Your organization’s future depends on the quality and performance of your sales talent. Yet only 32% of organizations believe they have the people in place to achieve their business goals. Buyers agree with this dismal appraisal of sales talent: less than a quarter of buyers see sellers as an important resource to help them solve their business problems.

In this, the third in a series of blogs on trends disrupting sales (part 1, performance and part 2, perspective), we tackle the talent problems plaguing sales organizations and share  strategies to overcome them.

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The Sales Talent Problems that Cost You Most

Many sales organizations face two talent problems.

  1. Organizations rely too much on their top performers. The top 20% of sellers deliver 54% of revenues. Yet just 24% of sales organizations assess their top performers to learn why they are successful.
  2. Talent gaps are costly. The process to get a new salesperson up to speed is lengthy: 4 months to recruit and 9 months to onboard to full productivity. With the average sales quota around $2 million, those 13 months represent a huge productivity loss.

Fortunately, these problems are fixable, with the right talent strategy. Organizations that hire and develop people following a formal talent strategy accelerate their sales transformation within two years, with seller attrition at  18% and the average sales force growing at 9%.

How a Talent Strategy Turns the Talent Gap Into Opportunity

A sales talent strategy governs an organization’s hiring, development, coaching, performance management and seller engagement. While many organizations have some elements of a strategy, different departments handle different elements, resulting in inconsistencies. Instead, sales must drive the process, under the leadership of the CRO, with sales enablement, sales operations, HR and other departments all playing a part.

To achieve an effective talent strategy, the CRO and sales leadership need to coordinate anyone invested in sales talent in following these eight components.

  1. Build a validated success profile. Assess the successful sellers on your team and create the ideal seller profile using that data. During the hiring process, a  hiring assessment guides  you toward candidates with critical sales competencies identified in your profile.
  2. Design a comprehensive sourcing strategy. Work backward from your coverage strategy to determine the appropriate staffing levels by roles. Then, using your hiring profile, look for sales talent in unconventional places. Don’t be afraid to look for candidates outside the verticals you sell to or competitors; great sellers may be already working for you in other roles, like customer success.
  3. Create a measurement-based selection approach. Behavioral interviews are important, but they’re better at finding candidates who match your successful profile when paired with  a data-based assessment. To refine your approach, continue to monitor your new hires’ success.
  4. Refresh your systematic onboarding process. Effective onboarding reduces the lead time to full productivity by two months. A strong onboarding process minimizes costs by reducing the amount of time it takes new hires to buy in to company culture, understand sales processes and build their product knowledge.  Use all the data at your disposal to help customize the onboarding process for new sellers.
  5. Institute a formal coaching process. Nearly two-thirds of sales organizations rely on informal coaching or allow managers to come up with their own coaching strategies. Coaching drives results, and when implemented properly, can lead to a 16.6% increase in win rates for forecasted deals.
  6. Offer continuous development. Formal seller development shouldn’t end with onboarding: Organizations that offer their customer-facing professionals continuous development see 26% more of their sellers make their goal than organizations that don’t. A culture of continuous development recognizes what employees bring to an organization—both their current value and their capacity for development. Use behavioral assessments to discover what sellers do well and where they should improve.
  7. Mine data for succession planning and engagement. Succession planning is essential for salespeople who hope to become sales managers, but that career path may not fit every seller. To determine which sellers are a good fit for advancement and to keep the remaining sellers engaged, you need a variety of tools for career paths and growth. Use data to identify management candidates and to pinpoint the best ways to engage sellers who prefer to remain in selling roles, whether it’s mentoring a new hire, participating on a product board or evaluating new sales enablement content.
  8. Plan for transitions. Few sellers remain with one organization throughout their career. Ensure your process for managing transitions, both voluntary and involuntary, is fair and transparent, and create a process for handling open sales territories during transitions.

Ready to Close the Talent Gap?

Join us on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, at 11:00 AM (CST), as Miller Heiman Group CEO Byron Matthews discusses the trends leading to the current sales talent gap. He’ll describe how a formal sales talent strategy accelerates transformation, lowers seller attrition and improves quota attainment.

Save your seat now: Register for the 2019 Marketplace Trends webinar here.


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