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The salesperson's leaderboard

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Many sales organizations have a leaderboard. They rank salespeople by revenue, new accounts, profit, etc. Sometimes the idea is to acknowledge the leaders, and sometimes it’s to shame the laggards. But a closer look is often quite revealing. Sometimes leaders are not the best salespeople after all.

Here are 4 advantages which might account for a leader’s success:

1.    Gimmes. The leader may be at the top because he has been given accounts by someone else. He may not have had to do the tough work of establishing a relationship or creating an opportunity. He is actually just doing a really good job of managing the accounts he has inherited. Being given growing accounts is great, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a sales leader.

2.    Better help. No salesperson should be ashamed of needing help to win a deal. If she needs her sales manager, VP or CEO to help her win a deal, it doesn’t discount the work she did to position the opportunity. But some salespeople receive better help than others. Some have sales managers who are deeply engaged in coaching, developing and helping to create and win new opportunities. The reason some salespeople are lower in the rankings is because they aren’t receiving the help they need.

3.    Time. Time is a critical factor, especially in complex sales which demand extra work. Newer salespeople rank near the bottom only because they haven’t yet had time to develop relationships or opportunities. The fact that someone is ranked lower doesn’t always indicate that he can’t sell, won’t sell or isn’t succeeding.

4.    One big deal. Sometimes the leader on the sales board is the beneficiary of one really big deal. There’s nothing wrong with winning a really big deal—unless it’s all you ever do. Revenue and profits matter, of course. But there are other things to consider, such as the condition of a salesperson’s pipeline. Leading based on one big deal can be confusing. It can make other salespeople believe that “one really big deal” is a viable strategy when it isn’t.

Your position on the leaderboard may not reflect the deeper reality of your situation. The #4 salesperson, who has really good numbers and an excellent pipeline, might be the real “leader”—a fact which will become evident over time.

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S. Anthony Iannarino is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company, and an adjunct faculty member at Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. For more information, go