Here today, gone tomorrow: Did you know that the average tenure of a sales professional is just about a year and a half? It’s a mind-blowing statistic that is, on the surface, an indicator of the rigors of a sales role, in any market segment.
Dig deeper, and you begin to unlock a reality that is tumultuous, at best, for both company and employee – both challenged to find the right fit for the task and struggling to remain motivated in an increasingly competitive marketplace and challenging economy.
Despite all these unknowns, here are two absolutes – you must have a defined sales process to be successful, and you must have the right talent to execute successfully.
For many of you, you’ve likely already completed much of the foundational work related to the former. You likely have invested heavily in getting your go-to-market plans to this point. You’ve completed the research, constructed an ideal customer profile, identified the buyer personas, and developed qualifications and scripts for the team. Your ace marketers have nailed down the market position and messaging. The lead-gen machine is cranked up, the CRM is in place to deliver clean data, and you have the tech stack to track it all.
Now you’re ready to sell. Or are you?
Selling is not just a one-time event, but rather a process that involves a series of steps and actions that are taken to reach the end goal of closing a sale. It requires a well-defined strategy and consistent effort to build trust and establish long-term relationships with customers.
But if you don’t have the right sales reps on the front lines, a skilled sales leader to lead them, a process to scale the team, and a compensation structure that aligns with the market and your company goals, none of the above will matter.
We are often asked: “Who makes the best sales rep?” While not foolproof, a leading indicator of sales success starts early. Look for scrappers from birth. When was their first job, and why did they do it? Better yet, was there an entrepreneurial angle to it? Mowed lawns at age 12 to buy their dream whatever? Check, please.
College isn’t a requirement if the person has an insatiable appetite for learning. If your candidate paid for college themselves, this is another indicator of self-motivation. Parents in blue-collar jobs are also an indicator that you may have an individual intrinsically motivated to prove something or to “take the next step” for themselves and their families. They will want an opportunity to make big money, they won’t care if they have marketing plans and a tech stack, and they’ll want everyone to get out of their way.
Self-motivation is by no means the only characteristic to look for. There are others. Identify the characteristics common in your top performers and look for evidence of those characteristics in your new hires. Then construct a repeatable onboarding process that equips them to be successful as quickly as possible. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc said it best: “You’re only as good as the people you hire.”
Many CEOs think their rainmaker will make the best sales leader. This could be the case in your organization — but proceed with caution. First, your rainmaker must be at the point in their career where transitioning to management is appealing.
Sure, they may be ready for a new challenge. If that is the case, then your rainmaker needs to understand the reality of managing. To be successful, they will have to take a back seat to their team. Their income may also dip initially, and they won’t control their destiny as much. Plus, they will need to learn how to teach and coach.
CEOs need to understand that sales numbers could take a short-term hit while the rainmaker transitions to management and running the team, too. If you are considering making such a move in your business, start early and start small. Offer your rainmaker training and a chance to coach one promising salesperson to see if both people grow.
The ideal situation is for a rainmaker to seamlessly transition into management while bringing up team members to exceed the previous sales quota. Much like a coach taking over a sports team, ask your rainmaker for a detailed plan on how they will transition and lead. When you agree on the plan, present a realistic compensation package detailing how your rainmaker can make more money as the sales leader. Otherwise, they may not want to transition.
If you find that your rainmaker is unwilling to manage or doesn’t have the skill set, then you will have to (of course) look outside the organization. Once you narrow down your candidates, have your sales team interview candidates and make sure you review a detailed plan and vision before you hire.
Let’s dispel this notion up front: There is no “perfect compensation plan.” But there are three considerations every plan should take into account
It's in your best interest to find – and keep – the best sales professionals for your unique selling challenges. If we at Chief Outsiders can help you to find, train, and motivate your sales pros, please reach out.
Perhaps you aren't sure what areas your Sales team needs the most work or how your team measures up to competitors. We’ve developed The Chief Outsiders Sales Readiness Assessment – a guided process designed to walk CEOs through a detailed understanding of the issues at hand and provide a framework to help set the business on the proper path forward. Email John Blessing to request a link to the sales readiness assessment.