With shareholder value directly linked to growth the pressures on businesses to deliver sales growth is a constant. Enabling this growth is therefore one of the key priorities for all senior managers – or at least it should be. It’s not just the responsibility of the Sales Director or VP to deliver the numbers – every function has a part to play in this.
A key enabler to delivering organic growth is having a sales team that is capable of hitting or surpassing their sales targets consistently – indeed it is one of the greatest assets that a business can have. Sales excellence in itself can be a genuine competitive differentiator – and in many cases it is the only difference between the company that wins the new contract or client and the also-rans.
However, statistics show that at least 50% of the salespeople in a sales team are below or well below target. Churn rate is another important factor – in many companies attrition rates of 30%+ for salespeople is all too common.
Statistics like these result in an enormous amount of wasted time, effort and money. For more information on this please read our article The High Cost Of a Sales Mis Hire. Weak sales performance is a challenge that most businesses face at some point and whilst recruiting the right people in the first place is not a panacea to all sales challenges, it is a strong foundation for success.
So why does this happen – why is there such a disconnect between what businesses need to drive growth – the top 20% of sales performers – and what they all to often hire – the bottom 80% of poor and average performers?
Part of the problem is that traditional hiring approaches don’t work:
Hiring sales and business development talent is fraught with difficulty. It’s a discipline with no formally recognised qualifications and where personal branding is integral to success. Unfortunately this has created a situation that has allowed people who are able to sell themselves, but not much else, to secure key revenue generating positions.
To some extent this is understandable given that Sales Professionals are notoriously difficult to assess. What you see is often not what you get. Sales people are very good at presenting what you want to see in an interview.
Adding to the challenge is that top performers are hard to find. The best candidates are successful and happily employed. They’re not likely to see your job ad, or be registered with a recruitment agency because they’re not looking for another job. You need to go and find them. This explains why most of the applicants for your vacant position will be salespeople who are not hitting their numbers. The problem is exacerbated as seeing mediocre applicants one after another can condition the hiring manger to lower the benchmark for hiring
One of the other problems is that many companies don’t know what they are looking for (or need). The hiring manager might not have benchmarked the profile of the top performers currently on the team, so hiring spec’s are generic at best. These are then passed to HR who will issue to recruiters (internal or external) who more often than not don’t understand the roles true needs. A needle in a haystack approach at best and surely a recipe for attracting only poor performers.
The top 20% of sales professionals will possess a special mix of personal attributes + core sales competencies + skills + experience, which means hiring the right person is going to take a bit more effort and focus than it is usually given.
Ensuring that your business hires the best sales talent is going to take Your Commitment to some basic principles:
- Spend time evaluating what it is that you actually need (e.g. don’t hire a farmer when you need a hunter).
- Benchmark the profile of the top performers in your team (or industry)
- Draw up a specific and detailed person specification for the role (not just some generic cut and paste)
- Put in place a comprehensive system for attracting the best (not just who is available) including marketing, networking and targeted headhunting.
- Become very thorough in evaluating talent – you need to ask the hard questions
- Use behavioural interview questions covering areas such as ambition, adaptability, building relationships, communication, customer orientation, negotiation, etc.
- Keep score. It’s not about hiring someone based on the fact that you like them, it is about delivering sales results
- Always do thorough reference checks
- Keep the candidate engaged throughout the recruitment process and keep communication flowing
- Settle for nothing but the best.
For more information on how to ensure you hire the best sales talent and dramatically reduce turnover in your sales team request your free copy of our white paper “The Ten Most Common Sales Hiring Mistakes & How To Avoid Them” by sending me an email to email@example.com.