Use the 80/20 Rule to Boost Your Sales Performance

80% of you won’t agree with this.  20% will:

100% – 20% = Failure for a medical sales rep

How can that be?

If you are a field-based medical sales, laboratory sales, medical device sales, or pharmaceutical sales rep, don’t you always have more tasks to accomplish than time to do them?

Hello 80/20 rule!

Simply stated, the 80/20 rule says:

  • 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your accounts.
  • 80% of your problems will come from 20% of your accounts.
  • 80% of your peers will try, 20% will succeed.
  • 80% don’t understand your technology.  20% do.
  • If you make 10 prospecting calls, 2 or 3 are usually decent prospects.  Which means 80% are “not worthy”, 20% are.
  • If you attend a “cross silo” meeting within your company, 80% of the people will be players, 20% will be losers less than winners.
  • If your organization notices a small problem with a lot of reagents they manufacture (not a deal breaker–the reagent still works, it just doesn’t work as well as it should),  80% of your customers won’t notice or require help, but 20% will.


As a rep, you may not even question the rule.  After all, in most territories, the top 20% of accounts produce 80% of the revenue.  From the first day on the job, you are trained and driven to make you sure you exceeded the needs and expectations of those top 20% accounts because they controlled the success of your territory.  Focusing on the other 80% of your accounts while neglecting the top 20% will ensure you don’t meet your sales plan.  Even if the other 80% love you and your offerings, they normally aren’t big enough to be able to buy more to make up for the loss in your largest (the 20%) accounts. 

Here’s the management application of the 80/20 Rule:  “Feed the eagles and starve the turkeys.”  A manager should spend the most time feeding the eagles:  traveling, training and working with the reps who are doing the best–the “high flyers”, the eagles, the top 20%.  Starving the turkeys refers to the other 80%.  They either have to move up with the eagles through positive actions and better performance, or they probably will perish. 

So now that you understand the power of the 80/20 rule, how can you use it to your advantage as a field-based sales rep?

  • Any marketing or sales promotion you design or implement should be geared/designed to appeal to your top 20% of accounts.  They usually have the financial ability to buy what you are offering–if they want it.  Many of the smaller accounts may like what you are offering and the special “deal”, but they don’t have the financial wherewithal to buy, even if they want to.  Marketing departments normally look for feedback from the field prior to designing and launching new marketing programs.  Have the marketing gurus come out and travel with you in your 20% accounts so they will understand the needs of your largest customers.

  • When you are setting your scheduled calls for the week, make sure you spend at least 80% of your time in the field.  Back in the day, we used to call it “belly to belly” selling (I think that actually may be a Tom Hopkins saying).  Out of 5 business days, you should spend at least 4 (80%) in front of customers.  There aren’t too many sales you can make if you aren’t in front of the customer.  Don’t even think about going off on the “Well-what-about-telesales,-they-aren’t-in-front-of-the-customer tangent”.  You get my point.  80% of their time should be spent on the phone, which, for them, is in front of the customer.  That is their “belly to belly selling”.

 

  • If you make 5 presentations in a week, only one is likely to be a real possibility.  Now you could argue that a 20% closing ratio is pretty poor.  That may be true in some applications, but in others, closing 1 out of 5 would be a great closing ratio–what if you were selling airplanes or some other really high-priced item?  Maybe 2 or 3 out of the five proposals you met will close.  That would be the exception, but still, with the 80/20 rule in mind, it will make you “prove” to yourself that they are a real prospect, even if you have a dose of skepticism (because of what you know about the 80/20 rule).  This mindset can really help you when you are forecasting and trying to assess the probability of closure in a certain time period.


Written by Peggy McKee - the medical sales recruiter
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