Over the past several weeks, I’ve been involved in a number of conversations with colleagues and sales execs. Inevitably, we touch on the sad state of affairs on sales talent.
The data on churn (voluntary and involuntary) is horrible! Depending on the market data, tenure for managers and sales people is anywhere between 15 and 22 months. We are completely turning our organizations–management and sales people roughly every 3 years!
This is craziness! With onboarding (for complex B2B sales) at roughly 10 months, and sales cycles often exceeding 6 months, it’s no wonder that sales performance continues a downward plummet. People simply aren’t on board long enough to recover the hiring/onboarding investments we make. They aren’t around long enough to build their experience/competency, to build pipelines, to drive the business. Any success they have is likely to be a result of the work of their predecessor than their own success. As you run the numbers, you quickly see we are on a death spiral.
But it gets worse, as I talk to executives about needing to develop skills in curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, project management, orchestration.
Often, the reaction is, “How can I afford to invest in developing these skills, if the sales person is going to leave in 15-22 months?
Solving the Sales Talent Paradox
We have this paradox, we need to invest in very advanced skills in order to effectively engage customers in their buying journeys. But it we have this revolving door of sales people/managers. How can we make this investment?
We need to break out of this thinking that churn is unavoidable! Accepting 15-22 month turnover as inevitable has to be unacceptable—it certainly is irresponsible!
Talent will be the single most important issue facing sales execs in the coming 5-10 years. We have to invest in acquiring the right talent, investing in their development, and retaining them.
Churn is not a law of physics. We create churn by creating work places that don’t value talent. We create churn by not developing our people or creating challenging job opportunities and companies that people want to be a part of.
Some will say, “But they are millennials….,” suggesting it’s the people not the company or the management policies that cause the churn. This is simply an excuse for uninspired leadership.
Leaders Must Lead
People, of all generations, want to work in places where they are challenged, developed, respected, doing something they think is important. That’s not a generational problem, it’s a leadership problem.
Our customers face accelerating turbulence—rapid change, disruption, overload, overwhelm, increasing complexity, transformation, risk, and uncertainty. They are crying for help. It’s the perfect opportunity for sales people to engage the customer helping them solve their problems. But to do this requires great skill.
Leadership at all levels need to step up to their responsibilities and to the opportunity. The opportunity is too big and too important. We owe it to our customers, our companies, our people.
Perhaps, rather than giving lip service to the idea that “people are our most important asset,” we all would be better served by executing on that idea.