Sales Hiring Is Up, Performance Is Not

Our recent Sales Talent Study revealed that more than two-thirds of sales organizations are growing their total number of sellers, on average by 9%. At the same time, attrition is at a high of 18%, boosted largely by voluntary exits. As a result, there is an unusually high volume of hiring going on in sales organizations.

Consider that it takes an average of four months to fill a role, and you get a glimpse of the sheer amount of activity… interviews, applications, assessments, background checks and more interviews. Sales organizations are devoting a significant amount of time and resources to filling their ranks. But unfortunately, they aren’t getting the needed payoff.

84% of sales leaders in our Sales Talent Study tell us that they do not believe they currently have the sales talent they need to succeed in the future.  

When asked what criteria they use for hiring, most sales managers pointed to industry experience or working for competitors. As a result, sales talent profiles in many sales organizations remain stagnant, while markets and customers are rapidly evolving.

What do organizations need to do differently to better benefit from all of this hiring?

1. Use data science, not gut. When more than 330 sales leaders were asked to rate sales managers against 11 capabilities in our 2019 Sales Management Study, hiring came in dead last, with only 22% of sales executives agreeing or strongly agreeing that their sales managers were effective at hiring. Yet most organizations still put sales managers on the frontline of hiring, conducting all of the interviews with little to no guidance on how to assess candidates. Only 30.6% consistently use quantitative hiring assessments based on data science to predict the fit of their candidates. Those who use such tools have higher quota attainment and lower attrition.

2. Calibrate to the future vs. perpetuate the present. Most sales leaders are attempting to transform their sales organizations in some way. When thinking through what good looks like for your sales roles, consider where you want to be vs. where you are today. For example, you may be expanding your business model to include more services and focus more on expanding existing relationships. If so, then you should be cautious of using your new business hunters as role models for hiring.

What are the attributes and competencies of salespeople who are going to fit your future sales strategy, and how can you start infusing them into your organization? Critically consider what is driving—and what will drive—success. Are your highest-revenue-producing sellers top performers or just top earners? What leading indicator information are you collecting that connects the dots between effective selling and revenues?

3. Never underestimate culture. Culture weighs heavily, especially in times of evolution. Using the averages above means you are replacing more than a quarter of your sellers each year. But even if you hire to a new profile, you still must think through the development of the other 75% of your people to move them closer to your desired profile. And you must ensure that you are proactively shaping your culture into an environment that supports your new approach; otherwise, your new 25% will be driven out by the 75% still working under old assumptions and guidance.

4. Don’t forget salespeople are good at interviewing. It doesn’t mean they will be good at selling your value proposition to your clients. Interviewing is a good way to validate or more deeply explore the results of your hiring assessments, but the caution is that most sales professionals tend to be good at interpersonal interactions. That increasingly is not a differentiator that separates the best salespeople from their less-successful peers. It is just table stakes for the profession.  Be sure to equip sales managers with interviewing guides and skills to adequately drill into situations that paint a clearer picture of a candidate.

5. Loop enablement in. In most organizations, hiring is driven by HR. That makes sense, as there will surely be legal standards and processes to ensure a fair and transparent process. But the unintended impact is that enablement can be completely divorced from the hiring process. A better approach is to have enablement partner on the hiring profile. Enablement will see who is succeeding in their development and who is not, and they can provide insights into the differences. In addition, with a clearer view of the inbound sellers, enablement can better tailor onboarding activities. Data from our study participants shows that effective onboarding programs can shave two months off of time to productivity.

Questions to ask:

  • Do we use a data-driven hiring approach? If so, how consistently?
  • How successful have our recent hires been?
  • Do our hiring practices help drive change within the organization?
  • How collaborative is the hiring process across management, operations and enablement?
  • How confident are we in our perception of what good looks like?


Related Blogs:

·      Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Talent Strategy Supports Goal Achievement

·      How Do You Approach Collaboration in Sales Enablement?

·      Sales Talent Is a Problem. Is it Worth Solving?

·      Hiring Is Selling. Shouldn’t We Be Good at That?

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