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ATD Blog

Upgrade Your Sales Team With Lifelong Learners to Compete in a COVID-19 Economy

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Every CEO and sales managers wants to have a high-performing sales team. To survive during the COVID-19-related recession and the upcoming new normal, it’s no longer a want. It’s a NEED.

To field that team, you may need to make some changes. You should take advantage of the current economic climate to replace low performers and employees who aren’t coachable with the right sales professionals.

A significant number of sales reps have been downsized in recent months. Others who may not be actively looking are concerned about the viability of their companies and would be receptive to a recruiting pitch. This situation leaves you with the best opportunity in the past 10 years to onboard the kind of sales professionals that can take you to the next level.

Our research shows that once you bring a new sales professional into your organization, you’ll spend the next six months training and coaching them. If you hire a rep who doesn’t have the right mindset and isn’t a lifelong learner, training and coaching them will be frustrating. Without careful screening, you risk making an inappropriate hire who could cost your organization more than 133 percent of their annual salary by the time they exit.

Sales Hiring Funnel

Before you embark on the process of finding your next rainmaker, consider the sales hiring funnel I described in my book, Hire Smarter, Sell More!. The process starts with understanding what you’re looking for and attracting those ideal candidates. After the initial screening, the top candidates should take psychometric and sales aptitude assessments. These results lead managers to decide who to interview. To ensure success, managers should audition top candidates. The winners will be the professionals who prove they can do what they claim.


Sales Skills Assessments and Lifelong Learning

When you ask candidates to take these assessments, you reduce the chances of making a hiring mistake. With an assessment solution like SalesFuel HIRE, for example, you can focus your recruiting efforts on candidates who possess the characteristics that matter most during the pandemic-related recession: empathy, curiosity, and coachability. Hiring for these characteristics ensures you’ll bring in team members with the right mindset.


Empathy: Forty-two percent of sales managers want team members who are empathetic, according to SalesFuel’s latest Voice of the Sales Manager survey. The pandemic has everyone on edge, so all sales managers should be looking for candidates who score high on the empathy scale. Business decision-makers are feeling extra pressure as they try to pivot what they’re selling and consider what they should invest in. To make a connection with these prospects, your rep must be able to understand their challenges and how they affect the buyer.

Curiosity: Reps who possess a good measure of curiosity want to learn. They’ll be open to learning about your solutions and your customers. They’ll ask the kinds of questions during discovery that will lead prospects deeper into the sales funnel. Curiosity is also the hallmark of a lifelong learner. The curiosity factor can help reps make their numbers, especially if they transition to selling in a vertical that’s new for your organization. Only 25 percent of sales managers told us that curiosity is a key characteristic needed for professional success. Granted, our research was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we recommend that managers screen for candidates with high curiosity.

Coachability: Fifty-nine percent of sales managers agree that being coachable is a necessary ingredient for sales success. They understand that reps will sit through training classes and learn what they need to know about the sales process. But to truly excel, reps must admit that they could benefit from considering new approaches then work on characteristics that will help them achieve high-functioning status. When a rep is highly coachable, sales enablement professionals and managers can develop them into a top-notch professional.

If a sales team can function well during a pandemic recession, they can be high-performers in a post-COVID-19 world. When managers combine the right talent with strong training and coaching programs, they’ll be positioned to thrive in today’s economic climate and beyond.

About the Author

C. Lee Smith is the CEO and Founder of SalesFuel, a Columbus, Ohio-based firm that was named one of the Top 10 Sales Enablement Vendors in 2020, and Lee was also named by Selling Power as one of just six Leading Sales Consultants for 2020 worldwide.

He is the author of SalesCred, the definitive book on the #1 problem facing sales teams today: their lack of credibility among buyers. He also has written the Amazon international bestseller Hire Smarter, Sell More!, a book that helps readers increase their bottom line by avoiding toxic employees and identifying and hiring sales rainmakers.

His expertise in remote teams, leadership and coaching, and hiring is enhanced in 2020, with him becoming a Certified Professional Behavior Analyst, Certified Professional Axiologist, and Certified Professional Values Analyst.

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