You Don't Just Hire a Sales Team -- You Build It
The wrong approach is to fill sales positions with warm bodies. Here's how to build a team that'll be in it for the long haul.
- By Ken Thoreson
- August 01, 2006
Just this week, in speaking to two prospective clients, both Microsoft
partners, I heard the same complaint that I hear over and over from sales
executives: " My turnover rate is huge."
They're not alone in their concerns. Consider these facts:
- Based upon a 2006 Microsoft study, 25 percent of new sales hires
at Microsoft partner organizations leave after just 90 days.
- In a recent Manpower Inc. survey of nearly 33,000 employers worldwide,
U.S. and Canadian respondents both ranked "sales representative" as
the job they were having most trouble filling.
- Nearly 25 percent of the 2,176 sales executives surveyed in the Miller
Heiman's 2006 Sales Performance Study reported that turnover had increased
during the previous year.
Hiring the right talent is critical in building successful sales teams
Smart," September 2005). Studies show that, if you bring in the wrong
salesperson, you lose four times the cost of that person's salary and
benefits to missed opportunities, management time and other factors.
However, hiring is just one part of the equation. It's also important
to develop and retain your salespeople. Here are a few suggestions for
achieving those goals:
Buff up the "B" team. Because there are a finite number of "A-level"
salespeople, you should focus on grooming the B-level team members most
likely to be able to move up to "A" status. Don't waste time on salespeople
who are C-level or below. Conducting interviews regularly will improve
your ability to identify both the winners and the runners-up with strong
Emphasize education. Design a comprehensive orientation and training
program to ensure that new hires hit the ground running -- and keep moving
Create a sales-oriented culture. From conducting numerous exit
interviews, we've found that many top salespeople leave their jobs not
because they're dissatisfied with compensation, but because they're frustrated
by sales management. That frustration stems from a culture that in effect,
sets up roadblocks to sales success via lack of support, poorly designed
sales processes and internal policies that make it difficult to add new
clients, generate proposals, process orders or even calculate commissions.
Sales leaders serious about improving performance need to examine all
three areas, helping B-level players move up while developing programs
and a culture that helps everyone succeed. The first step in doing that
job well is making sure that your company's leadership views sales development
as top priority.
That isn't necessarily a given. The management teams at many Microsoft
partner companies view their sales divisions as cost centers -- when,
in reality, they're profit centers and executives should be doing everything
possible to help their salespeople execute brilliantly. Partner companies
should emphasize developing, mentoring and coaching their sales teams
in much the same way that they focus on building certification levels
for their delivery teams.
Smaller partner companies often tell us that, unlike larger enterprises,
they don't have the resources to undertake professional-level development
projects. (My typical response is: "That's why you're still a small company.")
But effective sales, training and retention efforts are specially critical
for small partner organizations. Cash flow and decreased sales impact
monthly profitability far more for smaller companies than for their bigger
counterparts, who can usually better weather a few bumps.
Bottom line: Building a strong sales organization involves developing
programs dedicated to each salesperson's short-term success and long-term
growth, and doing so in a positive culture that rewards achievement. Such
efforts will go a long way toward helping all team members reach their
potential -- and keeping them on board.
Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.