Talent: Both Strategy Gap and Opportunity

In our 2018 Buyer Preferences study, we heard directly from B2B buyers, and they weren’t dismissive of sellers. But they weren’t impressed either. Buyers said that salespeople met their expectations, but did not exceed them. And buyers said that they did not view salespeople as business resources to solve their problems. Further, when picking a solution, buyers said that most of the time the winning seller’s solution and approach is seen as only a little bit better than the competition’s.

The “good” news is that this is not a surprise to sales organizations. Sales leaders agree there is an increasing gap between buyers and sellers. In our annual sales performance studies, sales leaders tell us that their sales organizations struggle with advanced engagement capabilities and that they are challenged to reach high levels of customer relationship with the majority of their customers. The implications for enablement, operations, technology, strategy and more are far reaching. But in making such dramatic changes to a sales organization, we can’t ignore the most fundamental element of the sales equation: people.

In our 2018 Sales Talent Study, we asked over three hundred sales leaders about the state of sales talent within their organizations to understand how organizations were transforming the people elements of their sales systems. They shared several key, and costly, gaps:

  • Sales leaders are over-reliant on top performers. The top performers in an organization produce on average 54% of revenues. This leaves the sales organization in a vulnerable position.
  • Underperformers stay in role too long. Sales leaders are challenged with not being able to identify exactly who on their team has the potential to take them forward and who is not a good fit. Therefore, they are reluctant to take action on underperformers. With an average B2B quota of $2M, keeping underperformers on the team results in large quota gaps.
  • Swapping out talent is costly and has mixed results. And when they do make a change, or are forced to make one due to involuntary attrition, the result is extremely costly. It takes four months on average to find and hire a new seller. And it takes an additional 9 months to get that individual up to full productivity.

It is no wonder then that our 2018 Sales Talent Study found that the vast majority of sales leaders (83.6%) did not feel like they had the talent they needed to succeed in the future.

Not surprisingly, our study also found that the average sales force is in a constant state of flux. Voluntary and involuntary attrition was found to be 15.7% combined, and almost 2/3 (64.1%) of sales organizations are planning to grow over the next 12 months by an average of 8.9%. Compile these findings together and, on average, sales leaders may need to replace around 25% of their sales force in any given year.

This may sound like another item to add to the challenge list above. But we see it as an opportunity. Talent can accelerate or stall sales initiatives such as new methodologies, changes to processes, deployments of new technologies, exploration of new coverage models and more. If a sales leader hires the right people and engages and develops them appropriately, the face of the sales organization can change substantially in less than two years, accelerating a tipping point for change.

And the effort is worth it. While much has been made of dire predictions that millions of sales jobs will go away, the truth is we need people to sell. It is not a sustainable position to have the majority of sales organizations suffering from poor talent fit. The minority who are confident their talent will carry them forward into the future are already a lot more successful today than their peers with acknowledged talent gaps. Sales organizations confident in their talent had higher percentages of salespeople making or exceeding goal (63.5% vs 41.2%) and had 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 help accelerate sales transformation initiatives.

For more information on the current state of sales talent and how you can accelerate your sales transformation strategies, download our 2018 Sales Talent Study report.

 

Questions for you:

  • How confident are you that you have the talent to succeed in the future?
  • How do you know?
  • How efficient and effective is your hiring approach?
  • How is incumbent talent being handled from an enablement and a performance management perspective?

 

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