I've heard the same complaint for decades: Twenty percent of the salespeople generate 80 percent of the business. In many companies, nearly all the sales are done by the original entrepreneur; the rest of the staff doesn't even do 20 percent.

Sales departments are unpredictable and hard to manage. Turnover is high. The truth is that there are few really good salespeople, and most people hate to sell. Almost no one likes to prospect, face rejection, or try to persuade someone to buy something that may hold little interest for that person. Simply put, even most salespeople hate sales, but they love commissions.

And yet companies focus huge resources on salespeople. Owner after owner asks me how to get salespeople to sell harder or increase their closing percentage. Companies spend tons of money on sales training and motivational coaching only to barely move the dial. Instead, they end up with a revolving door, unsuccessfully recruiting and training a constant stream of hopefuls who fizzle and leave as losers.

If this sounds like your company, it's time to break the cycle. Here are some ways to make your sales department suck less and maybe even become unnecessary.

1. Fire All Low Producers Today

I know this statement will make me a hated target at all the boiler-room water coolers, but underperforming salespeople aren't doing themselves any favors by taking draw against sales that won't likely happen. Do everyone a favor and help them seek career development elsewhere. If they aren't rocking it after a few months, the odds of making them perform better are slim, and the money you are spending on their training and overhead is much better spent on the top producers you already have. Use the money to buy your top performers better leads, better marketing support, and better sales tools. Free up their time from paperwork, and they'll use it to get more leads. Give them assistants, and they'll double their effort. They already know how to sell, and they probably like it. Do everything you can to make them happier and more productive.

2. Attract Customers Predisposed to Buy

Stop wasting your money trying to persuade people to buy something they don't want or need. If you are generating lots of leads and your salespeople aren't closing them, it's probably not entirely their fault. Training will not help this situation. Most likely, your business model is flawed, or at the very least your marketing tools suck. Invest real time, energy, and money into developing and broadcasting a compelling value proposition with true differentiation. The best companies communicate their message so well, customers contact them ready to buy and at a premium price. Then they can simply hire order takers to service the customers. And truthfully, most people in sales would rather be paid less commission for just closing a high percentage of inbound leads rather than prospecting and cold calling. For insight how to do this, .

3. Turn Your Sales Department Into Account Management

The acquisition cost of a new customer is far higher then getting repeat or additional business with an existing customer, and yet many companies forget about selling more to their current customer base. Take your midrange sales producers who are good relationship builders and turn them loose on your existing customer base. Often salespeople who are terrible prospectors can shine when building relationships with an already loyal following. Give them new products and marketing tools designed to excite the people who already trust you, and you'll see the revenue climb. The extra personal attention alone may increase sales and referrals from your existing customer list. With the right approach, your current customers can become your best lead generators, virtually eliminating the need for any salespeople at all.

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