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:

Companies are still struggling to fill sales vacancies and its harming revenue

This is nothing new and has been mentioned at every dinner in the last 18 months. Every sales leader in attendance was down on their head count for this year. With an increase in vacancies likely all recognised this as a continuing challenge for 2016. , think you’ll be facing a similar issue next year?

Good candidates are being filtered out too early

Many of the skills and behaviours required to be a successful sales person – ambition, motivation, positivity, resilience, negotiation skills, rapport building – are difficult to assess. If you focus too heavily on CV’s you could be missing out on good candidates that could have the right attributes and actually be a good fit for your team. Could you be facing a similar challenge?

Prioritise what’s important with your recruitment partners

, if a candidate gave an example of turning around a challenging account but had no sector experience on their CV would you still put them forward? Everyone agreed talking to recruitment partners about the behaviours, example CV’s and hypothetical situations would lead to greater understanding but time pressure and internal politics often made it challenging.

If you focus too heavily on CV’s you could be missing out on good candidates


Make sure teams have the skills to assess sales candidates

Is the person conducting your initial telephone screen able to identify an ambitious individual? Can your face to face interviewer identify candidates that are effective at account management? Linked to the above two points everyone agreed you are less likely to miss out on candidates if people are trained in competency based questioning and identifying sales skills and behaviours throughout the recruitment process. Again though, time and politics create their challenges!

Plan your recruitment process and react quickly

All had recent examples of missing out on people because of counter offers. Our recent index cited that 58% of candidates have an interview after being on the market for 2 weeks. With this in mind planning your recruitment process was seen as important – complicated assessments, long decision making processes and delays to arranging interviews doesn’t help in a candidate driven market. How well defined is your recruitment process?

Gradual investment in development could help retention

Retention was a painful issue for everyone that attended. A common example was the huge initial investments in training someone up to only have them leave within 12 months. One option discussed was a more gradual investment that could encourage someone to stay. Also mentioned was the poor strategy of investing as an example 150K on training to have them leave for a 5K increase on their salary. How front loaded is your training and development?

Changing salary models are being considered to attract and retain

In an example from one company that attended, if an employee left the business their salary went into a pot that could then be distributed to others within the team. This helped them get round the 5% pay increase limitation and was seen as a great way of rewarding existing employees without incurring extra costs. It’s also a great benefit for attracting new people to the company. Could this work for you?