Our sales departments are filled with Sales Managers, Directors of Sales, VPs of Sales, and even Chief Sales Officers who are charged with generating sales and growing business. What we don’t typically find in a sales operation is a “Talent Manager” or “Talent Coach" — even though the best sales leaders out there know that the best way to drive sales is to hire exceptionally talented salespeople.
Here are five questions you should ask yourself to make sure you are doing everything you can to grow sales, as both a sales leader and a talent manager:
- Do I continually develop my talent bank? You can count on the fact that "A" players probably aren’t looking when you’re looking. So, you might miss them if you only interview people when you are hiring! Smart managers are constantly looking for talent and making deposits into their Talent Bank, so they can make withdrawals at the right time. It also sends a clear message to the rest of the staff that you are continually on the lookout for top talent to ensure long-lasting team success. Remember, on average, it takes at least five candidate interviews for each person you hire. Another interesting tidbit? The most successful hiring managers spend 20-25% of their time on recruitment activities.
- Do I have a talent assessment for each salesperson I manage? It is critical to use a talent instrument that helps you to identify and recruit top talent. But you will also want to make sure that your assessment of choice continues to support you beyond selection all the way to coaching and development. We exclusively use the Talent Plus instruments (Sales Talent Interview and Profit Center Manager Interview) because they provide us with a crystal-clear understanding of each person’s innate strengths which allows us to help sales managers coach each unique individual to achieve maximum success in their work. Understanding how a person is “wired” means you can avoid the one-size-fits-all management plan which just doesn’t work. It gives you the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the things each salesperson does best, challenge them to grow, help them to manage their limitations, improve your retention, and lower company costs. There is no better win-win relationship that I can think of!
- Have I built a plan to grow and develop each salesperson in the areas of their strengths? To help someone grow as a professional (which is good for them and good for the company), you need to understand their unique talents and invest time coaching them on their strengths. Many organizations fall short by focusing their time on their weakest links and continuing to try to “fix” their people. Don’t fall into that outdated trap! Instead, commit to hiring the best people out there and then spend the majority of your time with the highly talented. Build individualized talent development plans. And ask yourself who you have spent the most time with in the last 30 days — if it is not one of your top performers, you might be missing a great investment opportunity.
- Have I consistently shown my sales team that they are important by keeping my weekly meetings with each one of them? It has been said that “people will work longer for a bad manager than for an inconsistent manager.” Show the people you manage that they are important enough for you to consistently block out uninterrupted time dedicated to focusing on what is most important to them. Don’t worry about making their chunk of time unique or interesting. It should instead be routine, predictable, and consistent. Everyone should know exactly what to expect from each of these pow-wows — a discussion of accounts, the business, progress reports, what’s happening right now, strategies, and next steps. Make sure the salesperson runs the meeting and presents their accounts and progress reports. Your role is to listen, ask questions, and find out how you can best support them in reaching their objectives.
- Am I abiding by the 5-7 Happy Hour rule? Recognizing and rewarding great work inspires people to go above and beyond the ordinary to achieve the unexpected. Don’t let good work go unrecognized! Notice as much as you can, as often as you can and provide continuous feedback. Here’s a shocking fact: The average person needs five pieces of specific positive feedback to be open to one piece of corrective (negative) feedback. That 5:1 ratio is hard to achieve! Make sure you have systems in place to ensure that you are noticing their good work that much more often than you are pointing out the things they could improve. Without a specific plan in place, it’ll never happen. Also, the average person needs positive feedback at least once every seven days. So doing it right should be thought of as the “5-7 Happy Hour!” Don’t confuse positive feedback with celebrations. While celebrations should happen periodically when the circumstances warrant them, positive feedback is an entirely different thing.
Running through these five questions on a regular basis will give you a consistent way to "check up" on your talent leadership — which, of course, will help you with your primary resposibility of delivering revenue.