Focusing on the ”middle”

# 50 September 2016

The American management consultant Peter Drucker has allegedly said: ”The task of management is getting extraordinary results with ordinary people”. Whether the quote comes from him or not, it is nevertheless relevant. When striving to increase the total performance of a sales organisation, the focus should be on improving the productivity of the majority of the sales people, those who are medium performers.

In larger sales organisation this is clearly illustrated when the performances of the sales people form a normal distribution curve, with a lot of people in the middle, and a diminishing number of people performing high and low respectively. It’s a matter of focusing on this ”middle” and making them move their performance up to where the high performers are.


In most organisations, however, the focus is not on the middle and the management spend a disproportional amount of time on the extreme performers. Either they spend a lot of time on trying to lift the worse performers to an acceptable level, or they are absorbed in the success of the best performers and spend a lot of time with these.

If they instead focus on the middle, they are in a significantly better position to improve the results. A moderate performance increase in the majority of the sales force in the middle will give a better effect on the results, compared to lifting a couple of high performers (who are already performing very well) or lifting a few low performers to acceptable levels (who are unlikely to have the ability to improve).

Focusing on the middle means that you avoid the pitfall of over focusing on high- and low performers, and instead free up time to ensure that you really work with, and develop, the middle. This means prioritising this group when coaching and doing follow-ups and joint customer calls. This also means that the sales training programs the company runs should have a focus on the middle, enabling the improvement of the vast majority of the sales people. – Those in the middle.