How Good is Your Sales Management Program?

This week’s blog is by Matt Sharrers, Principal, Sales Benchmark Index.

In business today, you will hear the expressions “we need to take care of our people” and “it is all about having A Players” more times than you can possibly imagine. Running parallel to these statements is the fundamental question: How good is your Talent Management program?

How do you as a leader or company pick the best? What process do you use to train them? How do you help them develop into larger roles?

Hire, train and develop. Master these big rocks of talent management and watch your results take off.

The term “A Player” is often thrown around loosely in companies. In our book Topgrading for Sales, Dr. Bradford Smart  and co-author Greg Alexander define an A Player as somebody who has a 90% chance of being in the top 10% in that particular role for the compensation available.

With this as your guide, a great sales leader must understand how many of the 55 key sales competencies their top performers must have. Secondly, they should always conduct reference interviews vs. old fashioned reference checks. The reference interview should be a 30-45 minute discussion with at least three of the candidate’s former bosses. A Players never have a problem getting former bosses to vouch for them.

If you have a hiring process that includes these crucial steps, you will find A Players seeking out your organization and you will improve your odds of picking true performers.

After you have the A Players in your organization, getting them ramped up to full productivity is the next big challenge.  For a company to spend all this time and money on attracting A Players and then abandon them at the door is the worst thing they can do.

There are seven key categories that need to be covered in any on boarding process:

  1. Pre-hire (email, payroll)
  2. Administration (HR, benefits)
  3. Company Information (value proposition, industry)
  4. Product (competitive advantage, features)
  5. Competitors (strengths/weaknesses)
  6. Internal Processes (sales support, sales operations)
  7. Sales Methodology (selling process)

Within each of these areas are four key stages: objectives, duration, activities and verification.

If the initial training is executed in this fashion, three things happen. First, you will have consistency across your sales organization and a way to ensure knowledge is transferred the right way, in the right environment and by the right people. Second, you will be able to look back and see what areas are potentially lacking if people are not ramping up as you would like and know what to improve.

Last, and most important, the perception the new hire has of their new company increases. They feel excited that a documented, well thought out process is in place and it will motivate them to perform for a company that is giving so much so soon.

Great players do not always make great coaches. And sometimes, above average performers become wonderful coaches. A world class sales force should have a robust, defined system for succession planning that effectively identifies who can lead and who cannot.

Upon identifying a person who appears to have a desire to lead, there are three things that need to be done to prepare them for a possible leadership role. First, set proper expectations that criteria will be made up of results, methods (how they sell, CRM usage), company culture fit and leadership ability. Second, provide a list of activities beginning as far out as two years from when you envision the potential promotion date and have them work through them (i.e. shadow interviews, mentoring a new hire, running a meeting). Last, push them to read and educate themselves. If you notice a positive response, begin guiding them to a reading list that helps them build knowledge in the key leadership areas (strategy, challenging leadership, change management).

A combination of these three tasks will give you a great forward-looking view of whether or not your top rep can indeed take the next step.

Hire A Players; people who have a 90% chance of being in the top 10% for the job available at the compensation range. Train them meticulously, with checkpoints along the way in all areas of their role. Develop and invest in them through a series of activities that get them ready for the next job before they are in that job.

If you execute talent management through these three prisms, engagement will be high and your results will soar.