The Sales Pyramid
Working in sales is one of the most exhilarating jobs in the world. We get to help people and make money (lots of it if we're good). But it's also mentally exhausting thinking about all the rejection we get. Add the hundreds of metrics sales organizations seem to care about, and the job can feel downright scary and overwhelming to many of us.
Enter the sales pyramid. This simple framework for self-reflection helps us understand what truly matters most in our sales role and how we're performing.
Let's navigate each of the three levels:
1. The Top – Revenue
No high-performing sales rep gets to the top of the pyramid without closing deals and bringing home the bacon. It certainly doesn't happen overnight. Sales is a grind, but if we stick it out, earnings are on par with doctors and attorneys.
And with that money-making "best of the best" status comes complete autonomy – "100% do whatever you (ethically) want" freedom. Few sales leaders or managers give a damn what happens below this level of the pyramid when we're crushing quota and helping the business hit revenue targets.
If anything, sales leaders annoyingly over-recognize us, adding responsibilities like onboarding new reps or playing "sales trainer" as a part of each work week.
Once they're at the top of the pyramid, these star reps also burden themselves with tremendous stress – self-induced and manager-driven. For managers, it's well-intentioned, but we tend to over-rely on sellers at the top of the pyramid to come through during our month, quarter, and year-end closing windows.
Typically, only tenured reps find a home at the top – in sales inside the same company – with a track record of hitting annual goals and crossing quota at least three out of four quarters in a year.
If we're a newer rep in a role less than a year or an experienced rep hitting revenue targets inconsistently, strive for the second level of the pyramid.
2. The Middle – Pipeline
Most of us might reach quota inconsistently or hit it big one quarter and bomb the next. Or, we could still be in an extended ramping period where we're not viewed as a reliable closer yet.
But make no mistake, our managers need us. Our ability to generate pipeline is undeniable. What's holding the middle group back from being at the top – closing deals on time, minimizing discounts, and not asking uncomfortable questions are a few examples – is made up with grit and hustle to create opportunities.
The middle group in the pyramid has a knack for networking, finding new leads, and creating fresh opportunities each week. We typically find ourselves with the right pipeline-to-quota coverage hovering around 3-5x our revenue target.
Because sellers at this level don't win deals at the same clip as those at the top, managers often wonder if pipelines are inflated (check out The Closer section below).
3. The Bottom – Activity
We have to start somewhere in sales. It could be our foray into the profession or perhaps a new role at a new company. Undeniably, activity is the precursor to pipeline. Every unique sales opportunity is born from an email, a referral, a phone call, a networking event, etc.
When we're not bringing in sales for our company and pipeline isn't created, the quality and volume of our outreach is what's left. Most managers, rightly so, hone in on this area of the pyramid with new and struggling reps.
If we're at this level as tenured sellers, it may feel like micromanagement for our managers to shadow calls, review sales copy, or ask for our detailed plan on how we'll set new meetings this week. Lean into this moment to get back to the middle level. Proactively ask for coaching, feedback, and help from our manager and peers to climb up.
All Around the Pyramid – Attitude
When climbing the sales pyramid, above all else, show up with the best attitude possible. Come to 1:1s and team huddles with solutions, ideas, and the belief we will succeed. Be an excellent teammate in any way possible. Support our managers and leaders.
The sales pyramid isn't simply the numbers. It's staying up even when we're down. Even the best have slumps or started as a new rep many times in their career. But those with an ever-present positive attitude have a built-in advantage to climb to the top faster than everyone else.