Here’s an alarming statistic:

According to a recent survey by Selling Power magazine, only 12% of sales executives felt that their sales reps were well prepared to have initial conversations with qualified leads and prospects.

If you’re one of the 88% of sales managers who don’t think your salespeople are ready to talk to prospects, it’s time for some tough questions: How much time, effort and money are you spending to set up conversations that are going be lousy for your prospects and your reps? How much business are you losing in those five or ten awkward minutes? And how long are you going to stand by and watch the train wreck?

If you’re a salesperson, you should be asking yourself some hard questions as well. Questions like: Would your boss be one of the 12% or one of the 88%? And if it’s the latter, what have you done, or failed to do, to create such a crisis of confidence? And what are you doing to fix it?

Sure, sales is hard. Like any skill, it has to be developed and nurtured. And that starts with a commitment to continuous improvement – on an organizational and personal level.

Unfortunately, what I often hear in sales organizations instead is mutual passing of the buck. From sales managers: “We pay our reps good money; they should already know how to sell.” From salespeople: “This organization doesn’t care about my development; they won’t even provide good training.”

Meanwhile, a few enlightened sales organizations and reps are making money instead of pointing fingers. If they see a skill deficit in their people – or in themselves – they tackle it. I don’t have the stats, but I suspect that those 12% of execs who think their reps are great at discovery didn’t get there by accident. They helped their people get better – and only kept the ones who wanted to get better. And, I suspect, they’re winning far more than 12% of the sales.

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