2019 is here and for many of us, that brings new priorities, sales targets, and even faster execution than the previous year. What are your top sales priorities this year? What market factors will challenge or propel your plans?
At Peak, we are already preparing for our next stage of growth. And that translates to more innovation and services for our customers. Leading the charge is our CEO Sean Sykes, joining us last year to guide our expansion with a continual lens on customer needs.
Who is Sean Sykes?
Sean has over 20 years experience building and integrating high performing direct and indirect sales organizations. Most recently he was the Managing Director, Americas for Avast, a global leader in digital security solutions. At Avast he led revenue responsibilities for the company’s SMB business in North America and Latin America. Prior to Avast he was a member of the senior leadership team at two technology firms acquired by publicly traded companies and led sales and marketing for a custom software development organization with a focus on IoT, cloud and mobile.
Sean and I were able to catch up recently and he shared his thoughts on the hiring market – and how best to position your company to win in another strong, candidate-driven market. Below is a closer look.
Brent: You have interviewed and recruited B2B sales teams throughout your career. What challenges and learnings have you experienced?
Sean: In today’s strong fast-paced economy, building a sales force that is capable of driving revenue growth is more challenging and complex. I’ve experienced this in prior roles, most significantly in the past two years as the competition to find top B2B sales talent has continued to increase. And now I see our team at Peak and our customers facing these challenges.
There is a lot at stake. Mis hires and turnover are detrimental to an organization. We know that somewhere between 35-40% of sales reps fail to make their numbers. That may be an astonishing statistic to people outside our market, but these risks have been top of mind for me throughout my career.
I’ll admit that my past hiring strategies haven’t followed a perfect process. As team builders, we know that approaching this market without defining the role, or without leveraging new interview techniques and assessment technologies, sets us up for failure. But the reality of aggressive goals and hiring timelines, coupled with lack of internal resources and time, create real barriers to an ideal process. That’s a continual challenge I’ve faced. And the learning for me is that hiring without a focused plan or strategy is not going to consistently deliver candidates with the skills, experience, and DNA needed to excel in our unique sales environment. Making the time to work cross-functionally with our HR and Talent Acquisition leaders to make this happen is what’s helped me to make my best hires over the years.
Brent: What traits do you believe separate today’s best salespeople from the rest?
Sean: Sales DNA has always been a critical consideration for me in evaluating candidates and is also central to our candidate assessment, interviewing and analysis work at Peak. Beyond sales skills and experience, top sales performers often share similar traits and behaviors. For example, people with sales DNA have the drive, tenacity, communications and listening skills that translate to selling success. Engagement happens because they have invested the time to hear and understand what is critically important to a client’s business. These sales pros are often the quietest people on the team, reflecting silently on the needs, challenges and best strategies to build trust with prospects and ultimately close the sale.
Brent: What are world-class sales organizations doing differently?
Sean: These are the companies putting plans in place to build their teams and a process to attract top talent. Many have experienced lack of success using traditional hiring processes and are either reshaping their own strategies and processes to adjust or turning to recruitment partners to help them develop the right process and bridge access to these passive candidates. Companies with leading sales teams also understand that finding people with sales DNA is driven through the networks you develop and the approach and techniques you apply in identifying, assessing and luring the best sales talent. They don’t approach hiring as a one-time event – they have established/designated it as a core business process in their organization.
Brent: Will we see any major changes in sales talent acquisition this year?
Sean: I believe we will see the race for sales talent continue this year and this will place a higher value on B2B sales professionals. The market shifts we experienced in 2018 will continue and will force more organizations to re-evaluate their approach to talent acquisition and the emerging winners will be those companies that have made the transition from traditional hiring methods.
This will place a higher emphasis on the need to quickly scale resources to meet this year’s hiring market demands. Progressive methods and unique candidate assessment systems will continue to evolve and advance. As we know from our work with clients and our 2019 planning, one important priority will be continuing to augment and advance qualitative candidate assessment methods with data-driven science. A great example of this is the work we’re doing with our P95 assessment system. I experienced the advantages of this multi-phase system first as a Peak client. This proprietary system takes a deeper look at candidates’ selling behaviors through three phases of advanced assessment that are critical in determining whether candidates have the sales DNA to perform in a client’s selling environment.
All of these factors will raise the bar even higher for companies like Peak and we will be ready. As I’ve discussed with you and our team, scaling our business and services to stay well ahead of the market and our customer needs are major priorities for this year and beyond.
Brent: What is the best advice you can offer companies building their sales teams today?
Sean: One of our customers recently shared that sourcing, recruiting and onboarding sales talent is too critical to their growth strategies to not consult specialists.
Industry data also reflects the value of comprehensive recruiting resources. In CSO Insights’ recent Sales Talent Study, only 22.6% of organizations – less than ¼ – claimed hiring as an organizational strength. This is significant as the impact from making a wrong hire is not only damaging to a company’s bottom line, but productivity and team morale suffers.
Other estimates show the cost of recruiting, onboarding, and training a new salesperson is between 1 and 1 ½ year’s compensation while another study puts the hard and soft costs at five times the hire’s salary. And as you’ve shared, this is in line with our own data estimates at Peak. Another survey has shown that following a bad sales hire, 36% reported a negative impact on employee morale and more than 40% loss in worker productivity.
I’ve experienced this first-hand in my past roles. And through my cumulative time working with Peak as a candidate, customer, and now CEO, I have a new respect for a mission and process that is values-based and thoughtful, structured and data-driven, and drives ROI in the short and long run.
Are you ready to compete for 2019 talent? Get the tips to improve your sales hiring by downloading our eBook, Make the Right Sales Hire, Every Time.