Do your sales teams have STAR performers? You probably have a small percentage of "Stars"- top producers who deliver spectacularly above and beyond anyone else on the team, right?
At the other end of the spectrum, you probably have a small percentage (hopefully) of people who are the polar opposite of your stars. These "bottom performers" differentiate themselves by the fact that they produce so much less than anyone else on the team.
Lastly, you've got a large group in the middle who are, well, average-neither producing as much as your stars or as little as the individuals at the other extreme. These "middle-roaders" do a decent enough job -so you'd be upset to lose one of them- but not a good enough job to ever really have the same impact on your business as your stars.
If you do the numbers dispassionately, you might find this all sounds similar to your team! From my experience, this is not unusual. In every team I have worked with, there is this same distribution of performance - there are always Stars, Average and Bottom performers - and the disparity in productivity between these three groups is enormous!
In one of the largest studies ever undertaken on distribution of performance, Hunter & Schmidt found that job performance and productivity tended to be distributed pretty much according to what the statisticians called a "normal distribution'". Regarding performance, 16% of working people are "bottom performers", 68% are "average performers" and sadly 16% are "stars" or top performers. It's sad because the same research concludes there are vast gaps between what these three categories of performers produce for the people who pay their bills.
Hunter & Schmidt talk about three categories of jobs - unskilled, semi-skilled and professional. What's really striking from their research are the gaps between what these levels of people produce:
- Average performers produce 32% more than bottom producers
- Top performers (your Stars) produce 32% more than the average producers
So, if you have a team of just six sales people then one member of that team, your Star, is producing 64% more than another- your bottom producer. (For those of you who are mathematical: I know the gap is actually larger - I want to keep this as digestible as possible! :)
Here's the point: on the two separate days you hired those two people did you think, "Well, today I'll hire a star who'll be a great producer" and on another day, "Today I'll hire an underperformer"? No, of course not! When you shook their hands and welcomed them onboard, you were convinced that both were going to be the best possible hires - both would be stars. It was the same when you hired your other four team members - you made the best decision you could to identify and hire someone whom you believed would become a top performer for your team. But something went wrong - and you ended up with the classic 16% - 68% - 16% mix, or something close to it.
Did you ever ask yourself why? Why do some of your employees perform better than others? Or more to the point - have you ever asked what you can do about it?