In my last post I talked about how salespeople create differentiated solutions by effectively applying three disciplines of innovation: building block 5 of 6.
In this blog I will talk about the Positive Deviance Rapid Slice Assessment (PDRSA)™. This protocol is designed to quickly and effectively identify sales best practices. It will also determine if your sales organization is effectively creating and implementing a differentiated solution.
The ultimate objective of the assessment is to raise the performance of the middle performers, approximately 60% of your sales force. This is accomplished by analyzing the knowledge, skills and abilities of the top 20% of your sales force, then getting those practices to the next 60% of your sales force. The bottom 20%, is in my experience, comprises new salespeople or chronic low producers. In either case, they are unable to take advantage of the sales best practices and need different kind of help.
So how does it work? There are two steps:
- Identify the superior knowledge, skills and abilities that make a difference and spell consistent success.
- Imbed these into your sales force.
These steps are simple yet difficult. How and why? Let me explain.
Simple because most assessments do an excellent job in the early steps. Sales management can easily identify top producers by the numbers. The one thing you want to be clear and certain about is the criteria. You should consider who the consistently good sales performers are, and then identify the moderate performers—those who should be producing better but are not. Then talk to a cross section of salespeople and sales managers about who is best and why. The key here is putting their actions into behavioral terms. Create a list of what has been learned, then discuss with the sales management group which few behaviors are critical to achieving sales goals for this year and beyond. That’s all well and good but a key step has been missed.
The key step that most skip, yet is one the most important steps, is observing (this is the difficult part) the salespeople and sales managers at work. My experience and extensive research by others on the subject strongly indicate that identifying best practices simply by asking and discussing falls short. That is especially true if the best practice is subtle and only effective when used at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way. This subtle difference in behavior, also known as positive deviance, can easily be missed by a process that focuses on asking rather than observing.
The effectiveness of observing behavior has been vividly documented, and I want to share an example. It’s a story about a small Vietnamese village and work that was conducted there, under the auspices of the NGO, Save the Children. The research was managed by Jerry Sternin. Inside this small village, best practices were discovered by observing the actions of parents as they related to food gathering, preparation and consumption. This led to a discovery about food gathering that was missed during the interviews, and the discovery of this best practice led to a major reduction in malnutrition rates. You can read more about the story in the book by Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin and Monique Sternin.
The other aspect of this assessment is applying a thin-slice approach. I first read about this approach in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink . In it, Gladwell describes thin slicing as the ability for the unconscious to find patterns in situations and behaviors based on very narrow slices of experience. There is a wealth of research available on the subject indicating that we can effectively apply the thin-slicing approach to sales best practices. It’s not without its detractors, however.
I believe the thin-slicing approach can work, but for it to do so, you need an objective observer. This is a simple concept that is difficult to execute.With the data gathered, analyze your observations and quantify to determine if the best practice has a positive ROI. If yes, then make it part of the sales culture. Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management has successfully applied this process whereas Merck and Company had early wins but then squandered the gains, as described by Pascale, Sternin and Sternin.
Learn more about how to imbed your sales best practices into your sales culture! Click here and I will send you a description of a five-step process.
In my next blog, I will summarize this series on differentiation and invite you to attend a free Webinar on differentiation.