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:

Training new employees to become an asset quickly is a priority

In a candidate driven market most employers are facing retention challenges. Some sales leaders are expecting churn of 33% next year whilst others are seeing people leave after 12 months. Many are now reviewing their induction and training plans to ensure people are getting up to speed and delivering for the business quickly. How long before your new recruits become assets?

How and when bonus schemes are paid is being reviewed by many sales leaders

Paying large annual bonuses can lead to people collecting and walking. Options being explored include extending to 18 months but this could make it harder to attract talent. Quarterly bonuses with an accruing pot for over achievement paid annually was another favourable option. How competitive do you believe your bonus scheme is?

Managing expectations of graduate employees whilst keeping them motivated is tricky

Retaining graduate employees can be challenging. They are generally in high demand but also have high expectations around their development and career progression. This is with a backdrop of an often overinflated view of their current value (rather than long term potential) to the business. Balancing expectations and reality can be tricky but offers significant rewards if achieved.

Being flexible when the ‘perfect’ candidate is available can help you recruit exceptional talent

In a candidate driven market, it is unrealistic to expect an endless supply of ‘ready to go’ candidates with the right skills and experience. Some sales leaders are adapting by creating a vacancy for the ‘perfect’ candidate when they come on the market rather than the other way round. This clearly requires a certain degree of flexibility which may be prohibitive in some organisations but long term you could secure some exceptional talent. How might this approach work with your team?

The use of technology in the sales and marketing process is becoming increasingly important

“If it’s not on the CRM, it didn’t happen” was one view expressed. The need for greater visibility and more accurate forecasting is driving consistent use of CRM systems in many businesses. Also more and more sales and marketing teams are exploring the benefits offered by new marketing automation technologies to help increase lead generation and improve conversations. Have you thought about marketing automation?

Many are now reviewing their induction and training plans to ensure people are getting up to speed and delivering for the business quickly.

Sales is often not a career of choice and degrees are being seen as less important

Ask a graduate fresh from university what an ‘account manager’ is and they often say it’s something to do with accountancy. Many graduates don’t understand what professional sales is and therefore don’t see it as a career of choice. If people ‘fall’ into sales then how does this affect the talent pool available? Degrees were also seen as less relevant and many teams are taking on school leavers where expectations are different from those of graduates. But everyone round the table had a degree….How important do you believe a university education is to a sales career?