• April 26, 2021
  • By Mark Thacker, president, Sales Xceleration

6 Steps for Recruiting Top Sales Talent

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In 2020, companies in virtually every industry had to turn their sales strategies on their heads. Account executives accustomed to wining and dining clients had to find new ways to build rapport virtually. Sales managers had to learn how to motivate and manage their teams remotely. Companies had to figure out how to educate prospective customers earlier in the buying process.

It’s easy to see why the tumult of 2020 complicated the already challenging task of setting sales priorities and goals for 2021. While sales forecasting always comes with some level of educated assumptions, 2021 holds more unknown variables than most years in recent history. Consequently, executives are left wondering how long the pandemic will last, how their sales will be impacted, and when business will go back to normal (or something resembling it).

The Key Ingredients to a Strong Sales Team

The importance of leadership in sales and having a strong team can’t be overstated. Every team member has to be aligned and working toward your company’s success. On top of that, they all must be adaptable enough to pivot their strategies and processes and engaged enough to learn new skills and technologies.

One great example of this? Changing the way your team does outreach. Most selling is done remotely now, so it’s critical to provide the right educational content earlier in the process. Can prospective customers find what they need on your website? Are your virtual sales tools strong enough to provide buyers with the same emotional connections that were possible during face-to-face interactions?

The more your company relied on in-person selling in the past, the more you’ll have to commit to a sales process review and make any necessary pivots as we move into a new, uncertain future. Companies that manage to shift their strategies and provide compelling virtual experiences are the ones that will succeed in the aftermath of the pandemic.

How to Be Successful in Sales in 2021

If you haven’t already, it’s time to formalize your strategy to recruit, hire, and onboard top sales performers in 2021. Here are six steps to get you started:

  1. Write an ideal candidate profile. Knowing exactly what you need in a new hire will help you focus on nonnegotiable qualities in interviews—and weed out anyone who might not be a good fit. Specify those nonnegotiable requirements, and outline the required experience and measures of success. No matter how likable candidates might be, you have to be willing to let them go if they don’t fit your bill.
  2. Evaluate your competitive differentiators. Work with your leadership team to discuss what sets your company apart in the marketplace. You have to be able to tell this story if you want to attract top talent. Why should people want to work with you? Then, use what you learn from these conversations to inform your recruitment messaging and how you communicate with the people you most want to join your team.
  3. Define a talent acquisition strategy. Just like it’s critical to have a sales plan if you want to reach your sales goals, the same goes for talent acquisition. List out the tools and resources you will use to reach out to top sales talent. Try to avoid general job boards and career fairs, which are frequented by unemployed sales talent. You want people who are working and hungry for success.
  4. Create a talent evaluation plan. Going back to the ideal candidate profile, you need to have a way to evaluate your talent objectively. Find ways to assess skill set and mind-set. Add a simulation evaluation component, using behavioral interviewing techniques to get the fullest picture of the candidates who spark the most interest.
  5. Be willing to make a competitive offer. Hiring good sales talent will be expensive, but a smart investment in your business’s success is always worthwhile. Your offer needs to excite prospective hires. Remember that you’re trying to court them to join your company. If you’re serious about wanting them, make an offer they can’t refuse.
  6. Stick to an onboarding plan. Studies demonstrate far greater success for sales talent when new hires are properly onboarded. Create a 30-60-90-day ramp-up training program that you can standardize for all new employees. What skills should they have by each of those benchmarks? What KPIs do they need to meet? Good onboarding can cut ramp-up time and attrition in half.

The disruption of 2020 underscored the importance of leadership in 2021. As a sales leader, the onus is on you to undergo a sales process review, make changes to create a successful sales process in a “new normal” environment, and ensure you are attracting top sales talent to support you in these endeavors. By creating a sales plan to recruit, hire, and onboard top sales performers, you’ll build a foundation for sales success.

Mark Thacker is the president of Sales Xceleration, a firm specializing in sales strategy, process, and execution. Thacker has a 33-year history of sales leadership and success in diverse industries. He is the author of Beyond the Mountaintop: Observations on Selling, Living, and Achieving, which not only recounts his trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro but also highlights the sales and leadership best practices that he has learned throughout his career.

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