6 Steps to Successful Sales Talent Management

November 5, 2018

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Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Wendy Mack, Director of Research and Delivery, GrowthPlay

My colleagues and I often encounter sales leaders who know that talent is central to sales success. But they don’t always know what to do about it.

If that describes you, here are six steps for you to take to ensure you find and keep the sales talent you need.

1. Align Your Sales Structure and Roles with Your Strategy   

Any effective talent strategy starts with the being clear about the work that people need to be performing. Successful sales leaders periodically take a time out to determine if they have the right sales organization structure and selling roles to support the work that is needed to execute their strategy. For example, companies emphasizing growth often find it appropriate to segment sales activities based on customer buying preferences and processes. Any time there is a significant shift in your market or strategy, it’s important to stop and reassess to ensure you have the optimal structure.

2. Define the Right DNA for Each Sales Role 

With your sales structure and roles defined, it’s time to identify what predicts success for each role. Don’t try to hire a generic sales person — they won’t succeed, and your revenue will suffer. A key to smart sales hiring is understanding the relevant sales tasks based upon your market and strategy and then reflecting those tasks in hiring criteria. Conduct a job analysis to identify the important duties, tasks, and behaviors needed to be successful in a specific role. Next, identify the granular, role-related behaviors that differentiate top and bottom performers and are statistically shown to predict success.

3. Understand the Competencies and Capacity of Your Current Sales Team

In order to develop strategies to optimize your talent, you’ll want to determine the strengths and gaps within your existing sales team. In sales, an audit of your current talent pool can help you gain a better understanding of your team’s bench strength, who is a best fit for certain roles, and what training is needed at both the individual and team point of view.

4. Build Sales-Centered Talent Management Processes and Tools

The way a sales organization selects, trains, and supports its sellers has a huge impact — not only on revenue generation, but also on overall customer experience and success. Having a consistent set of processes is essential for managing your talent. While it may be tempting to leave talent management up to HR, as a sales leader you need to drive efforts to ensure you get the outcomes you are looking for. Rather than delegating talent management to others, take an active role in ensuring approaches align with your strategy and support you in recruiting and retaining top sales talent. We call this a “sale-centered” approach. Partner with others (HR, OD, Recruiting) to ensure that you:

  • Follow a rigorous, consistent process for hiring sales talent
  • Establish clear performance expectations & metrics
  • Create processes to help sales managers observe, coach, and develop their teams
  • Identify and develop internal talent for future needs

5. Train Your Frontline Sales Managers

A sales manager’s number one priority is to create a sales team that is as talented as they are. Yet a surprising number of sales managers think that their job is closing the deal and making the number. Therefore, they focus on doing rather than developing. Industry leaders address this head on and proactively train their sales managers in the skills of managing and developing their teams. Our experiences show that most sales managers (even those with years of experience) often need training to effectively:

  • Recruit, Interview, and Hire
  • Communicate Performance Expectations
  • Hold Others Accountable
  • Provide Feedback & Coaching
  • Diagnose Performance Issues
  • Confront Poor Performance
  • Grow & Develop Top Talent

6. Create a Coaching Playbook for Sales Managers

Identifying and communicating a sales coaching cadence is particularly important for sales executives. As you know, what gets measured gets done. Sales leaders who don’t hold sales managers accountable for coaching end up running organizations that don’t grow and scale effectively. A coaching playbook helps you simplify the process of talent management and know you are executing the right things at the right time. Good playbooks bring your talent management processes and tools together in one place. Having a simple and consumable toolkit is essential for getting your busy sales managers to spend time on coaching and other talent management tasks.

Where to Start

Wondering how your talent management practices stack up?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have we aligned our roles and sales structure with our strategy?   
  • Have we defined the DNA for each sales role?
  • Have we assessed the competencies and capacity of our current sales team?
  • Have we built sales-centered talent processes and tools?
  • Have we trained our sales managers in key talent management skills?
  • Do we have coaching playbook for our sales managers to follow?

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