Advancements in sales technology, such as access to behavioral data and AI-augmented selling, as well as dramatic changes in buyer behaviors have sales leaders everywhere talking about transforming their sales force. However, according to CSO Insights’ newly released 2018 Sales Talent Studyonly 16.4 percent of sales leaders agree or strongly agree that they have the talent they need to succeed in the future. Clearly, for most organizations, there’s still a pretty big gap between where they are and where they want to be.

Addressing the Talent Gap

There are two necessary approaches to address this gap. One is to construct an integrated sales enablement discipline to develop existing talent and improve onboarding for new hires, as discussed in our new sales enablement book. At the same time, your organization needs to revisit the way it hires new sellers. Both hiring and enablement are key pieces to a holistic sales talent strategy.

If, like majority of today’s organizations (78.4%), your organization is struggling to hire top sales talent, consider these additional data points:

  • Sales positions remain vacant for an average of 3.7 months, and it takes 9.2 months before a new hire achieves full productivity. That leaves a total gap of 12.9 months in which a territory is being underserved.
  • Furthermore, after a territory remains vacant for a while, it can “go fallow” and allow competitors to step in to fill the gaps – leading to further underperformance.
  • Sales leaders report average attrition rates of 15.7 percent. Specifically, 10 percent voluntary attrition (sellers choosing to leave the organization) and 5.7 percent involuntary attrition (those terminated, laid off, etc.).
  • In addition to replacing salespeople that are leaving, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of sales organizations plan to grow an average of 8.9 percent over the next 12 months.
  • Add these percentages together, and sales leaders are faced with replacing as much as a quarter (25%) of their sales teams in any given year.

The high turnover rate in the average organization suggests that sales transformation will not happen through enablement alone. Yes, you can (and should) develop existing talent, and enablement can help you shorten the onboarding process and decrease time to full productivity. However, by improving hiring skills and processes, organizations can significantly reduce the pain of hiring new talent, onboarding them and then crossing their fingers for several months as they wait to see if their new hire can perform as needed.

Accelerating Sales Transformation

Replacing 25 percent of your sales force can seem daunting, especially when hiring sales talent isn’t yet a core strength of your organization. The silver lining is that it may be easier to hire new talent with the skills you need to transform, than it is to develop your existing talent. The most obvious example of this would be for those organizations looking to digitally transform. It may be faster and easier for them to hire fresh talent with STEM and data analytics skills, than to teach existing staff to love spreadsheets, business intelligence tools and artificial intelligence.

The impact of improving your sales talent, whether through enablement or improving hiring practices, can be dramatic. Sales organizations that are confident in their current talent have higher percentages of salespeople making or exceeding sales goals (63.5% vs. 41.2%) and see higher win rates of forecasted deals (54.0% vs. 42.1%). By creating an integrated talent strategy and turning hiring into an organizational strength, sales leaders can accelerate sales transformation initiatives.

To learn more about the hiring practices of your peers and how you can accelerate sales transformation by implementing an integrated talent strategy, download the 2018 Sales Talent Study by CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group.

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