Sales Team Management

What's Holding Your Average Sales Reps Back? 3 Steps to Move the Middle

Lee Moskowitz
Director of Growth Marketing
Table of contents:

Focus your sales coaching on the middle-of-the-road performers for the greatest return. 

That’s not an opinion – it’s just math. 

According to Harvard Business Review, “the real payoff from good coaching lies among the middle 60% - your core performers. For this group, the best-quality coaching can improve performance up to 19%.” 

A 19% performance increase in the middle 60% of your sales team is better than an incremental 5% performance increase in your top 10%. The money is in the middle. 

Performance bell curve showing majority of people fall into the "average" or "middle" category

Your average sales reps don’t know what to focus on 

It’s easy to tell your sales team just to do more – more calls, more emails, more LinkedIn connection requests. But is that really going to move the needle? 

“One of the factors that holds middle performers back from being top performers is a lack of clarity on priorities and urgent upskilling areas. Many so-so sales team members want to improve yet are unsure of where to start or focus the bulk of their time and energy,” said Carley Congdon, Sales Manager at 

What are the impactful actions and behaviors that the best sales reps model? If your team doesn’t know what good looks like beyond just doing more, it will be hard for them to break through the “just average” ceiling. 

What can your revenue leadership and operations team do to remove these roadblocks and move the bell curve forward for your sales team?

Here are three steps to help you understand what’s happening in your team, build a blueprint you know will work, and empower your reps to begin making changes:

Step #1: Centralize your sales data 

You can’t know what needs to change until you know what’s actually going on. And for a myriad of reasons, you’re not going to get every single rep to put every little action in Salesforce. 

So your Salesforce dashboards aren’t going to tell you the whole story. And this isn’t new – Salesforce estimates that 91% of CRM data is incomplete and 70% of that data deteriorates and becomes inaccurate annually.

But getting a clear picture into how the high-performers behave, what the low-performers are missing, and what the average reps’ are (or aren’t) doing is key to identifying room for improvement. 

The two most common sales data problems are: 

  • Missing data: incomplete data might mean missing contact information, last conversation dates, current status, and more. Knowing how to coach reps and which deals require your attention becomes much more challenging without a complete picture.
  • Duplicate data: this can be even more damaging than missing data, since this can drastically alter reporting and forecasting

How do you solve the ever-present problem of incomplete or incorrect sales data? 

Conduct a data gap assessment 

First, you need to understand the scope of any data gap in your CRM. You can reach out to SetSail for a free data gap assessment to get the full picture with a 12-month lookback into calls, meetings, and emails. 

Manually perform a data cleanup (or use a tool)

If you have insufficient data, you can "clean" it by removing duplicated or inaccurate data. As this is a time-consuming (and potentially unrealistic) process, it’s best to use a tool like SetSail to centralize your sales data so it’s complete and accurate. 

Enforce new activity logging standards (or automate it)

The problem with manually cleaning up sales data is it’s not a one-time exercise – it’s a continual practice. And even when you enforce data hygiene standards, there will always be activity that occurs outside of you and your team’s ability to track it. 

The good news: there’s a way to automate this. SetSail takes the manual labor out of the equation so you can get to a new level of accuracy. All sales activity across your entire tech stack is gathered, analyzed, and written back to Salesforce – it’s clean and complete.

Step #2: Build a blueprint 

Once the data is in place, you’re going to have a better sense of what’s really going on. It’s every revenue leader's dream to be able to not just see activity data from their reps, but to see what actions the leading reps are taking (and when) that contribute to their success. 

Get an instant snapshot of this with a tool like SetSail. SetSail enables sales leaders to identify the exact behaviors and actions that set top reps apart from middle and bottom performers. From here, you can build a blueprint of the actions middle performers need to take in order to improve. 

Here’s how to use it:

  • Set the Time Period to “Last 4 Weeks” (or longer time duration) 
  • Compare reps to a benchmark (average # of points per week) 
  • Review, at-a-glance, how reps “in the middle” are earning points and identify gaps (i.e., reps with few colors in their “Points Breakdown” bar) vs. achieved across many signals 

The Syncari leadership team was looking for a better way to coach their reps on doing the right things at the right point in the sales process. 

“It’s hard to know what our team is doing.” said Scott Edmonds, Chief Revenue Officer at Syncari. “What emails did you send? How many calls did you make? How many meetings did you have? We had no way of knowing.” 

By leveraging SetSail, Syncari increased their accepted and completed meetings per week by 80%. Furthermore, their meetings with VPs of Sales and other senior positions went up 3x, showing that their team was spending more time with the correct decision makers.

Step #3: Empower reps to make behavior changes 

For the average rep to get to the next level, they need to know what to do, and how to do it. It starts with building the right skills, then applying those skills to the right actions. 

Build skills through coaching 

Make sure you understand where there may be a knowledge gap in your sales team versus a skill gap. Does your rep need to learn more about the market, or do they need to get better at expressing that knowledge? 

“The #1 piece of advice I'd give is to make sure you are providing coaching vs. training. Sales leaders confuse the two very often. Training is sharing knowledge. Coaching is the practical application of those lessons,” said Laura Guerra, VP of Growth at Pavilion

“Whether it be 1x1 or in a group setting, this is where behavior change happens. For example, have your BDR only practice the cold call opener for 10 minutes straight. This is what's going to increase confidence, the actual practice. Then provide feedback, and make them do it again.” 

It’s best when leaders focus on coaching one skill at a time. “Providing too much feedback at once or too many areas to work on is overwhelming and usually leads to frustration on the rep’s part,” said Sam Gauthier, Sr. Regional Sales Director at G-P.

Motivate reps to action with incentives and competition

Your goal as a revenue leader is to identify what motivates individual team members to get engaged, and stay active working towards their goal. 

Carley Congdon likes to take an individualized approach to incentivizing her team. 

“We base monthly bonuses around different metrics and skills each month, as opposed to recognizing the same criteria and quotas. This tactic gives different team members a chance to shine and be top performers, which builds confidence and boosts performance,” she said. 

“These varying targets also motivate team members to work on different skills and result in a more well-rounded sales team.” 

Congdon also advised leaders to make setting and working towards goals a co-owned process – not a top-down exercise. 

“This gives the employee an autonomous, hands-on role in their own self-improvement, rather than simply receiving orders or one-sided evaluations from their managers. Also, measurable and visible goals give reps clear structure and markers of progress so that they can know that they are growing and getting better.”

With SetSail, revenue leaders and sales reps alike can track how their activity is measuring up against the rest of the team – without having to manually log their work. 

Want more tips on prompting performance gains in your revenue org? Download our sales coaching guide to learn the six KPIs the most successful sales leaders use to motivate their team.