Not another motivated self-starter required for sales!

WRITTEN BY SIMON RODERICK, MARCH 21

One of the realities of working in the recruitment industry, from executive search to agency recruitment, is that you see a lot of job descriptions. What you also see is that they are mostly the same. Certain roles require certain qualifications, some require none, but in sales everybody must be a “motivated self-starter”. Whoever coined that phrase should have patented it. However, I accept that it’s a good starting point in terms of the qualities a salesperson needs to have. The problem is that apart from writing a job description, many firms don’t give enough thought to the competencies required for the different types of sales roles within their firm, or the skills required for the different levels of seniority.

The journey of most sales professionals follows a path similar to the below:

  1. Trainee - starts off with an awful lot of rejection and often cold calling – a thick skin is needed
  2. Established – managing a more established client base, sometimes including key accounts – strong relationship management skills required
  3. Expert – often asked to develop others – must be able to document and explain processes
  4. Sales management – the ability to train, develop, discipline, and recruit others

Of course firms would be constantly hiring if every time somebody changed categories their skills no longer suited the role, but it does explain why often it’s easier to make an experienced external hire. However, I hope the above also demonstrates the need for training. Key to this is for firms to identify the competencies required for each stage of a salespersons journey to hire using this criteria, and also to publish them to the wider team. By deeply analysing the skills and competencies required for each role, a firm and individual can identify any skills gaps and areas for further development. They can also commission external testing of prospective recruits to discover their aptitude for a role and their aptitude for change. Investing at this stage can save significant amounts later on.

In my experience, if people make it past the first phase, which is by far when most people leave the sales industry for good, then they are comfortable with phase two. Where things tend to fall down is phases 3 & 4, where often the best salesperson is asked to manage a team.

Very few of us turn down the chance for advancement. It often comes with prestige and a better salary and therefore firms need to think about their grading and remuneration structures. The best salesperson should be able to earn the same, if not more, than the manager of a team – just as you see in football where players are often paid more than the manager. With that, firms should also develop job titles which allow for recognition that this person is considered valuable and an expert, but they enjoy working on the front line with clients. If there’s one thing companies hate, it’s losing their best salespeople, but they often do due to bureaucracy, earnings caps, and lack of career path and recognition for the expert salespeople who don’t want to be managers.

Understanding the manager role better too can make for better hires. Jose Mourinho, by his own admission, wasn’t a great footballer, but he’s an outstanding manager. Often too much emphasis is put on someone having field experience when in reality a professional people manager is required.

Creating the perfect sales team is the holy grail for most firms. However, identifying the competencies you require at each step of the journey is a good first step in building a better team.

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