Your Most Valuable Resource: The Right People in the Right Positions

Business leaders are fond of saying, “People are your most valuable resource.” It is one of those generic, feel-good statements that seems like the right thing to say, but is it accurate? What if you have employees in positions performing work that they are not particularly good at? Maybe a more precise statement would be “The right people in the right positions are your most valuable resource.”

Sales is the engine of your company, powering the revenue generation you are aiming to achieve. And for engines to generate maximum horsepower, all pistons need to be firing. Carefully recruiting the best talent for your sales organization is a vital step to ensuring maximum sales performance. To do this properly, start with a clear understanding of how you are going to execute your revenue generation strategy so you know exactly what type of sales role needs to be filled. Is your strategy to seek out new clients to expand your customer base? Or is it to grow existing client revenue by selling deeper into your product or service portfolio? The path you take plays a big role in defining the type of seller you will be looking to hire. Typically, a business development salesperson will be a hunter, while a revenue expansion salesperson will be a farmer. Rarely is a person a combination of both as their characteristics are quite different:

  • Sales Hunter: A salesperson who seeks out new opportunities, often utilizes a consultative sales approach, and innately finds and assesses an opportunity within a prospect. Common traits include being innovative, motivating, excellent with communication skills, and assertive.
  • Sales Farmer: A salesperson who builds and cultivates relationships and opportunities, typically within existing accounts. Common traits include being likeable and caring, a good team member, empathetic to needs of others, and detailed oriented.

But ensuring you have the right talent does not end once the hiring process is completed. Just as important is for sales leaders to observe their salespeople in action, to watch them interact with prospects and clients. How well do they make personal connections? Are they communicating your value proposition in a compelling manner? Do they need further sales training to better fine-tune their selling skills? While this may seem obvious, a survey conducted by Sales Xceleration, a national provider of Outsourced VP of Sales services, found that only 50% of companies have had someone travel with their salespeople in the past 12 months. Yes, this requires a significant investment in time, but high performing sales teams are led by sales leaders who truly recognize the value in force multiplication, and for that to occur you must have the right people in the right positions.

 

The Importance of Building a Top-Performing Sales Team

I recently met with one of my clients to discuss the company’s sales team. They had ten salespeople on their team.

Five of the salespeople had brought in about 40-45% of the company’s revenue, and two others also brought in about 40-45% of his revenue. A bigger problem, though, was the remaining three that only brought in 10-15%. Those three were dragging down the team.

The biggest problem that the President was starting to realize was that the top two performers were becoming disgruntled and would probably leave the company. As I did my initial interviews with these two, they confided in me they had become frustrated that every time the company needed more revenue, the challenge was given to them to bring it in the door.

To keep their spirits up, I told them that these challenges were an honor. Like in basketball, you have your best players on the floor when the score is tied, with a minute left in the 4th quarter. One of them replied, “But if the 7th man would have made his four free throws, two layups, and grabbed those two defensive rebounds in the 3rd quarter, the score wouldn’t be tied at the end.”

Great people want to be surrounded by great people. Top athletes want to play on the same team as other top athletes. Top salespeople want to work in the same company as other top salespeople.

Every salesperson knows that s/he is only part of the manager’s number. The manager’s number is probably 90% of the sum of the team. If there are ten people on the team and three of them are not doing their job, then the manager’s pressure doesn’t go to the struggling three; it goes to the top salespeople. They are challenged to bring in more deals in the quarter. They need to be creative and sell more product upgrades or pull in a sale from next quarter by offering a great deal. They don’t want to do this, but the manager needs the revenue. This deal-making puts the top salespeople an opportunity or two down for the next quarter. Now they have to push even harder to get to even.

Just like in football, the team doesn’t win if everyone isn’t doing their job. Linemen need to block, running backs need to run fast and not fumble, and wide receivers need to catch the ball in bounds. Every individual position contributes to the success of the team.

Good salespeople on an underperforming team feel like Sisyphus trying to get the stone to the top of the hill. Nothing they do is good enough. They are frequently asked to do more while seeing their less-skilled peers praised or even rewarded for just getting by.

The solution is obvious, but it may not be easy if you are not an experienced sales manager. You need to “trade up” on sales reps that cannot perform. Yes, you need to train underperforming contributors, but at a certain point, you cannot wait anymore. Underperforming salespeople will frequently perform better in their next job, so do not despair too much. Those at the bottom of the leaderboard are seldom happy and content. If they are content, then you have an even bigger problem.

The next step in trading up is even more critical. You need to find talent that will perform. This isn’t easy, but it also isn’t rocket science. Don’t advertise in all of the usual places. You will be inundated with applicants, and finding that needle in the haystack is virtually impossible. Rely on a competent recruiter to find you qualified candidates and only qualified candidates. This will cost you a bit of money, but it will be a fraction of the cost of a bad hire, and it will be faster and use less of your resources.

Once that recruitment agency has found you 2-4 high-quality candidates, you should put the candidate through a test. There are many of them out there, but I suggest PXT Select Specialized Behavioral Assessment for Sales. PXT Select is a unique selection assessment that fills the gap between the resume and the interview. Powered by the latest assessment technology, PXT Select drives a suite of reports that that are useful throughout the employee lifecycle. Its suite of sales-specific reports focuses on an individual’s approach to critical sales practices, helping you gain insight and confidence in hiring the right salespeople.

The most significant risk in having a sales organization with too many non-performing salespeople is that your top performers will get frustrated and leave. Top people want to be around other top people. If you do not have a strategy to improve continually, you may find yourself in real trouble as your best salespeople become free agents and join a championship team.

Take my free online Sales Agility Assessment, or email me directly at soshaughnessey@salesxceleration.com to learn how I can help your business build a top-performing sales team and process.

Improving Your Sales Recruitment and Hiring Process

You have completed your sales hiring process: waded through the sea of resumes, conducted interviews, and finally have your new salesperson in place. Time for them to begin driving revenue for your business, right? Hopefully. But it can be difficult to know if the person you have selected from the candidate pool will meet your sales expectations. And if that pool didn’t include the highest-level talent, you were behind before you even began. How can you be sure that your new sales hire was the top talent available? Your process for recruiting and hiring salespeople is pivotal in answering that question.

Time, Time, Time

Every minute that a sales position is unfilled represents lost revenue, and for that reason you need to fill roles quickly. But often, an extensive (time-consuming) search is needed to find the candidates with the most performance power. Sorting through online databases of resumes can be a dead end and presents an incomplete picture of potential hires. Likewise, online job listings acquire the good, the bad, and the unqualified. Often, the best talent is already taken and reaching them with your opportunity can present a challenge. But finding the time to gather the best possible candidate pool is the first step in hiring sales leaders and salespeople.

Because of the time needed to accomplish this, many businesses turn to recruiting agencies to be their eyes and ears. Outsourcing the recruiting process takes you out of this first step entirely, filtering out potential hires that might be underqualified or an otherwise bad fit for your organization.

The Network

Taking the time to gather candidates also means working your network to find the best possible leads. This is another step in the hiring process that can benefit from utilizing a sales recruiting firm. Recruiting firms expand your network exponentially. No matter how many connections you may have on LinkedIn, they have more. Their only job is to identify leaders in their industry and connect the right people with the right opportunities. A good sales recruiting firm will take the time upfront to gain an in-depth understanding of the position you are looking to fill, and vet candidates from their network to greatly widen your reach.

In Your Corner

In order to find the best sales talent, you need to have someone working with your interests in mind who can focus on only one thing: finding the best possible person for the job. Compare this with expecting in-house personnel to handle the hiring process across departments or in addition to managing their own responsibilities. Smaller businesses may find that they lack the necessary skillset to identify candidates that will generate revenue. Seeking the knowledge and experience of a specialized sales recruiting firm can eliminate this issue and free up company time to concentrate on other objectives.

The best way to guarantee that you select the highest performing sales hires is to have an effective sales recruiting and hiring process in place. Improving that process starts with partnering with a proven sales recruiting agency.

Follow these Five Steps to Hiring the Right Salesperson to set your company up for more revenue generation or contact us to learn more about our recruiting solutions.