Add Talent Muscle to Your Sales Force

During my interactions with sales heads in several companies across industries, one of the things I ask them is: ‘Do you recruit salespeople to build competitive advantage for your firm?’. Most of the time, this question receives very ambiguous responses: ‘Well yes, we do consider our sales force as a long-term strategic investment.’, ‘yes; a good sales force is what drives our business’. Apparently, the importance of having a good sales force finds acceptance with all Sales Managers but how to build a good sales force remains a black hole with majority of the organizations. It’s an organizational imperative to use sales force recruitment as a strategic driver of sales force effectiveness. An extremely difficult thing to do but the pay-offs are much more worth the pain. Additionally, it mitigates organizational risks of making wrong hiring decisions and saves lots of money and human resource hours. Here are few pointers for strategic staffing of your sales force.
• Profile your salespeople: Usually, best performers and worst performers may have performance variance up to the degree of three. Profile your best salespeople: what attributes, attitudes and cognitive skills drive their performance? What do they find motivating with the organization’s culture and the industry they operate in? Profile these salespeople to know what works best for your organization. Investigate the worst performers and figure out the core behaviours that inhibit performance in these individuals.
• Develop a hiring agenda: The hiring agenda should work as a set of guiding principles that should clearly outline: what the organization is not looking for and what all it seeks to search for?
• Recruit for potential: While evaluating a candidate, it’s important to see his ‘fit’ in current as well as future businesses that the firm might get in. Firms in growth phase of business cycle should consider looking at long-term organizational needs, whereas firms in mature or declining phase of business cycle might consider short-term needs.
• Recruit for higher goal orientation: While it will be a good idea to focus on performance orientation of candidates, look for learning orientation deficiencies. Salespeople with lower levels of learning orientations are more likely to reach their level of incompetence, too fast, too soon!
• Recruit for diversity: Social and gender diversity can do a lot of good to your sales force effectiveness. Bringing in salespeople from diverse industries (provided they match your best salespeople profile) could propel newer ways of doing things and help the firms in optimising their operational costs.
• Recruit for talent: When you come across a talented salesperson you would love to hire, do everything possible to bring him on board. If that requires you to sell the opportunity to him/her, go ahead and use your selling skills. Do it.
• Friends and Relatives, References et al.: As long as your talent acquisition agenda is served, candidate’s reference source does not matter much (Having your cousins in the sales force may not be a good idea though). Poor fit must not sneak in. A bad hire can create havoc to the morale of performers.


3 thoughts on “Add Talent Muscle to Your Sales Force

  1. jugadu

    An incompetent Sales Force is often an indicator of bad Sales Management Practice. It is important to look inwards rather than blaming the sales force per se.

  2. Manoj

    Very well written as always. I specially liked , why one should avoid candidate with lower level of learning orientation as they would very soon reach to their level of incompetency. When you say Sales force, what level of recruitment are we referring to you, do clarify me.

    1. Mostly Frontline salespeople and first level managers.

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