Sales Talent – Buy or Build?

The Pay Is High and Jobs Are Plentiful, but Few Want to Go Into Sales…

Patrick Thomas, Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal just published a great article on how tough it is to hire salespeople. “No kidding?” says every sales leader out there…

Sales has always been one of the toughest positions to fill. This great LinkedIn article states that the turnover rate for sales positions is nearly 35% per year. Given that it takes nearly six months (and countless wasted leads) for a new rep to become productive, the true cost of turnover is incredibly high. If the cost of buying new sales talent is so high, you better be ready to build.

We often hear people say that they’re reluctant to invest too much in training because of the ‘what happens if we train them and they leave’ mindset. This logic has always been baffling. Studies have shown employee engagement and retention, especially among Millennials, increases if they feel that ‘career development’ is a priority at the company. But here’s the rub… Bad training is worse than no training at all, and too many companies mandate generic training that employees resent. This is particularly true with sales people who recognize that every minute spent on bad training is time they aren’t spending prospecting or engaging with clients. Time is money.

Here’s the takeaway. Don’t count on being able to hire quickly to replace sales talent that walks out the door. You need to invest in their development to reduce the risk they will leave in the first place. But wasting time and money on training that doesn’t help them build real skills will hurt your cause. You need to deliver impactful, personalized learning experiences that they embrace and value. Invest the time and resources to (a) identify skills gaps, (b) inquire and understand the learning goals of your sales professionals, and (c) find an approach that will drive real improvement. If you want to reduce turnover and improve results, ask your team what they need and what you can do to help. That’s your (and their) key to success.