Tom was one of my best friends growing up.  We spent countless days together as children playing sports and riding our bikes.  Later, as teenagers we spent many afternoons and evenings riding around in Tom’s car.  His car wasn’t much more than a clunker – but it was more than I had and at that particular age, we were glad to have transportation that we didn’t have to pedal.

Tom made the decision to drop out of high school as we entered our junior year.  Although dropout rates have improved over the last 30-40 years, it was not such an uncommon event in the mid-70s. In Tom’s case, he made the decision to go ahead and get a full-time job and moved out on his own.

The reasons that Tom left high school are surprisingly similar to the reasons that commission sales people leave their profession.  Sales leaders: do any of these reasons seem familiar to you?

  1. Not making enough money: Tom wanted the income of full time work, rather than the income of a student working only part-time.
  2. Not putting in the effort to learn the skills:  Tom was a great friend, but not such a great student.  He didn’t like school and just would not study or do his homework.
  3. Lack of a good mentor:  I was a great friend to Tom, but not such a great mentor when it came to his education.  I made good grades, but didn’t want attention for it.  I wanted to just be “one of the guys”.  I let Tom down on that end.  Sorry, Tom.

Although it may be difficult to find completely scientific data – the rate of success for new sales people across all industries appears to be around 10%.  Although that is a much greater success rate than the 0.03% of high school athletes that enter professional sports, it is not an acceptable statistic.

Over the years, I have come to understand that the success rates can be increased if your onboarding and training programs take into account the following groupings.

  • 10% of sales people will be successful with or without direction.  What they lack from their company – they will make up for in persistence and creativity.
  • 20% of sales people will not be successful – regardless of direction.  They either lack the desire or work ethic to put in the effort to become a solid producer.
  • 70% of sales people’s success will depend on a combination of their training program, their work ethic, and their willingness to follow direction.

Sales leaders; if your onboarding and training program successfully focuses on your 70%ers, you can easily double your retention rate of new sales people.  If you double your retention rate – how easy does it become to hit your sales targets?

It’s tough to achieve double-digit increases when you lose 90% of your sales team.  In tomorrow’s post, we will discuss 7 keys to retain more of your team.  Also, if you are a sales person who is pretty much left on your own – you can apply these same principles to improve your success as well.


Which grouping do you belong to now?  Which group did you belong to at the beginning of your career?