Have you ever wondered how HR can help support sales force effectiveness?

Quick fixes to boost the performance of a sales team typically over-promise and under-deliver. Instead of churning the sales team or tweaking compensation, sales and human resources need to get 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, 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.”

Here are the five ways that HR should support sales to attract, deploy, and retain the right sales talent.

1 – Understand Sales Strategy Before Making Assumptions about Talent Requirements

HR can only help support 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:

  • Strategy – Which products provide the greatest return on sales? How are customers segmented? Are there specific account strategies that salespeople use to drive growth?
  • Organization – How many and what types of sales resources are needed in each channel? What level of sales productivity is expected?
  • 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. In ongoing research using GrowthPlay Chally Assessment results, nearly 500,000 sales professionals have been researched across 12 benchmarked 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.

To learn more about aligning your sales talent with buyer needs read our blog: “How to Align Your Sales Talent with Buyer Needs

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 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.

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4 – Focus on “Moving the Middle”

“Sales organizations frequently spend too much 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 GrowthPlay study of 900 sale forces found that on average, Top Performers (20% of the sales force) produce 52% of revenue, Dependable Performers (60 % of the 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.

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.

For more tips on how HR can help support sales read our blog: “How to Get Your Sales Team Leaders and HR Teams on the Same Page