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How to beat the sales talent crisis

By Shabri Lakhani, CEO of SalesWorks

January 31 2022 - Evidenced by increasing rates of turnover, broken recruitment systems, and higher rates of unmet demand for skilled sales talent than ever before, we are experiencing a global sales talent crisis thatís hurting companies trying to capitalise on post-pandemic growth.

Concerningly, 44% of millennial salespeople say they plan to leave their job within two years, as demand for skilled talent rises. At the same time, the number of sales roles advertised has steadily increased with a rise of 65% between 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. Evidently, businesses need to improve their levels of talent retention and ensure they are hiring and developing top performers.

Sales leaders are failing to see the shift that is occurring within the sales industry. Until recently, many people believed sales was not something that could be taught. Being a model salesperson was all about personality and natural people skills, with many teams relying on a rolodex of familiar contacts they were selling to. But changes are happening within the industry and businesses are increasingly realising that great salespeople are built, not created at birth. Sales roles have become far more consultative in nature and the sales toolkit has shifted to include sales enablement and sales intelligence platforms. Gone are the days of recruiting personable young sales reps with minimal training and sending them off into the deep to see if they 'sink or swim'.

Today, sales leaders need to restructure their outlook on building and investing in their team. Here are three critical strategies that sales teams can employ to beat the sales talent crisis and effectively recruit, train, and retain top sales talent.

Take a data-driven approach to assessing sales talent

To structure a sustainable sales operation that consistently hits revenue goals, businesses need a standardised system for assessing sales teams and gaining visibility into what sets high-performers apart from low-performers. The ideal salesperson should be quantified against four key areas:

1. Administration and attitude

A successful salesperson at any stage of their career should be capable of effectively completing their administrative responsibilities. Although not the most interesting aspect of a sales role, the administrative portion of the sales role must be treated as the backbone of a rigorous professional process that drives results. Time management, CRM hygiene, organisation, and team communication are crucial skills that should be tracked and measured periodically within sales teams.

2. Technological competency

The highest performing sales teams use between three and eight tools in their day-to-day operations. To form a successful team, itís crucial that every team member can use all the tools and systems at their disposal. Too often, sales operations staff are having to act as IT admins assisting salespeople with the basic functionality of their CRMs and enablement platforms.

3. Pipeline generation

Demand generation is a critical skill that does not lose importance as one moves though the ranks of a sales organisation. It is not simply a marketing or SDR function and it is certainly not beneath a senior salesperson. In fact, senior staff members must have a deeper understanding of how demand generation works and the tactics to deploy.

4. Sales execution

The most important part of the sales process is closing deals. It is important to have granular visibility into how reps are closing deals so a sales program can be developed. A well-established sales programme will allow sufficiently trained sales reps to be successful and hit important quotas.

Invest in continuous training and mentorship programmes

Most leaders stop training their sales reps after the onboarding process. Investment in regular coaching, training, and sales team development is key to both employee retention and productivity.

Research shows that 45% of employees would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they offered more skills and training. Amid the current sales labor shortage, prioritising personalised mentoring and coaching will reduce costly employee turnover.

Training can be as simple as one-on-one time with a dedicated sales training representative or a manager. Recent research shows that salespeople who spend at least half a day a week one-on-one with their managers are two times more productive than those that donít. The evidence is clear; effective team development is essential to building a productive, scalable sales operation.

Use KPIs to measure the efficacy of sales team development programmes

Management thinker Peter Drucker once said, "if you canít measure it, you canít improve it". To fix ineffective recruitment, development, and retention strategies, teams need to regularly measure KPIs. Measuring sales programmes against KPIs allows businesses to identify challenge areas and develop targeted solutions.

The basics KPIs to measure are obvious: employee retention, average time to productivity and employee satisfaction. But sales leaders should also think outside the box and measure:

  • Effectiveness of programming within their organisation.
  • Employee engagement rates in training and coaching programmes.
  • Methodology and technology adoption.
  • Spend per learner on sales training services.
  • Average time to platform proficiency.

After identifying the right KPIs for the team, they must be measured effectively to drive strategy recommendations. The best way to do this is with custom dashboards and analytics that integrate with the CRMs to provide real-time data visibility. Dashboarding provides sales teams with the insights they need to drive strategy discussions.

Sales teams are finding themselves at a critical turning point. No longer can they rely on the old-school methodology of 'sink or swim' when hiring sales reps. If teams want to solve the current sales talent crisis, they must invest in building great salespeople from scratch. Organisations must develop a tech powered sales programme that takes a data driven approach to recruiting and training salespeople to encourage retainment and growth.

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