To Compete in the New Economy, Modernize Your Approach to Sales Talent

By: Alexander Group Sales Strategy, Sales Talent

New Way - Road Sign. Motivation Slogan.The “Old School” System Is Broken

Sales organizations need a holistic and strategic approach to sales talent management to survive in the new economy and boost productivity. Different departments within an organization have their own ideas about how to improve the capabilities of the sales force. Some create competency assessments; others develop a variety of sales aides; still others focus on training programs. Various stakeholders create these approaches within organizational silos. These efforts lack a common design point. As a result, the sales force receives a fragmented, disjointed message. The impact? Chaos and confusion, and significant inconsistencies in sales execution.

This all too common approach of  “random acts of sales support” means the sales force will perform well below its full potential. Why is this happening?

Human resources departments typically develop a talent management plan for the whole organization.  However, sales leadership requires a more specific and dynamic human capital management strategy. They need to develop talent to align with rapidly changing customer demands. Usually a CEO looks to the VP of sales for accountability of the performance of the sales force. But organizations distribute talent development responsibilities across disparate functions and across different departments. These assorted activities accumulate into a massive array of “random acts of sales support.”

Figure one:  A representative list of groups generating content to support the sales force080916SSantucciBlogImage

Figure two:  A conceptualized view of the current state of the sales talent systemcurrent state - talent

A New Approach:  Strategic, Holistic Sales Talent Management

Too many groups with too many perspectives negate the intended benefits of these efforts. To drive a successful sales human capital management program, sales organizations should consider three factors:

1)    Develop a sales talent management strategy.   An effective sales talent strategy will create alignment between all of the various activities to boost sales productivity and the business strategy. In order to accomplish this effectively, companies should employ a “model-map-match” approach.

  • Model – the desired relationship ideal customers expect to have with a business
  • Map – the various program capabilities that either need to be developed or already exist to that specification of an idealized customer relationship
  • Match – the right people with the right skills, tools and information that can make the customers’ expectations come to life.

2)    Create a “business within a business.”  Given the breadth of people involved, it is unlikely any one function can successfully own the entire scope of the sales talent life cycle. Companies should develop a new function that doesn’t disenfranchise any of the functions mentioned above. Strive to radically simplify all available resources. Doing so will convert those investments into productivity. Typically, the responsibility of running this operating model rests with a sales enablement function.

3)    Define a “hire to retire” business process.   A business needs to offer products and services. The “hire to retire” business process is akin to the product line of a sales enablement department. In order to “manufacture” well-suited talent to meet business strategy goals, follow the life cycle of an individual sales person from the moment they join the company (hire) to the moment they leave that role (retire). The elements of this life cycle include:

a.    Acquire – All of the activities from the time the role is approved until the business receives an executed contract from the candidate;

b.    Onboard – The clock of making a new hire begins ticking once the candidate accepts the position. This sub-process includes rapidly preparing a new hire to a minimum and well-defined level of proficiency;

c.    Coach – One of the key roles of front-line sales managers is to reinforce the core messages and help drive the behaviors that lead to success. This applies to both new and existing representatives;

d.    Develop – All of the various training programs to improve either the knowledge or the skill of sales people. The objective is to coordinate all of those efforts into an organized and thoughtful curriculum;

e.    Evaluate – Provide a consistent way to evaluate how well the sales people are evolving to 1) meet the requirements of changing customer demands and 2) measure the effectiveness of all programs intended to support the sales force.

Figure three:  A modernized approach to sales talent managementfuture state talent

The bottom line:   The buying environment has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, yet the tactics and strategies for hiring and developing sales talent has not. Businesses who continue to distribute the responsibilities of improving the sales talent yet allow the distribution of accountability across many varied functions will continue to inadvertently create a sales force unable to adapt to changing market dynamics. Leading businesses that adapt their sales talent management approach to align with a changing buying market recognize increased productivity and a more cohesive sales force.

Does the talent management program at your company suffer from too many “random acts of support”? The Alexander Group can help.

Original author: Scott Santucci.

Contact an Alexander Group leader to discuss your talent program.

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