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Effective Sales Force Management Is A Sales-HR Partnership

Quick fixes to boost the performance of a sales team typically over-promise and under-deliver.

Instead of churning the sales team or tweaking compensation, two experts recommend getting the sales and human resources departments on the same page about the types of roles required to execute sales strategy.

This is the approach the authors suggest in the article “How to Partner With Sales Leadership to Attract, Deploy and Retain the Right Sales Talent” in the August issue of Workspan magazine.

“A true partnership between the sales team and human resources (HR) can be one of a company’s most valuable relationships,” says Garrett Sheridan, a co-author of the article and president of Axiom Consulting Partners. “Sales leaders can help HR understand sales strategy, customers and products and the type of selling resources needed. HR, in turn, can help Sales apply a higher level of discipline to talent management so that the sales organization is capable of performing at its best.”

Sheridan and his co-author, James H. Killian, Ph.D., vice president of research and advisory services at Chally Group Worldwide, recommend five ways that HR should partner with Sales to attract, deploy and retain the right sales talent.

1. Understand Sales Strategy Before Making Assumptions About Talent Requirements

HR can help contribute to sales success only by first investing the time to understand a company’s sales strategy. A deep understanding of the company’s products and services is a prerequisite to figuring out the type of talent needed, where to source and attract it and how to acquire it. Market conditions such as geography, territory size, market maturity and economic climate are other variables to consider when aligning sales resources with strategy.

“When sales leaders and HR fail to have these conversations, the results lead to missed expectations, at best,” Sheridan says. He recommends that conversations focus on three key areas:

  • Strategy – Which products provide the greatest return on sales? How are customers segmented? Do salespeople use specific account strategies to drive growth?
  • Organization – How many and what types of sales resources are needed in each channel? What level of sales productivity is expected?
  • Talent – What sales-compensation plan will drive results? What performance measures are in place? Do we have the right people and skills to deliver on our “customer-value proposition”?

2. Understand the Type of Sales Roles Required and How They Will Work Together

Not all sales roles are equal, the authors contend. In continuing research at Chally Group Worldwide, nearly 500,000 sales professionals have been researched across 14 specialized sales roles. The results are compelling: A top producer (measured in revenue produced) in one type of sales role, say new account acquisition, may not be equally successful in nurturing relationships within long-term customer accounts.

In addition, it is important for HR to understand how various roles within the sales department work together so the right kinds of talent are sourced and recruited. One common mistake: Over time, too many sales resources lose sight of their lead-generation responsibilities and instead focus on continuing customer service.

3. Do More With What You Have: Deploy the Right People in the Right Roles

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