Poor performers can have a huge impact on an organisation's morale and revenues, so identifying people with the right disposition is crucial
Determining sales potential or sales motivation is not an easy task - Rajiv Krishnan, Managing Director, Development Dimensions International (DDI).
Q. What are the common characteristics of the sales teams in FMCG, BFSI, insurance, telecom and pharmaceutical industries?
Except FMCG and pharmaceutical, the others are only a little more than 10 years old. Any kind of mass selling was only present in FMCG which too has undergone a major transformation as FMCG began to concentrate on rural markets.
What that meant was that industries like telecom, insurance, etc which had a huge demand for sales people, and being a new industry, they looked at people from the FMCG space as a source of talent for all levels. However, the process of selling is very different in these industries and required a different set of competencies. People might say that at the salesperson level, the skills and competencies needed across these industries are similar so there is fungibility of talent, but over a period of time these industries have had to hire and train fresher talent for their specific needs. The ferocity of competition as well as the sheer explosion in the size of the market in telecom and insurance created its own challenges. Very quickly, these two industries have formed their own feet-on-street.
Q. What talent management challenges do you see facing these industries?
The first challenge is in sourcing of talent. These industries require large sales forces to maximize their reach. However there is a talent constraint as sales profession is often not considered a preferred career choice. As a consequence, candidates available for sales jobs are what you may call the ‘flotsam and jetsam’ of the employment market - the unemployed or the under-employed. This is a huge issue as the industry does not get people who are motivated to sell. This ‘wrong fit’ is one of the main reasons for failure and resultant attrition.
Many organizations have used staffing companies to hire front-line sales people. These staffing companies identify, hire, employ and pay the sales teams that work for client organizations. Professional staffing companies have ensured that these sales forces, sometimes called secondary sales forces, are moved out of a twilight zone in employment where they were underpaid and denied benefits like ESI, PF and insurance. However, this model, unless managed well, can lead to challenges in terms of engagement, motivation and alignment, with the client organization's goals.
Q. What are the emerging trends in the talent management at the sales level?
Firstly, companies will need to focus on investing in the right processes and tools for hiring and selection at the entry level as well as for career shifts from being an individual contributor to a team leader/ manager.
Research has shown that a high performer generates many times the sales than that of a mediocre performer and having a team of mediocre or poor performers can have a huge impact on the organization's morale and revenues. So identifying people with the right sales disposition is crucial.
Determining sales potential or sales motivation is not an easy task so companies need a solid interview process and specialized tools for assessing the same. This area has been neglected mainly because hiring numbers are very huge and the pressure to hire and get people onboard quickly is very high. Companies use general aptitude tests, generic personality tests and untrained interviewers that end up in generating a cocktail of data that is very difficult to interpret accurately.
Q. What are the key steps in selecting a successful sales team?
• Focus on identifying the ‘success profile’. Define the set of competencies, personal attributes, skills and knowledge that will make a candidate a successful sales person in your organization and industry.
• Create a very structured recruitment process and invest in relevant tools without compromise.
• The cost of a wrong hire is too high so invest in hiring right.
• Have a solid on-boarding and development process to keep your people trained and engaged at all times.
• Look at selecting talent from within for managerial roles. These are not necessarily your best sales people but people who have the capability to manage teams, communicate, coach others and build a sustainable business.