The new year is upon us and with it comes new challenges, opportunities and, of course, targets. These ever-important figures will have likely already been set for 2017 and your team will be working hard towards them – but what happens if one of your salespeople returns from their holiday only to resign in January?
Sales vacancies at this stage in the year can be critical. Every week – or month – a territory remains empty means lost sales for your team, making it harder for you to reach your monthly and annual sales targets. Don’t start the year off on the wrong foot. Here are our top tips for boosting your recruitment to avoid lost sales in 2017.
Get strategic about your recruitment
It can be uncomfortable to think about the possibility of your best sales staff moving on, but the likelihood is that even your most loyal people may consider a move in 2017. The reality is that salespeople move on average every two years – in fact, one Glassdoor survey revealed 68% of those working in sales planned to look for a new job in the next year – so you need to be prepared for sudden gaps in your team. Sales is still very much a candidate-driven market and is likely to remain so well into 2017, so you want to be in the best possible position to adapt to sudden resignations.
Proactivity is always better than reactivity, particularly when it comes to employee retention and recruitment, so make 2017 the year you factor potential movements into your plans. If you don’t, it will continue to hurt your bottom line.
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Reconsider what you really need
When the unthinkable happens and you find yourself suddenly faced with a gap in your sales team, you have a tough decision to make with no easy answer. The first option after a key salesperson leaves is to replace them immediately to ‘fill the gap’, taking on someone who may not have the right experience and will require additional training but can be active in meeting customers and generating leads. The other option is to wait for the ‘perfect’ person to come onto the market. While this is obviously more appealing from a training and KPI standpoint, it can be a lengthy process and there are no guarantees that the perfect candidate would join your company. Every month that goes by where the vacancy remains unfilled means lost sales and therefore lost money.
So who do you go for: the wrong person who is available immediately and might turn into a great salesperson with a bit of training, or the right person who may take months to become available? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Just like when you’re buying a house, you need to compromise. Go to the market, see what’s available and don’t create an unattainable ideal.
Evaluate your recruitment processes
Before you post a new sales job ad in 2017, take the time to analyse and overhaul your recruitment processes. This means looking at every stage and assessing what you’re doing at every juncture. Take a step back and refine your criteria for an ideal salesperson, including the strengths, skills and motivations they need to thrive at your company. Ensure that your new job ad clearly sets out what you’re looking for and what you can offer that sets you apart from competitors. And don’t forget to put your decision- making process under the microscope, too. How many people need to meet a candidate, and who needs to sign off a new hire?
We know that over 50% of candidates are offered an interview within their first two weeks of looking. This is great news for candidates, but not so much for you as an employer. It’s vital to move quickly to secure meetings with those superior candidates before they are snapped up by a rival organisation. Don’t let sloppy recruitment processes get in the way of securing your dream hire. Plan your diary and those of others who need to meet candidates well in advance to ensure the interview process runs smoothly from the get-go.
Develop your recruitment partnerships
2017 is the year to consider scheduling regular meetings and planning sessions with all your recruitment stakeholders, both internal and external. Start with a planning session for the year where you create a framework for filtering candidates and a structure for streamlining the sales recruitment process. Outline the skills, behaviours and personalities you want in your sales team and check these against what other stakeholders want – is it time to reconsider the attributes of the ‘perfect’ salesperson?
Training sessions on assessing CVs and cover letters can be vital for even the most seasoned recruitment professionals, particularly if the scope of your sales team is changing. The same applies for any staff interviewing candidates. Develop resources that clearly outline the criteria that is absolutely essential for a person to be passed through to the next stage in the recruitment process, also highlighting anything that should automatically rule a candidate out of the process. As stated above, avoid aiming for the ideal in these early stages while ensuring that all stakeholders are on the same page in terms of what a good candidate should look like.
Understand how competitive you really are
As we all know, the sales market is candidate-driven at the moment and this can make it tricky for an employer to stand out from the pack. The UK’s labour turnover rate is the highest it’s been since 2009, according to EEF, which indicates that employees are increasingly looking for better opportunities. As an employer, you need to anticipate this high turnover rate by being prepared to fill vacancies quickly and effectively. Part of this process involves assessing how you compare to your competitors, starting with the salary you offer. If you’re trying to lure attractive candidates over from rival organisations, you need to have something really worthwhile to offer them in return.
Compensation is a major motivator for every salespeople, so you need to research how your base salary stacks up compared to competitors in your market and location. You also need to consider how you use bonuses to attract and retain key talent. One 2013 study found that while bonuses enhance productivity across all segments in a sales force, overachievement commissions work best to encourage high productivity in your top performers while quarterly bonuses can serve to improve the performance of your lower performers.
You can’t always be the most attractive company in terms of salary, so if you are unable to match the high figures offered by competitors, work on other benefits you can offer candidates to come on board. Flexible work conditions, attractive holiday opportunities, health benefits and social events can all make the difference in setting you apart from a comparable organisation, so make sure you factor these in to your employer branding.
The bottom line
The opportunity of a new year shouldn’t be overlooked, and now is the time to put plans in place for maintaining a strong sales team for 2017. We know the market will continue to be candidate-driven, but if you get the above right then you can expect to enjoy a successful year with savvy salespeople who will help you smash those targets.
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