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The 88% Team

If you are in sales, then this article is not for you. And by the way, I'm with you in

that excluded group. Yet, this is about sales. Confusion on my part? Hardly. Let's

just identify ourselves as the 12% team that wished we were the battle-chargers

of the 100% team, more potent and insurmountable to our competitors and

more valuable to our customers.

So here is to the rest of you - the non-sales group. I don't care what profession

you are in - law, medicine, government, etc. - it doesn't matter. Without one

critical element you don't even exist as a business. That's right, sales. Statistically,

12% of companies are classified as the sales department. 100% of 12% is 12%.

Not much strength there in those numbers - at least not what it could be. But

that is how most companies operate. So what's the solution? Hiring more

salespeople to up the percentage? Possibly, but probably also not necessary. But

as the saying goes, sales is a numbers game. The greater the numbers the greater

the sales. Common sense dictates that that applies to the salesperson's outside

efforts in the search for adding more customers. Where is that numbers

mentality as it applies to the inside-the-company efforts? Sorely lacking, that's

where. So how do we get there? We'll answer that in a moment.

Recognized as the "Inventor of Modern Management," Peter Drucker's greatest contribution to business was his mind-set, not methodologies. It always

represented intuitive counter-intuitiveness. And it is mind-set that has gotten

many businesses in the fix that they are now in. Need I mention GM for example?

In his 1954 watershed book The Practice of Management, he stated "There is

only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer." He was also

of the mind-set that in business there are no such things as "profit centers", only

cost centers. Sprinkling this commentary with these business realities of his, I

pose the question: If everything inside the company is a cost center, of which an

expected greater-than return on investment is required then to be profitable,

how can companies best exploit optimizing sales?

That's where the 88% team comes in. Now, I'm not dismissing the need to

strengthen the 12% of your company that represents the silo of sales, through

hiring people with better character along with regular and intensive training to

name a few techniques.  But what I AM saying is why not focus on the 88% of the

company who most likely have the mind-set that they are NOT in sales and

therefore disregard it or superficially tolerate it, and work toward converting their mind-set into more of a true sales mentality and focus, thus energy, and get

more of that sought after return-on-investment from them as an existing cost

center to generate more sales? Put another way, let's look at simple math.

Realizing that accounting, marketing, HR, operations, etc. do have specific tasks

to perform, what if we could extract 10% of their energies in the direction of

sales efforts, be they direct or indirect? 10% of 88% is 8.8%, which added to your

existing 12% of salespeople serves to nearly double your sales efforts in the

aggregate to almost 21% of the company. And which group out of this 88% is a

chief area to extract this out of? Clearly it is all executives, apart from the sales

executives. They are the most insulated from the market (despite their claims to

the contrary while they work their numbers to give the illusion of customer-


Drucker would be most complimentary toward Tesco PLC, the UK company who

best exemplifies extracting sales momentum, thus revenue, out of all of the

employees, including the CEO. By the way, Tesco is the world's fourth-largest

retail chain after Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and France's Carrefour Group. In the

early '90's they were a second-rate company annually losing 1-2% market share,

with a lousy reputation regarding customer service. And then, the CEO took a

different approach and engaged the entire company in a total reorientation and

purpose, engaging therefore that 88% that I have been writing about. In their

headquarters’ is a plaque that reads CREATE VALUE FOR CUSTOMERS TO EARN

THEIR LIFETIME LOYALTY. This company-wide mind-set reinforces their mission to

"understand customers better than anyone." Today, with over 30% of the grocery

market, their efforts of company-wide customer-focused incremental changes

speak for themselves. The CEO himself regularly works a cash register at various

stores by the way - for an entire week!

In all of my sales coaching that I have done, none has been more rewarding than

working with that "88% Team" to (1) substantially enhance the customer value

proposition, (2) enliven the organization, and (3) to go back to my opening

statement adding sales effort percentage points to that 12% Team. Let me know

how I can address this 88% Team in your company by writing me at


Mike Muhney is the co-inventor of ACT! Contact Software, the recognized catalyst for the Customer Relationship Management industry. He is passionate about sharing unique insights with participants and helping others build and enhance their relationships, their networks, and even their careers. Mike is a recognized expert in the field of relationship management, entrepreneurship, and software development. He began his career as an IBM-trained sales professional, and there learned the value of establishing genuine connections with others.

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