The July-August issue of the Harvard Business Review indicates that the competencies of the top 20% of the sales force have adapted to changes in buyer behavior. To help determine which competencies are most important to your sales team, get a copy of the competencies list.
Success in the sales force is 50% the result of talent and 50% the result of performance conditions. If you’re not addressing changing sales talent requirements, you’re missing half the opportunity to improve.
I recently interviewed a VP of Sales at a Fortune 300 company; let’s call him Dave. Dave has demonstrated success year-over-year in a legacy sales environment even when his peers were struggling. Dave said when he first took over the group he assessed the sales team utilizing a sales competency approach. Dave based his assessments on the requirements (or competencies) required to sell the new products coming to market. What he found was 65% of the sales force didn’t have the skills to make the change.
Dave made the following decisions to support his Talent Management Program:
Defined the competencies required to meet the changing market demands
Utilized scenario based interviewing techniques to evaluate his sales team
Determined the type of talent he had on the team
Invested in a training program that would allow him to save some of the “B” players
Replaced all of his “C” players
For Dave, missing quota on a new product launch would typically result in weekly meetings with his boss. He would need to explain the current status of every deal in detail. It would also mean a future promotion to SVP of Sales would go to one of his peers.
On the other hand, the ability to exceed new product quota would positively impact Dave's success. Doors would open up. Dave also knew being micromanaged by his boss every week would be a waste of valuable time (“I’d rather have root canal every week” was the quote).
Let’s face it; dealing with talent related issues is difficult for every manager. In many cases these are the sales reps that got you where you are. Unfortunately you get paid to make the tough decisions and this is one of them. By starting with the revised set of competencies you’re determining the gap between your team's current skills and the ones they need to develop. The next steps are developing a virtual bench of talent, upgrading the team, and training those that have the ability to make the transition.
Dave made those tough decisions and is reaping the rewards. Have you struggled with a legacy sales force? What have you done to overcome the gaps? Your peers would be interested to hear from you, Share your successes below in the comments.
Get ahead of your talent management program issues
Evolve your talent at a pace ahead of your clients
Don’t wait to evaluate and upgrade your sales talent, it only results in missing new product quota
If you’re the VP of sales, like Dave, don’t wait until you miss the first year new product quota before assessing your sales team. The process of developing a solid Talent Management Program is continuous one, especially in companies that release new products on a frequent basis. If you’re not sure where to start, review the list of sales rep top competencies.