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CSO Insights newly released 2018 Sales Talent Study finds that Chief Sales Officers need to own hiring strategies for sales teams

CHICAGO, September 17th, 2018 — According to a new report from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, only 16 percent of sales leaders believe that they have the talent they need to succeed in the future. However, even with talent concerns widespread, strategies for identifying, recruiting, retaining, and enabling sales talent has remained stagnant.

The “2018 Sales Talent Study,” based on a global survey of over 320 sales organizations, finds that despite sales teams’ deep concerns over the future of talent, when asked what changes they’ve made to hiring profiles over the last 12 months, most teams said “no changes.” The study also suggests that organizations focus on the wrong criteria when developing sales talent, focusing on gut feelings over data-driven insights that can predict higher win rates and more consistent quota attainment.

“Talent gaps are incredibly costly to sales organizations,” said Seleste Lunsford, managing director, CSO Insights. “It takes an average of four months to recruit a new seller, and an additional nine months to train them to full productivity. That’s over a year of productivity lost. But an effective sales leader sees hiring as an opportunity. With the right approach to talent development strategies, sales leaders can accelerate transformation within two years.”

The study finds that sales organizations struggle to replicate successful selling strategies. Instead, they rely heavily on hiring top performers, rather than developing talent as a whole. Sales organizations should instead seek out data-aided solutions to enable their entire workforce, optimizing each seller’s performance rather than searching in a small pool of talent for high performers who can fill in the gaps.

“Talent is an issue for most sales organizations. And, it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of human resource departments and learning and development teams to address,” said Lunsford. “Chief Sales Officers need to own the identification, recruitment, retention, and enablement of talent as part of an overarching strategy. In order to build an effective sales team, CSOs should look for agility, learning propensity, comfort with technology, and analytical skills in new hires, and to build those same characteristics in their incumbent sales teams.”

The 2018 Sales Talent Study is based on a global survey of sales executives, sales enablement leaders, sales operations leaders and sales managers at 321 organizations, representing a balance of predominantly product and service-based businesses. The survey included responses from North America (49 percent), EMEA (27 percent), APAC (17 percent) and LATAM (7 percent).

For more information, download the full report here.


About CSO Insights

CSO Insights is the research division of Miller Heiman Group, dedicated to improving the performance and productivity of complex B2B sales. The CSO Insights team of respected analysts provides sales leaders with the research, data, expertise, and best practices required to build sustainable strategies for sales performance improvement. CSO Insights’ annual sales effectiveness studies, along with its benchmarking capabilities, are industry standards for sales leaders seeking operational and behavioral insights into how to improve their sales performance and to gain holistic assessments of their selling and sales management efficacy. Annual research studies address sales and service best practices, sales enablement and sales performance optimization. For more information, visit

About Miller Heiman Group

Miller Heiman Group is the global leader in providing organizations sales methodology plus sales technology to drive revenue and change business outcomes. The company’s training, consulting, technology and research solutions align process, people, tools, data and analytics to prepare sales and service organizations for the future of selling. For more information, visit