You Hired the Right Salespeople. Now What?

Talent issues are commonly associated with hiring. “I can’t find anyone who meets our requirements.” “I can’t afford the talent I need in this market.” In reality, the most common missteps occur before hiring and continue well beyond it. In this blog, we focus on post-hiring. In our 2018 Sales Talent Study, we noted that attrition was roughly 16%, slightly lower than it was a few years ago. However it’s worth noting that 10% was voluntary attrition and 6% was involuntary. That leads to the real crux of the issue. Were the 10% the ones you wanted to leave? If so, then how long did their territories underperform, waiting for you to exit them? If not, then why didn’t it work out? Many organizations have significant opportunities to keep seller exits from happening, or, depending on the situation, make them happen more quickly.

Assuming that a sales organization is hiring appropriately, what needs to happen afterwards? Think of it like selling. After you close the deal, how do you ensure that the client gets the value you promised, or that the deal was as beneficial to your organization as hoped? How do you ensure that you renew and grow the relationship over time?

Never underestimate the impact of first impressions. Most organizations have an onboarding program, even if informal. But often, it ends up being too much one-way information sharing of product knowledge. Study participants who agreed/strongly agreed they had a strong onboarding program reported getting sellers up to full productivity in 7.8 months. Those who disagreed/strongly disagreed took 9.5 months. If quotas are $2M USD on average, the resulting gap of nearly two months could potentially make a difference of $50-100K per new salesperson.

Extend development beyond new hires and poor performers. A dedicated sales enablement discipline that supports both sellers and managers through onboarding and ongoing development and coaching is a critical element to the talent system. As noted in our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, organizations looking at development through an enablement lens (rather than from the learning and development or training point of view) can better integrate content with training and coaching, process with methodology and customer path. That elevated approach helps sellers feel more supported and be more successful.

Prioritize and formalize coaching. It’s still true that most people quit managers, not jobs. Yet despite almost two decades of discussion on the important of coaching, our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study found 70% of organizations are still leaving it up to managers to be done ad hoc, or have only an informal approach. But the minority with a  “dynamic” coaching approach (linked to training and content) won an average of 66.1% of forecast deals, far higher than the 43.6% found in organizations that left sales coaching up to the individual sales manager’s discretion. Conventional wisdom holds. Coaching works!

Look beyond commission to drive engagement. Many falsely assume that salespeople are “coin-operated” – if they’re making money, they’re happy. Others over-emphasize superficial tactics to motivate sellers. Neither is the right way. You can’t motivate salespeople. You can, however, create an environment in which they can be motivated. Sellers need to feel that they can be successful in your world and meet their personal and professional goals. For some, this may mean management opportunities, but not for most. For some, it may mean first crack at selling new products, access to sales support, or input into product development plans. Sales organization should be careful to keep their finger on the pulse of engagement. Voice-of-employee insights collected from those in role as well as those leaving the organization can tell you a lot about what’s working and what’s not.

Use data for succession planning, off-boarding and other restructuring initiatives. Like hiring and onboarding, data can help smooth other types of transitions as well. Put simply, the more you know about your sales force, what works and what doesn’t, the better prepared you will be for both the planned and the unexpected.

Questions to ask:

  • Is our attrition rate where we want it to be?
  • What percentage of sellers in role are underperforming? Does each have a plan for how to proceed?
  • How effective is the organization at retaining talent? At exiting sellers in a fair and transparent way?
  • What, besides compensation plans, is being used to engage salespeople? How is seller engagement measured?
  • How effective is our onboarding program? Do people feel good about their decision to join as a result of the program? How does development continue beyond onboarding?
  • What role do leaders and frontline managers play in onboarding and ongoing development?


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