How to Select and Develop “A” Players in Sales

Do you have a systematic process for hiring A-players, or are you just winging it?

Because their team is one of their most important assets, sales leaders have a key focus on developing their salespeople.

When we ask how they figure out where to focus their development and how they’re investing in people, we find that their answers are usually based on assumptions. People focus on a sales methodology from their previous companies. Margins are down so they focus on a negotiations training course.

Assumptions Rather than Facts

These assumption-based decisions are not based on facts – they can’t statistically prove that those investments are going to deliver an ROI.

The other challenging fact for a Chief Sales Officer is that they do not have a lot of time in their role. Research by Sales Board tells us that a CSO’s average life expectancy is about 18 months. They don’t have a lot of time to make an impact.

Many times, there’s a rush to want to transform the sales organization because they know that they might not be there for very long. But if those decisions are working off of assumptions rather than fact, then there is a high chance that the CSO is not going to get the return that they were expecting.

According to the ASTD, US-based companies spend about 20 billion dollars annually on sales training. We’ve been able to demonstrate that the vast majority of that is wasted because unfortunately, if it’s invested in areas of development – which are still good areas – but it’s an assumption that it’s going to give you a return, then it’s money wasted.

New Age for Sales Leaders

There is a new way to do things now – sales leaders are starting to leverage big data, analytics, and hot technologies. Through analytics, you can statistically identify where you invest your development dollars, where it will have the greatest ROI for the business.

The age of sales leaders making decisions about sales talent and sales talent investments based on gut feelings or assumptions is over. Today’s sales leaders are really focused on leveraging fact-based data to make decisions about their sales talent and investments in development.

The technology is there. It’s just a matter of using it.

The Sales Talent Shortage

ManPower conducts an annual survey of corporations entitled, “The Annual Talent Shortage Survey.” They ask business leaders what roles they can’t fill and therefore, are holding their businesses back.

Sales reps have consistently been picked as the top – qualifier, talented sales reps. There is a global sales talent shortage. There aren’t a whole lot of people out there who have the talent and capabilities to do what companies need them to do. Trying to figure out which ones to hire is a tough task, especially when salespeople are good at selling themselves. That’s what they do.

Many of the organizations that we’ve talked to have begun to leverage assessments or some type of technology, but many of them are personality assessments.

Personality assessments actually only account for around 3-4% variance in determining performance. However, there’s a better way to assess whether or not the person you’re interviewing is right for your company. Leverage more data through other types of assessments, behavioral interview guides, behavioral role-plays, knowledge assessments (which are very objective), and application of analytics.

Data & Analytics

The combination of data and analytics can help to statistically identify the right hire. As markets begin to shift, the customers need change. New competitors enter the market and the complexity of the solutions and capabilities that companies are offering is increasing.

Many executives will say that the top performer of this year may not be the top performer of next year. It adds even more relevance to leveraging data and analytics, in order to figure out who you should hire. And, it can be done in a way that actually aligns with the future goals of the business.

Forward vs. Backward

There’s backward thinking and there’s forward thinking. If you focus on the future goals of the business, then you can identify what a successful sales rep looks like for the future and statistically identify them in a pack of numerous sales reps. This is a better formula than working off just your gut feelings or subjective data to decide who you should hire.

Companies need to get better about who they should hire, and leveraging data and analytics to do that. That’s the age of the future that we see within sales hiring.

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