Step Two in Creating a High Performing Sales Organization
The old sports metaphor, “the best defense is a good offense,” refers to the conditions created by a proficient offense who controls the ball, game clock, and pace of the game. They are successfully executing their game plan, which quite often leads to a win.
When creating and leading a high performing sales organization, finding top talent is one of the critical elements to achieving success. When I look back on the best teams I have helped build in the past, the common thread was the right talent aligned with roles that allowed them to do what they do best. Having said this, finding talented sales people is no simple task as the good ones are almost always working “heads down” in their current roles. Add to that our current nearly full employment economy, and the task can seem daunting.
Back to my sports metaphor. When it comes to finding great people, the wrong time to do it is when you are reacting to losing someone with no one in your pipeline i.e., playing defense. Starting from zero means a much greater effort, a more stressful process, and often, a much longer time needed to replace the person, leading to lost momentum and revenue. If you have an active pipeline of good people to engage with, you have just made a positive outcome much more likely. Who knows, it may even lead to an upgrade in talent!
So how exactly does one go about this? Here are the steps I recommend you take with your organization to build and maintain a quality pipeline of “A” players. Like many things in business, this is simple, not easy:
- Define the work, define the role(s). If you don’t have a well-defined target, your chances of finding the right person are greatly diminished. Be intentional about what a good “fit” looks like for your culture, and for the “seat” you need to fill.
- Maintain a regular cadence of the right activities. Put metrics in place for yourself and sales leadership that will lead to finding good candidates. Do some of these things before, during and after the time you actually need someone! This can include:
- Monthly face-to-face meetings with good prospects. Make it a smaller number that is manageable. If you do this regularly, your pipeline will fill.
- Outreach to key partners and contacts looking for talent referrals. Leverage your network, especially those who know you and your culture well.
- Build a database of talent for your organization. Many good people may be happy in their jobs today, but things change. As part of maintaining the database, establish and maintain relationships with a smaller subset of “target prospects” you would like to see join your company. A good database will allow you to more quickly move qualified people along through your interview process.
- Always be on the lookout for talented people, know what to look and listen for. I once met a hugely talented salesperson on a golf course. I immediately could see and hear his talent and passion come through. He ended up being a top performer for my client’s company, and is now a top rep in the medical device industry.
- Hold a job fair on a semi-regular basis to drive a greater volume of prospects your way. From a greater quantity of people comes a better chance of finding quality people. If you are a small company, make it company-wide, or partner with other non-competing organizations.
- Engage your employees in the search. Put a bonus out for help finding a qualified salesperson. One tip, make the bonus payable only when they successfully complete their probationary period.
So many business leaders acknowledge that talent is one of the key drivers of strong performance in today’s world. With that knowledge, I am amazed at how few sales organizations make talent acquisition a core strategy in their annual plans. If you already have a talent focused culture in your organization, you are already playing offense, and are well ahead of the pack. If not, make a plan right now and start ensuring a future of strong performance.