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:

All recognised the importance of offering clear career progression goals

The majority took a very structured approach to career progression because it not only helped them retain their star performers but attract them too. It can be a useful point of differentiation and help attract driven, ambitious, career minded applicants. Initiatives included creating a clear vision, regular review sessions, increased responsibility, greater autonomy, changing job titles and increasing salaries. How structured is your approach to career progression?

Clear communication on career progression is essential from the beginning

Ensuring expectations of both parties are aligned from the beginning is essential. Defining exactly what career progression means through KPIs and objectives can be helpful in achieving in this and also has the advantage of identifying people that genuinely are career hungry. Many cited examples where people say they are career hungry but fail to take the necessary actions. There were also plenty of examples of the dissatisfaction that a misalignment of expectations can bring. How do you go about managing expectations?

Overall package is great for retention but salary remains key for recruitment

Bonus package, company car, pension scheme, health benefits, employee perks, training, career progression and a healthy social scene are great retention tools. And everyone agreed that they can be helpful recruitment tools too but only if you get the salary right first. To attract applicants, you have to offer a competitive salary for your market, sector and region. If not, no matter how good the gym membership or company away day is you’re not going to get the applicants through the door! How competitive are your basic salaries ?

If someone excels in 6 months promote them

Sales leaders are developing a more structured approach to career planning

As part of this many guests were keen on identifying star performers and acting quickly. They disliked policies that adapted a blanket approach and only saw someone promoted after a set period of time as they felt this did nothing for morale. If someone excels in 6 months promote them. Many cited examples of double promotions and the positive impact that seeing someone promoted so quickly had on others within the team. How do you go about identifying star performers?

Sales leaders look for sales ‘DNA’ but recruitment processes can be restrictive

How much of the sales ‘DNA’ can you really identify from a CV? There was recognition that applicants might not be getting through the early stages of the recruitment process because they aren’t ticking the right boxes but are in fact great sales people. That said, most recognised the importance of keeping recruitment costs down and the time pressures for interviewing and reviewing CV’s but some found their recruitment processes restrictive.

Promotion can cause RSMs short term pain but for long term career gain

Senior sales leaders recognise the short term pain caused for an RSM if they lose a member of their team through promotion, especially if they were the ones that recruited and developed them. But overall the longer term gain is recognition and career progression opportunities by the fact they are recruiting and developing talent that is ultimately delivering for the wider business. That said, no one was incentivising RSMs to do so.