chance of making it."

“So, you’re telling me to fire about 100 salespeople, right? Why should I do that?"

“I’m suggesting that you pay to have them evaluated. Then, keep and train only those that have the potential to become good producers.”

“But, we already have a lot of money invested in all 120 of them.”

“Yes, and now you’re about to throw good money after bad. I’m showing you how you can salvage the people that can become good producers and cut your losses on the rest. You will also have that money in your budget to select and hire salespeople that have a high probability of being good producers.”

“Why should you care? You’ll get paid a lot more for training 120 than just thirty of forty.”

“We do care. After we attempt to rescue people who belong in a different line of work, it will become our fault that they still cannot sell. That is neither conducive to a long-term relationship with your company, nor good for our reputation. Our business is training salespeople to increase their selling skills and foster their success. The satisfaction we get from that is why we keep doing it. “

Jon Marks finally understood. So, he decided to get another sales training company to take his company’s money.

Disqualification is a wonderful strategy.


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