Consider these two statistics:


  • Less than a quarter of B2B buyers think sellers are a resource for solving their business problems or see differences among sellers, according to our2018 Buyer Preferences Study.
  • The vast majority (84%) of sales leaders weren’t convinced that the talent they have is enough to generate future success in our 2018 Sales Talent Study.

What do these statistics have in common? Both share a skeptical view of sales talent. And it’s no surprise that talent is a pain point for organizations, as only 23% of sales organizations claim that hiring is a strength.

In this period of recession, organizations have started to realize the depth of their problems: they can no longer hide behind inflated sales numbers that are the result of a burgeoning salesforce and prosperous economic times.

Organizations need to take a closer look at their sales system to ensure that it’s capable of rebounding in the future and resilient enough to withstand future challenges. They need to shape a holistic sales talent strategy covering the entire lifecycle of a salesperson that ensures they have the right people in the right jobs to help them achieve their goals. They need an integrated solution—specifically, Korn Ferry’s Accelerating Revenue Growth solution that combines hiring, assessment, training and coaching—to guide them through the sales talent development process.

The Phases of Sales Talent Development

Training is a key facet of improving a sales team’s performance, but it must be accompanied by a formal methodology and process that underpins a sales talent strategy. Successful sales teams begin with hiring and continue through performance assessment, coaching, training and reinforcement.

1. Hiring

When hiring, most sales organizations hire subjectively, looking for a certain level of industry expertise and traits such as “assertiveness.” Few organizations measure candidates against a hiring profile. Those that do often model their vision of a top performer after sellers with the highest quota attainment.

A data-based approach to hiring may reveal hidden truths. Top performers may excel because they’re benefitting from market trends or a mature sales territory. That’s why it’s critical to look deeper using both leading and lagging indicators to identify who your best sellers are. Moreover, a data-informed approach focuses on the competencies and skills necessary for success in a role. For example, a data-based hiring assessment may reveal that learning agility is the true differentiator for success in a sales role.

Leveraging decades of job analysis and research, Korn Ferry Success Profiles describe the behaviors, traits and drivers that deliver stellar sales performance for over 25 key sales roles, clarifying what “success” means for your organization. They create a benchmark that hiring managers can measure their talent against: talent that closely matches a Success Profile is up to 13 times more likely to be highly engaged at work.

2. Assessment

The top 20% of salespeople account for more than 50% of an organization’s revenues, according to our 2018 Sales Talent Study. But most organizations don’t know why their top performers succeed: only 24% of organizations in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study reported consistently assessing their top performers to understand the reasons for their success. Instead, they tend to equate success with making quota.

Organizations need to conduct performance assessments to understand why their top performers are successful so they can replicate key qualities in their hiring, coaching and development plans. Korn Ferry assessments gives sales organizations key insights into how their sales talent stacks up against Success Profiles, so sales managers can understand their sellers’ strengths and opportunities for training and growth.

3. Training

Sales organizations can use assessment results to build a learning journey tailored to each seller, addressing their individualized skill gaps and learning needs and focusing on the behaviors critical to sales success. Ongoing seller development increases not only the seller’s commitment to the changed behavior but to the organization as well.

But training is only as effective if it engages sellers. Platforms must be intuitive and easy to use. And learners today prefer to choose the learning experience that best suits them, whether in person or virtual. Most of all, they want a learning experience that is self-guided: one that they can approach on their own terms, when it’s convenient for them, and at their own pace.

Korn Ferry training, powered by Miller Heiman Group, checks all of these boxes and is designed to evolve sellers’ skills in perspective selling, so they add more value for buyers through education and insight and differentiate themselves from the competition. Organizations can choose from the full range of Miller Heiman Group’s award-winning sales training courses, including Strategic Selling With Perspective, Conceptual Selling With Perspective, SPIN Selling Conversations, and more.

4. Coaching 

Many sales organizations use the word “coaching” to describe any interaction that sales managers have with their sellers. But coaching is a formal process where sales managers focus on helping their sellers find opportunities for improvement. Coaching conversations are strategic and fall in five categories: leads and opportunities, skills and behaviors, funnels, accounts and territories. The keys to coaching are to have a consistent process and to train sales managers in specific coaching techniques, as our Sales Enablement Studies consistently show. But too few organizations (less than a quarter, according to our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study) excel at coaching; even fewer (12.6%) have a dynamic coaching process that is formally defined, taught, reinforced, adopted and tied directly to seller enablement activities. An ad hoc coaching approach hampers win rates.

5. Reinforcement

When sales managers tap into the results of their sellers’ assessments, they’re able to emphasize the skills likely to drive more sales and reinforce their sellers’ learning. Pairing assessments with coaching training from the Miller Heiman Group teaches sales managers how to become stronger mentors and develop their sellers’ strengths. And the organization as a whole embeds ongoing learning and continuous improvement into its sales culture, improving employee engagement and reducing seller attrition, leading to long-term sales and greater organizational profitability.

An Integrated Solution for Developing Talent

Are you confident that you’re among the few organizations that have the sales talent necessary to succeed in a world of constant transitions? If not, level up your sales force with Korn Ferry’s Accelerating Revenue Growth platform: no other provider has integrated assessments, development and coaching into a single platform designed to develop sales talent and improve organizational performance.

To learn more, visit our Accelerating Revenue Growth webpage and download our brochure.

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