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The funny thing about best practice…

Author: James Barton

As is my wont, I was recently looking at some new technology around sales productivity and came across Gong.

If you have not seen Gong, it’s a pretty cool solution that is capable of reviewing your sales conversations and then rating it against best practice, giving you a score on how well (or not) that conversation went. It’s simple and gives great feedback that can be used in almost immediate coaching to help us improve.

What I found particularly interesting is some of the best practices it promotes. Here are a couple:


  1. Salespeople should be speaking 46% of the time. This is very interesting as I was always taught 70/30 (salesperson speaks 30% of the time, although most behave like it is the other way around) was the best practice. However, using the data, the most engaged conversation is when salespeople speak 16% more
  2. The optimal number of questions that a salesperson should ask on a sales call or meeting is 13. Not 12, not 14, but 13. I suppose this backs up the 1st point as I find that number extraordinarily high, but it does include the ‘social’ questions that we all use at the beginning of any conversation.

These numbers got me thinking about how we often get stuck working a certain way or following a specific approach without checking in to make sure we are still doing the right thing.

It is only ever best practice for a snapshot in time

That’s the funny thing about best practice; it is only ever best practice for a snapshot in time, but we all treat it like it is set in stone.

Here is another example I am sure you are familiar with; the 70-20-10 model for learning and development. Pop that into Google and you are presented with hundreds of documents pertaining that 70-20-10 is the perfect model for training. Here is what it means…

70% of learning should come from hands on experience, 20% from peers and only 10% from formal training programs. To this day, I know people that hold this up as best practice, yet it was created in the 1980’s. So, the question must be asked, is it relevant today?

The terminology has changed

In the words of Vicky Pollard, “Yes but not but!”


There is a growing group of people that believe the model still works, but the terminology has changed to the OSF model (on the job, Social, Formal). The problem is a pig in suit is still a pig, no matter how smart their tie.

My view is that the model needs to change.


What I do agree with is that most learning should be based around one’s day to day job, but I do not see a differentiator between ‘on the job’ and ‘social’. For me they are one and the same thing as I learn from others as I work. It is not a separate activity.

I also agree that 10% should be formal, but again I disagree that it is any different to your day to day activities.


Learning and development should be integrated into everything we do now. Just like Gong interjecting coaching after a call, learning and development should be something that is constantly happening, integrating seamlessly with your day job and with your peers.

In conclusion…

The old way of 70,20,10 was based on classroom training, regional sales offices, and no internet. It’s well past time to shift our paradigm and look at how we can get in-the-moment development.


Think of it a bit like Software as a Service, but for sales productivity; Sales Productivity as a Service if you like.


What other areas do we need to look to change the paradigm on?