The 1st Step to Win the War for Sales Talent


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To compete in the war for sales talent, you have to answer this question. How good is my sales team?  There isn’t a more important question for sales leaders to answer. 

I was having a conversation with a SVP of Sales recently.  After we performed discovery, he wanted to know how good his team was.  I asked how he determines good.  He said one word, “results.”  If results are the only measurement, the answer is black and white.  My response was, “You don’t need my opinion if results are all that matter.”  Then we started discussing what type of results and over what time period.  Results become murky when you go a couple layers deeper.

Sales leaders have a tendency to default to lagging results. Did they or did they not hit quota? Results are objective and fair, right?  Not necessarily.  They are just easier to measure.  Measuring lagging results alone can lead to a false positive.  These false positives keep the wrong person in the role too long. 

Look at page 39 in, How to Make the Number in 2015.” It will help you build a great talent program.  If you have the wrong talent you have little chance next year


Another problem with relying solely on lagging results is they are historically focused. Once lagging results are realized, it is too late to make corrections. 

For example, a new sales leader starts. How long does it take to impact results?  Waiting until post ramp to measure progress is a mistake.  It could be 12 or more months before you realize performance issues.  If the new hire is not productive, you have wasted tons of money and time.  Throughout the onboarding and ramp period you need indicators that show progress.  Diagnosing issues early allows for immediate coaching and development. 

How should you measure sales talent?

It is necessary to measure talent from multiple views. Here are a few:

  • Competency fit – via talent reviews.  Do they have the ability to be successful?
  • Accountabilities – behavioral, leading and lagging indicators.
  • Direct customer feedback – win/loss interviews.
  • Direct observation – field rides/shadowing.
  • Team feedback – what does the team say?


Always remember – people don’t change that much.  You can develop some skills, but negative behaviors never change that much.  What does this mean?  Determine if someone is the right person early on.  Don’t talk yourself into ignoring the “little things.”

  • Minor forecasting mistakes
  • Not using the prescribed process
  • Missing deadlines
  • Failing training certifications

These are all warning signs. Address them immediately. 

Once you know what you have, build a talent program.  Here are some questions to answer when building your talent program:

  • How do we assess talent to ensure we have ‘A’ players in each role?
  • How are we going to recruit top talent and reduce the time to fill an open position with an A player?
  • What is our candidate selection process to hire top talent?
  • How are we going to onboard new talent to reduce the time to productivity?
  • What sales training program do we need to develop the competencies/skills/knowledge of the team?
  • What sales coaching program do we need to reinforce the right behaviors?
  • What is our sales performance management program to develop existing talent?

Grade your sales organization against each area. Then prioritize where to allocate resources to build a team of A players. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Scott Gruher
Scott has extensive experience helping B2B Sales and Marketing Leaders Make the Number. Gruher has helped companies such as Yahoo, GXS, Ryder Systems, Conoco Phillips, Expeditors International, Genesys Telocommunications and Caliber Collision Centers accelerate their growth by leveraging the benchmarking method.


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