There are only three ways to acquire top sales talent. The first way is to buy it. The second way is to build it. The third way is to use both strategies together. Consider for a moment the investment in time and money required to develop talent. It’s expensive, difficult, and time consuming.
One mistake sales organizations make is refusing to buy the talent they need. The common reason sales leaders don't do this is because they don't want to dole out the compensation top talent commands. They also worry about making a mistake by paying more without getting a return on the investment, something that may be true whenever you hire a person in any role.
There are at least five reasons you should buy top sales talent:
- Experience and results
- Greater ability to win large clients
- Speed to result
- Greater contribution to your goals
- A model for other salespeople
The following sections explain how each of these potential benefits could be well worth the price of buying top talent.
1. Experience and Results
Most of the time, sales leaders make poor decisions about who they hire by overvaluing experience. This is because they don't want to train and develop the salesperson. But when a candidate is not top sales talent, their experience doesn’t matter as much. You can't make good hiring decisions by being lazy, especially with salespeople. A candidate’s results matter. A salesperson with deep experience but lackluster results will need just as much training as a less experienced hire. Some applicants sell you on hiring them, but once they’re on your sales force, they don’t sell much else.
When hiring the best salespeople, you are hiring people for their experience, but this goes beyond their time working in sales or in your company's industry. Instead, you are hiring for the experience that is evident in their results. Many people have experience without producing high sales results. Top talent proves that they can convert their experience into results.
2. Greater Ability to Win Large Clients
One element that defines someone as top sales talent is the ability to win large clients. Winning big deals from big companies is a particular skill set that is often rare. Larger clients are more complex and have a greater need for consensus. The best sales talent is adept at dealing with the complexity that creates difficult challenges. They have the advanced sales skills to succeed.
You don't hire top talent to win average or less-than-average deals. That would be a waste of both time and money. You are hiring them to win significant deals with the large clients who spend a fortune on what you sell. You are paying the person you hire to win the large clients you need, even if it takes more time than you would it want.
3. Speed to Result
One reason you hire top talent is to generate results sooner than you would have if you had to build your own talent. The premium you pay for talent is an investment in moving up the results you need. A super-talented and experienced salesperson will generate results much sooner than a salesperson that lacks those qualities. This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with salespeople who are still developing, or that you shouldn't also build talent. But when you need results sooner, paying more to produce them on a shorter timeline may make sense.
It's important to remember your new top talent starts with no pipeline. It will take time for them to develop the opportunities they will eventually win, but as they generate and pursue them, their pipeline will grow.
4. Greater Contribution to Your Goals
The salesperson who can retire a larger part of your revenue goal is an asset. This is one way to measure sales productivity. Because compensation is always a conversation when buying top sales talent, it's important to recognize that the most expensive salespeople are the ones who sell too little. The ones who sell a lot and are paid more for doing so may offer you the best value. Yet, there are still some bean counters outraged by the large checks they deposit in a top salesperson's checking account.
Top talent is worth more to you because they are almost certain to take care of more than their share of your sales goals. The highest-paid salesperson is often the least expensive salesperson, especially when compared with a salesperson who contributes too little.
5. A Model for Other Salespeople
Top sales talent offers other salespeople a model, someone who has mastered their craft. This salesperson is an example of what sales effectiveness looks like. It's unfortunate that young salespeople miss the experience of sitting in a bullpen with a dozen salespeople all making calls. They miss learning how a good sales conversation sounds, something that can motivate your sales force.
One way to make the top sales talent available to the rest of the sales force is by having them walk through how they created and won a large client. Letting other salespeople ask questions can help them understand what an experienced and highly effective salesperson does differently. Top reps are adept at the sales conversation, and their peers may be able to learn from them.
Why You Need Top Sales Talent
Whether you buy top talent, build it, or use both strategies together, your results will come from your talent and your leadership. I never tire of reminding sales leaders that the largest variable as to whether the client buys from them or their competitor is the salesperson. Even if you believe your company and products should be enough for your prospective clients to buy from you, a better salesperson will be able to have a conversation to make that case.
We underestimate sales talent. Younger people don't want to work in sales, even though they might enjoy the autonomy and greater income. For some time, the prognosticators suggested the number of salespeople would decline due to the internet and e-commerce. As a prognosticator making the opposite argument, I believe we will need to work harder to acquire a more effective sales force, and that means we need to recruit top sales talent.