5 Ways HR & Sales Must Partner to Increase Sales Force Effectiveness

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Sales force effectiveness requires a productive relationship between HR and sales. In the August, 2012 issue of workspan magazine, Garrett Sheridan of Axiom Consulting Partners and James Killian of the Chally Group outline five things the Human Resources department should do to help the Sales department perform at its best.

Axiom Consulting Partners

A true partnership between the sales team and human resources can be one of a company's most valuable relationships -- Garrett Sheridan, President, Axiom Consulting Partners

Quick fixes to boost the performance of a sales team typically over-promise and under-deliver, warn the authors of the article, "How to Partner with Sales Leadership to Attract, Deploy and Retain the Right Sales Talent," in the August issue of workspan magazine. Instead of churning the sales team or tweaking compensation, they recommend getting Sales and Human Resources on the same page about the types of sales roles required to execute sales strategy.

“A true partnership between the sales team and human resources (HR) can be one of a company’s most valuable relationships,” said Garrett Sheridan, a co-author of the article and president of Axiom Consulting Partners. “Sales leaders can help HR understand sales strategy, customers and products and the type of selling resources needed. HR, in turn, can help Sales apply a higher level of discipline to talent management so that the sales organization is capable of performing at its best.”

Sheridan and his co-author, James H. Killian, Ph.D., vice president of research and advisory services at Chally Group Worldwide, recommend five ways that HR should partner with Sales to attract, deploy and retain the right sales talent.

1. Understand Sales Strategy before Making Assumptions about Talent Requirements
HR can only help contribute to sales success by first investing the time to understand a company’s sales strategy. A deep understanding of the company’s products and services is a prerequisite to figuring out the type of talent needed, where to source it, attract it and how to acquire it. Market conditions like geography, territory size, market maturity, and economic climate are other variables to consider when aligning sales resources with strategy.

“When sales leaders and HR fail to have these conversations, the results lead to missed expectations, at best,” said Sheridan. He recommends that conversations focus on three key areas:
o    Strategy – Which products provide the greatest return on sales? How are customers segmented? Are there specific account strategies that salespeople use to drive growth
o    Organization – How many and what types of sales resources are needed in each channel? What level of sales productivity is expected?
o    Talent – What sales compensation plan will drive results? What performance measures are in place? Do we have the right people and skills to deliver on our customer value proposition?

2. Understand the Type of Sales Roles Required and How they Will Work Together
Not all sales roles are equal, the authors contend. In ongoing research at Chally Group Worldwide, nearly 500,000 sales professionals have been researched across 14 specialized sales roles. The results are compelling: A top producer (measured in revenue produced) in one type of sales role, say new account acquisition, may not be equally successful in nurturing relationships within long-term customer accounts.

In addition, it is important for HR to understand how various roles within the sales department work together so the right kinds of talent are sourced and recruited. One common mistake: over time too many sales resources lose sight of their lead generation responsibilities and instead focus on ongoing customer service.

3. Do More with What You Have: Deploy the Right People in the Right Roles
HR can provide significant value by conducting a broad-based audit to evaluate whether or not the current sales force is optimally deployed. Some people in customer acquisition “hunter” roles, for example, may be better suited for account management “farmer” roles. Taking a single objective assessment online can score each individual sales resource in terms of their fit and potential for success across a full spectrum of sales roles. The results can be used to aid immediate redeployment and longer-term career planning within the sales force, as well identify salespeople who can benefit from coaching.

4. Focus on “Moving the Middle”
“Sales organizations frequently spend too time managing their top and bottom performers, at the expense of average performers,” said Sheridan. “Our experience suggests that the greatest financial benefits are achieved by addressing all three in a way that moves the middle.”
A Chally Group study of 900 sale forces found that on average, Top Performers (20% of the sales force) produce 52% of revenue, Dependable Performers (60 % of sales force) produce 45% and Low Performers (20% of the sales force) produce only 3%.

“Even modest improvements in dependable performers’ revenue generation can have a serious impact due to the fact that they represent the lion’s share of the typical sales force in most companies,” said Killian.

5. Clarify and Showcase the Employee Value Proposition
Clearly, compensation is an important motivator in attracting and retaining sales talent but it is not the only one. Salespeople want clear account plans. They want to know how the company will help them win, the features and benefits of what they’re selling and the type of company they are working for. HR and sales should partner to create and communicate a compelling Employee Value Proposition – that combination of benefits, compensation, career opportunities, culture, and work environment that attracts top sales talent.

About Axiom Consulting Partners
Axiom Consulting Partners works side-by-side with leaders to deliver pragmatic solutions that drive results. Our services help clients clarify strategy, focus on the highest priority sources of value and align their capabilities, processes and people to deliver sustainable, profitable growth. We always look at a client’s challenges through the lenses of business strategy, organization design and talent management – it’s why they choose us over firms that operate in just one of these disciplines.

Learn more at http://www.axiomcp.com.

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