Large and small companies face several challenges in today’s competitive business environment. Sales teams are the face of a company and can greatly impact the success and growth of the business. Many small business and agency owners and some large billion-dollar companies are staying up at night worrying about the challenge of growing their business with good people.
However, finding the right sales talent is no easy task. There are several challenges that companies face when trying to hire top salespeople, and it is important to understand 5 important challenges to be better equipped to overcome them.
Attracting and Sourcing the Right Candidates
The first step in hiring great salespeople is attracting the right candidates. Sales positions can be highly competitive, and it can be difficult to find individuals with the right mix of skills and experience. Companies need to make sure that their job postings are clear and concise and that they highlight the benefits of working for the company. This can include a competitive salary, commission structure, and opportunities for growth.
In addition, companies need to be proactive in reaching out to potential candidates and networking with others in their industry to find the best talent. They should not wait for people to apply because of their job postings because the best salespeople are often already employed. Companies can use various approaches such as reverse searches of Indeed, approaches to targets on LinkedIn, personal networking in their market area, referrals from their best salespeople, business networking groups, and even roaming around.
Assessing the Right Skills
A second challenge in hiring great salespeople is assessing the right skills—the right skills, traits, and cognitive strength necessary for a particular sales role. Sales is a complex and multifaceted job that requires a range of skills and experience. Companies need to be able to evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, ability to build rapport with clients, listening, presenting, handling objections, and their ability to close deals.
Companies should also assess a candidate’s problem-solving skills and ability to think on their feet and verbally express themselves. It is important for a company’s recruiting personnel to have a clear understanding of what skills and qualities they are looking for in a salesperson so that they can assess candidates effectively.
Screening for Conscientiousness
Anderson and Kamakura in their research on “A Prospect-based Model of Salesperson Performance” published in Marketing Science tell us that “Conscientious individuals are more likely to be effective salespeople due to their tendency to plan ahead, work hard, and persevere in the face of obstacles.”
Beginning the recruitment process with a screening step for conscientiousness helps to increase predictability for hard work, personal responsibility, and a concern for meeting sales objectives. By screening well for this trait and hiring for character or conscientiousness first, people who then continue down the recruitment funnel have a greater likelihood for success in those sales roles where conscientiousness is needed and important for the company’s sales culture.
Managing the Interview Process
The interview process can be a challenge for companies when trying to hire great salespeople. Salespeople are often highly confident and may try to present themselves in the best possible light. To make things more difficult, science tells us we are prey to their impression management of us because of our predisposition to hire. Companies need to be able to see beyond the surface and assess a candidate’s true ability to sell.
Businesses need to be prepared to ask tough structured questions—structured toward looking for specific traits, and to be firm in their assessment of a candidate’s abilities. Companies can also consider using role-playing exercises during the interview process to assess a candidate’s ability to sell.
For example, “Take a moment and please sell my company to me. Why use us?” How assertive are they? Have they been diligent enough to look up the information you asked them to review before the appointment? This is a conscientiousness check. For most candidates, the interview process will be the first time we see them in extended action.
Retaining Top Sales Talent
While the first 4 are all important challenges to meet and master, retaining top sales talent is a must. Once a company has hired great salespeople, they need to be able to retain them. Sales positions can be highly competitive, and top salespeople can often receive multiple job offers. Companies need to provide their sales teams with a positive work environment and opportunities for growth and development, and they should offer competitive compensation packages, including salaries and commission structures, to ensure that their sales teams are motivated to stay with the company. Focus on:
- Fostering a positive company culture: A positive company culture is essential for retaining top sales talent. Sales teams need to feel valued and appreciated in order to be motivated to do their best work. A company’s sales leaders and managers can foster a positive company culture by promoting teamwork, encouraging open communication, and providing opportunities for professional development. In addition, companies can also host regular team-building events to help build a sense of community among their sales team.
- Providing ongoing training and support: Finally, companies need to provide ongoing training and support to their sales teams in order to ensure their success. Sales is a fast-paced and constantly evolving role, and the best reps want to be constantly challenged and helped to grow and keep up.
At the end of the day, people have basic motivations—either competitive or income-based. Make sure you help them get what they want and need for their lives and fulfillment on the job. This means getting to know them as people and individuals—not much different from the best customers who stay with you for life.