Across industries, indicators suggest increases in sales capacity continue to accelerate business growth into the second half of 2011. Just published, Alexander Group's 1st Quarter Sales Update Survey Results for 2011 reported strong expectations of sales growth for the remainder of the year. Sales leaders expect their own divisions to grow at approximately 10% for the year, and approximately 70% are reviewing increases in compensation to drive retention of top talent.

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blog-chart1The bottom line is that companies are planning an increase in their sales targeted headcount in the year. Organic business growth means hiring sales professionals from a number of sources: new sales talent, re-entries from workers who switched careers, and changes in roles for existing workers. Effectively staffing the right sales team to yield strong results and capitalize on the increase in spending requires the right processes and technologies.

As businesses begin to staff sales professionals at an accelerated pace, applying the right strategies that increase their propensity for sales staffing success becomes increasingly important. We see several key enablers for reducing risk and improving sales growth efficiencies:

  • Test against what you know – By first benchmarking existing top sales talent, sales managers can create a profile of the skills, behaviors, and temperament that drive high performance for each role. Then, by testing each sales candidate by role and comparing the results to their own top performers, managers can dramatically increase the success of hiring top performing reps. Especially for candidates new to the sales function (without performance history), these types of tests provide good indicators of sales temperament for the role and guide the manager in making the right staffing decisions.
  • Assess real sales skills, virtually – Video interview platforms can dramatically shorten the hiring cycle, letting managers quickly assess reps real selling abilities online. These tools not only enable rapid screening and circulation across decision makers, but especially for sales, they focus the interview process on the skills that matter to the job. With consistently applied, role-based questions which focus on a candidate's actual experience (e.g. "Which sales methodology has helped you the most?”) and selling abilities ("Describe two sales campaigns start to finish and why you won?”), these tools ensure that each interview focuses on the best predictor of future performance in the organization – the ability to sell.
  • Coach those new to sales – It's a good idea to invest in employees new to sales with a formal onboarding program that focuses on high-frequency coaching – a proven characteristic of high-performance sales forces. By basing coaching processes not only on your products and sales process, but also on the core activities and behaviors demonstrated by your top performers and the individual gaps highlighted through the assessment process, managers can target their coaching time on the right areas and significantly increase the time to productivity for new reps. In addition, go mobile! By enabling sales managers to share best practices and collaborate on deals as they occur in the field, in the context of deal engagements, you can help accelerate the ramp up time for new reps further so they can effectively win more business earlier.

With business growth on the horizon, it's important to get prepared now. Make measured investments to position your company for future sales success.

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