Most sales leaders I meet are looking to dramatically grow their sales force to meet ever-increasing revenue expectations in the face of tougher competition.
But they face four complications that make it difficult for them to effectively scale and build a high-performance sales team.
- According to CSO Insights, the average annual sales turnover is almost 30 percent. So just to keep your team the same size, sales leaders must attract, hire, onboard, and develop an entirely new sales force every three to four years.
- Salespeople are expensive. According to the US News and World Report, the average sales manager base salary is approximately $126,000, and the average sales rep is paid $55,000. Additionally, direct replacement costs (excluding customer and opportunity costs) average 1.3 times salary.
- The growing requirement for sales reps to have higher business, financial, technical, and analytical acumen has significantly added to the training and ramp-up investments necessary to set new sales hires up to succeed.
- Companies are struggling to identify and hire for the distinctive attributes that produce a salesperson who can sell effectively for their company’s unique sales strategy, organizational culture, and brand promise.
If you are a sales leader or manager looking to scale or upgrade your sales team, here are three smart strategies.
Attract Top Sales Talent
For anyone who has grown a sales team, you know it’s not easy to find and attract top sales talent. A-list players are probably making more in their current job than you can pay them in their first year with you. Additionally, rolodexes do not always transfer from one company or industry to another. The good news when you are planning to hire is that, according to the latest Glassdoor research, 68 percent of sales professionals expect to look for a job in the next year. The top five reported factors that would cause them to leave are:
- salary and compensation (72 percent)
- career growth opportunities (65 percent)
- company culture (48 percent)
- relationship with manager (46 percent)
- senior leadership (38 percent).
To set your team up to perform at their peak and to attract and hire top sales talent, make sure that you start with a clear sales strategy by:
- creating a clear, believable, and implementable go-to-market sales strategy that aligns with the overall business strategy
- defining your ideal target client and the key situations where you should win most of the time
- crafting a compelling value proposition that clearly differentiates you from the competition, deeply resonates with your target clients, and is supported by persuasive case studies.
Next, align your sales culture to best execute your sales strategy and ensure that it:
- clearly defines success and failure
- provides meaningful rewards and recognition
- holds people accountable
- responds to market changes
- shares information
- is decisive
- reacts well to change.
Then hire for what matters most for your sales strategy and sales culture by:
- using a proven behavior-based interviewing process to rate candidates
- being careful not to oversell the position, your company, or the opportunity—or to be oversold by the candidate.
Develop Top Sales Talent
The development of top sales talent starts with being clear about what it takes to succeed in a sales role within the context of your unique sales strategy, culture, buyers, solutions, and marketplace. In terms of selling value-added solutions, success typically depends on a salesperson’s ability to quickly identify what matters most with their client, link their solutions to a client-centered vision, and articulate a path forward that makes sense for the client.
Make sure that your hiring attributes are specific, not generic. Identify and agree upon the behaviors and skills that matter most for the realities you face. For example, think about the difference between sales approaches at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the goal is to create a gold-standard customer experience, and Motel 6, where low price and simple, no-frills efficiency make sales approaches more standard and less complex. While this is an easy distinction to make because of the extremes, differences exist for every sales organization, even in the same industry. Know what makes you unique and what sets people up to succeed or fail.
Once you have identified the key behavioral attributes, your next step is to define a sales onboarding, training, coaching, and measurement approach that will quantifiably increase revenues and margins. Do not be fooled into thinking generic or piecemeal approaches will suffice in changing behavior or performance. Make sure that any training or coaching focuses on the top sales scenarios that matter most for your team to meet and exceed their targets.
Engage and Retain Top Sales Talent
After investing the time and resources to attract, onboard, and develop top sales talent, you want to make sure that they stick around and give you their all. With 68 percent of sales professionals looking to change jobs in the next 12 months, sales leaders should be concerned about engagement and retention of top sales performers.
Your first step in creating higher levels of engagement and better retention is to understand the top drivers of engagement for your team. Running an employee engagement survey allows you to pinpoint the areas that matter most. Focus on the following 10 engagement categories that have the highest correlation to employee advocacy, discretionary effort, and retention:
- Alignment with goals: the degree to which employees buy into the direction of the company and contribute to its success
- Individual contribution: the willingness of employees to exert discretionary effort
- Team effectiveness: the extent to which the right people are in the right roles doing the right stuff in the right ways
- Retention risk: an employee's intent to stay with the organization
- Trust among co-workers: the degree to which employees feel a sense of loyalty and camaraderie with colleagues
- Manager effectiveness: how well managers perform their jobs and garner respect
- Trust in senior leaders: the degree to which employees believe in company leadership
- Feeling valued: perceptions about the organization's commitment to its people
- Job satisfaction: the intrinsic value an employee finds in their role
- Benefits: the degree to which benefits meet employee needs.
The Bottom Line
Top-notch salespeople make a world of difference. Conversely, putting the wrong people on your sales team extracts a heavy price from you, your team, and your customers. Years ago, in a hurry to support our growth, my company hired someone who had the right skills and experience, but was a toxic cultural fit. This person created such havoc that people no longer wanted to attend meetings with him or take his calls. Team performance and employee engagement in areas that involved him ground to a screeching halt. It was a horrible mistake to bring him on board. And we paid the price. A world-class hiring, development, and engagement process prevents costly mistakes and enables higher performance.