We all know that recruiting and retaining a top-tier sales team is the key to reaching and surpassing your sales goals, but finding the right talent for your team can be harder than you’d think. It’s also become increasingly difficult to retain top talent once you’ve found it.

According to Bridge Group Research, there is a minimum of 20% turnover on sales teams every year and the average rep tenure now sits at 1.5 years. With an average 3 month training time, that leaves you only around 15 months of work from your average sales rep. 

Only 10 years ago, the average tenure of a sales rep was 3 years. Yikes. There are several reasons contributing to this decline — namely, the seller persona has changed. 

Historically, the average criteria a sales coach was looking for when hiring someone was 4 years of college, 2 years of sales experience, and someone with a history of playing competitive sports. 

Nowadays, the profile of a sales rep has expanded drastically — and that’s a good thing! But it also means that managers no longer have the luxury of using the same cookie-cutter approach to hiring sales reps. 

How can you make sure you’re finding the right people for your team?

1. Recruit for intellectual curiosity

The harsh reality is that modern buyers don’t care about sellers or their product. They’re selfish (it’s their money, so they should be!). They shouldn’t need to educate sellers; sellers need to educate them.

That means leading with insights, telling stories, engaging them in a helpful and personal way. Sellers should show buyers that they understand where they’re coming from and what their needs are. In other words: Make them care about you and your product.

That requires a certain kind of skill. In fact, it’s one of the most underrated and important skills to watch for in a sales rep candidate: intellectual curiosity. Does your candidate ask good questions? Can they tell a compelling story? Do they have a background in research or a skill-based extracurricular activity? 

Natasha Sekkat, VP of Sales from Panera Catering, recently joined us for a partner webinar where she stated how she’s had great success with hiring musicians on her sales team because she’s found they have the discipline to master their craft, and that same discipline has translated into their work.

Modern sales is a very dynamic position. Between the science of selling, intelligence, and research involved in being an effective seller, you can’t be a mediocre salesperson anymore. Development work has to happen behind the scenes in order to be effective in a sales role.

The modern salesperson should embody some combination of creativity, discipline, and skill. When it comes to hiring: look for a storyteller, someone empathetic and curious who demonstrates the potential to adapt and hustle through the dynamics of the role.

2. Embrace the generation gap + harness the diversity of thought and perspectives

Because the typical profile of a sales rep has expanded drastically, so has your net when it comes to recruiting. The sales field was once dominated by young men with big personalities, and nowadays it’s fair game. 

Modern sales teams are composed of representatives from multiple generations and all kinds of different backgrounds. Don’t let this shift scare you. The diversity of sales staff is aligning with the diversity of buyers. 

Sales has matured away from being a “personality job” because buyers have matured as well. Sales professionals have had to move away from the “make friends, make money” approach simply because it’s no longer effective. In this age of information technology, transparency and being genuine with your buyer are key. 

While you might feel skeptical (or even intimidated) about how you can effectively harness a team of people from generations or backgrounds you aren’t familiar with, keep in mind: the more diverse your team is, the more likely they’ll be able to relate to your customer base. Leverage the diversity of thought and perspective on your team to create a well-rounded approach to communicating with buyers.

3. Sales coaching will always be key. 

Every leader would love to find the “perfect candidate,” but the reality is that in the sales world, there isn’t really a set standard of what that looks like anymore. We have reached a point where sales leaders need to be able to recruit teachers, moms, mechanics, and people with 2 years of college. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and be prepared to develop and mold your new hires so they are set up for success.

The best sales candidate you can find in 2020 is someone coachable. Recruit for someone who has worked in a team setting before where they needed to take direction. Ask them for a time when they received difficult feedback and how they moved forward after receiving that feedback.

A step up from a coachable candidate is a candidate with coaching potential. Recruit for leaders: someone with sales coach potential who could take your job someday. Look for the characteristics that you know it takes in order to do your job in each candidate you hire. 

  • Is this person a good leader? 

  • Could they be a good coach? 

  • Are they good at collaborating with others? 

  • What collaborative work or leadership roles have they taken on in the past? 

While the demographics of hiring sales reps have changed, that doesn’t mean you should ever settle for a candidate you don’t believe will represent your company well or will be able to accomplish your objectives. Just remember that any candidate you hire will need coaching. Development work will have to happen behind the scenes in order for candidates to be effective in these roles. 

Want to step up your sales coaching game? Check out our FREE sales coaching hub with 18+ resources from industry experts on how to become a better sales coach.

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