Developing Top Sales Talent

Developing Top Sales Talent

Perhaps the single greatest mistake in developing sales talent today is operating in a go-to-market-strategy vacuum. A go-to-market strategy is the purposeful and defined strategy to serve customers, win market share, and outperform the competition. Before beginning any training or coaching, the go-to-market strategy your salespeople will be expected to execute must be identified.

So which go-to-market strategy should your salespeople execute? Each strategy demands different types and degrees of competencies and attributes for sales professionals to be successful.


· Selling process: A transactional sales focus with short and uncomplicated sales cycles to one decision maker who has a budget for off-the-shelf products or services.

· Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to have solid product proficiency and tactical selling skills, as well as strong sales attributes that include enterprise, persistence, self-sufficiency, and emotional resilience.


· Selling process: A process sales focus with longer and more complex sales cycles to multiple influencers across functions to sell a bundled combination of products and services.

· Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to be proficient in solution creation and consultative selling, as well as be creative, adaptable, and strong in solution orientation.


· Selling process: Longer and more complex selling cycles as a result of the seller’s creating the buying cycle momentum with a key executive sponsor through thought leadership.

· Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to be business advisors with proficiency in thought leadership, establishing executive credibility, competitive selling, and financial acumen in the business domain, as well as posses perceptiveness, teamwork orientation, leadership skill, and a strong sense of responsibility.


· Selling process: Long-term organizational partnership, with a sales cycle that could take years from start to finish and may require board-level involvement from both organizations.

· Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals should have mastery in the cluster skills of relational, demand-creation, and tactical selling, as well as strong social sophistication and decision-making skill, a high level of aspiration, and little aversion to risk taking.

Regardless of how you believe your sales organization should approach selling, your guiding principle should be hire to attributes and develop (train and coach) to competencies (knowledge and skills). If salespeople could be developed simply by good training, then the billions of dollars spent on sales training every year would yield a bountiful crop of rainmakers; however, this is simply not happening, and the old 80/20 Pareto principle of distribution (80 percent of the sustained revenue performance comes from 20 percent of the sales professionals) has actually become 90/10 in many organizations.

Success in such roles as entrepreneur, software designer, or salesperson is based on something over and above skills or knowledge: an individual’s attributes play a critical part in his or her success or failure in that role. Likewise, it is much easier to train and coach a person with strong sales attributes on the required product or selling skills than it is to try to teach a technical person without sales attributes to sell successfully. Once you’ve identified the people with the right potential based upon their alignment to your go-to-market strategy, then your attention should turn to profiling roles and development of the behaviors needed in order to advance your strategy.

Sales success no longer depends on how many salespeople you have; rather, it depends on how many of the right competencies you have judicially deployed in the pursuit of your targeted market. If a company has clearly defined its go-to-market strategy, calibrated the specific competencies necessary for advancing that strategy, can select people with the greatest potential, and can implement a competency-specific developmental program, then revenue acceleration will be achieved.