Every quarter we run an informal dinner bringing together 12 to 15 sales leaders to openly discuss their challenges and share their best practice and industry trends with their peers in a relaxed environment over some nice food and wine. Here’s a roundup of key discussions:

Hiring candidates without a degree could give you a competitive advantage

There was some discussion around whether having a degree was a must-have or not. The question was posed ‘If someone had worked in retail for 4 years and now wanted to get into sales would they recruit them? One guest said it didn’t matter, cultural fit and the right attitude were more important. As an example, someone could be non-academic but pick up the right skills quickly. Others felt that the hiring risk was lower if a candidate had a degree. Whilst hiring a graduate has many benefits and is still important it’s becoming less so. Is a degree a must-have for your team?

Manage salary expectations within the wider team to avoid issues arising

In a competitive market you might have to go beyond the salary you’re paying the rest of the team which of course can create problems. It’s unlikely to remain a secret, so you’re better off setting expectations with the rest of the team that in the current market, to get the right skills you’ve had to go beyond current salaries. Team members may inevitably ask for pay rises as a result. But as one guest pointed out a higher salary comes with a higher target and more pressure. Everyone agreed that if you can’t manage expectations, be prepared for the fallout.

Mind the gap – make sure internal hiring teams agree on what you’re recruiting

When asked what’s most important when recruiting, all guests said values, knowledge and skills in that order – if their character and attitude are right, we can teach the rest. Why then, if that’s the case, does a job spec often say they need 5 years’ experience of selling a particular product? The reality is that if internal hiring teams don’t agree on what a good sales person looks like, CVs will often be screened out sooner before even reaching the line manager. Make sure everyone knows the must-haves and nice-to-haves so you’re not missing out on great talent.

Align business goals with personal goals to keep the team motivated

If you can understand someone’s personal goals you can position hitting targets around reaching those goals. As an example, if someone is looking to get on the housing ladder, hitting target means getting their deposit for the house. By aligning business goals with personal goals you’ll motivate them more. Their goals might not be expensive, it could be mentoring someone or learning sign language. If someone really wanted to do it and the company arranged it or paid for it they’d be delighted and motivated to work harder.  How aware are you of individual’s personal goals?

Appoint a mentor for your new starter and reward them

Appointing a mentor is a clear benefit to the business. Your new starter soaks up valuable skills and experience whilst giving the mentor a sense of accomplishment. So why then, is it rarely financially rewarded? There was a general view that if it was, there was a greater chance of it being more valuable over the longer term. However, another question put forward was that if it were, should the performance of the new starter also be linked to the bonus? And what about poor performance? Everyone agreed mentor schemes are a useful tool on both sides.