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UK sales force in crisis

Seleste Lunsford

According to a new report only 16 percent of sales leaders believe that they have the talent they need to succeed in the future. However, even with talent concerns widespread, strategies for identifying, recruiting, retaining, and enabling sales talent has remained stagnant. Seleste Lunsford, Managing Director – CSO Insights.

The “2018 Sales Talent Study,” based on a global survey of over 320 sales organisations, finds that despite sales teams’ deep concerns over the future of talent, when asked what changes they’ve made to hiring profiles over the last 12 months, most teams said “no changes.” The study also suggests that organisations focus on the wrong criteria when developing sales talent, focusing on gut feelings over data-driven insights that can predict higher win rates and more consistent quota attainment.

“Talent gaps are incredibly costly to sales organisations,” said Seleste Lunsford, managing director, CSO Insights. “It takes an average of four months to recruit a new seller, and an additional nine months to train them to full productivity. That’s over a year of productivity lost. But an effective sales leader sees hiring as an opportunity. With the right approach to talent development strategies, sales leaders can accelerate transformation within two years.”

The study finds that sales organisations struggle to replicate successful selling strategies. Instead, they rely heavily on hiring top performers, rather than developing talent as a whole. Sales organisations should instead seek out data-aided solutions to enable their entire workforce, optimising each seller’s performance rather than searching in a small pool of talent for high performers who can fill in the gaps.

“Talent is an issue for most sales organisations. And, it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of human resource departments and learning and development teams to address,” said Lunsford. “Chief Sales Officers need to own the identification, recruitment, retention, and enablement of talent as part of an overarching strategy. In order to build an effective sales team, CSOs should look for agility, learning propensity, comfort with technology, and analytical skills in new hires, and to build those same characteristics in their incumbent sales teams.”

The 2018 Sales Talent Study is based on a global survey of sales executives, sales enablement leaders, sales operations leaders and sales managers at 321 organisations, representing a balance of predominantly product and service-based businesses. The survey included responses from North America (49 percent), EMEA (27 percent), APAC (17 percent) and LATAM (7 percent).

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