How Top Sales VPs Improve Their Talent


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I don’t have the talent on my team to make the number. This is the top complaint we hear from Sales Leaders. Many of them are right. Attracting and keeping top talent is a highly competitive battleground. A few upgrades can make your year. How a manager approaches acquiring that talent will make the difference.

When we ask “B” Leaders why they have a talent issue, here are the top responses:

  • My compensation program isn’t competitive with the market. We can’t hire the best.
  • Our internal HR policies won’t let me hire and fire the people I need.
  • We lost all of our best guys last year to a competitor.
  • HR is recruiting candidates with the wrong credentials.

When “A” Leaders say they have a talent issue, they cite these reasons:

  • We’ve got a young team in place that is still growing.
  • Our training and onboarding programs haven’t provided the tools and skills to be successful.
  • We’ve been out of alignment with our field sales activities. We’re not providing the value our customers demand.

The gap between these two mindsets is simple: The “B” Leader thinks of Talent as a static metric. You either have “it” or you don’t. This puts a huge emphasis on every new hire. Also, every defection feels like a crushing body blow.

The “A” Leader puts the emphasis on factors within his span of control. He doesn’t wait for talent to come to him. He develops it.

Consider the New England Patriots. Despite a strict salary cap within the NFL, they consistently make it late in the playoffs. The reason isn’t superior drafting or pricy free agents. The culture of the team is focused on talent development. Skills and fundamentals are continually assessed and reinforced. Undrafted free agents and high-round draft picks turn into consistent contributors. Because of this, the Patriots are a perennial top NFL team.

Here are the four components to start developing your team:

  1. Identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses: Write down the key components of the skills that make a rep successful. Conduct and interview individual reps with questions based on past experience to judge their competency. Once you can candidly assess your team, you’ll know where they need to improve. Here’s an example of a top leader’s talent development scorecard.
  2. Create a development plan based on the biggest gaps : Use the scorecard above to identify gaps. Create action items to bridge those gaps. Provide your reps with a list of action items and deadlines.
  3. Execute The Action Items: Follow up with your team. Observe how each rep is incorporating your feedback. Reinforce the skills you’ve outlined. Make sure they’ve committed to the actions outlined in their development plan. If they’re ignoring them, they don’t want to improve. Find people who do.
  4. Update Your Talent Development Plan: As your reps progress, recognize quick wins publicly. Keep each Development Plan updated to show progress. One of the key attributes of job satisfaction is personal growth. “A” Reps want to work for companies that continually make them better. By investing in them, you are building company loyalty. This won’t solve all your retention issues. But it will reduce “A” Player attrition.

Talent is not static. Great sales reps who stop focusing on improvement turn into fossils. Struggling reps who invest in themselves get better. The best sales teams have a continuous improvement mindset. Stop blaming your team’s lack of talent on HR or compensation. Start building it yourself. Great sales teams are not talent acquirers. They are talent developers.

Download the “A” Player Sales Development Plan to see how top Sales Leaders address the talent issue.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Drew Zarges
Drew Zarges serves as a Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI). Drew helps sales and marketing leaders hit their number through extensive work within these disciplines: Lead Management, Demand Generation and Campaign Planning, Compensation Planning and Specialties.


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