A sales story – the emerging importance of positive deviants

Sales reps

In today’s business environment a number of markets are going through transformational changes.  The organizations that comprise such a market are changing what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.  Health care is a good case in point.

If you are a company that is selling into one such market, the winning formula is seldom about doing a better job doing what you have been doing.  You need to adjust and adapt your sales strategy and the skills of your sales team.  In a transformational market future success is about sales innovation.

Historically best practice analysis has been one very effective approach for improving the skill set of a sales team. In the way of a definition a best practice is something your top performers have historically done differently than your average performers.

However if you are faced with the situation where future success depends on doing something significantly different than what you have been doing, than the notion of identifying past top performers and their best practices becomes somewhat suspect.

An alternative approach is to seek out Positive Deviants. Let’s define a Positive Deviant as a sales rep who already has some of the desired behaviors to succeed in the new selling environment.  The idea is to locate these individuals and then observe, codify, and build on what they are doing.

In the way of searching, your top performers are probably not Positive Deviants.  What is more likely is Positive Deviants are the ones who are trying out new and innovative ideas and practices.

It is therefore unlikely that you can identify these sales reps by simply looking at summary sales figures.  The best approach is to appoint your best sales managers to travel with sales people who you believe may fit the bill and have the managers identify selling ideas and practices that seem to be effective in the new environment.

If you are selling in a market that is undergoing transformational changes, when the dust settles there will likely be a new set of winners and losers.  The winners will be those that have the capacity to adjust and adapt their sales strategies and the build a new set of innovative selling skills that their sales teams master.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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