Shopping for Sales Pros: Now is a Great Time to Optimize Your Team

Shopping for Sales Pros: Now is a Great Time to Optimize Your Team

It’s a buyers’ market right now – and talented sales professionals are among the available resources looking to prove their value to you.

Swept up in the wave of unemployed Americans now out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are well-pedigreed people who have simply found themselves on the short end of the numbers game. For companies who have the resources to do so, or are bullish on their future, now is the ideal time to upgrade your sales talent in a bid to refortify for the “next normal.”  

In a recent survey of sales executives conducted by The Brooks Group, nearly half of respondents said they would replace the weakest 10 percent of their sales performers right now.

Interestingly, in fact, history tells us that this type of recession-driven churn can actually be beneficial for companies. A Harvard Business School study indicated that, across the past three recessions, 9 percent of companies made strategic investments, including human capital, and came out better as a result of progressive thinking.

So, what are some ways that upgrading your sales team may be necessary for you right now?

Facing a Changed Marketplace: Many companies will find their sales landscape indelibly changed as a result of factors wrought by the pandemic. A good example of this is those in healthcare sales, who were accustomed to face-to-face visits in offices or hospitals to build familiarity and convert sales. Now, with so much sales activity shifted to a hybrid, or virtual, model, the factors for success might be vastly different – necessitating someone who has more translatable skills from a distance.

Internal Restructuring: As you consider your sales strategy and how you can best reach buyers in the aftermath of the pandemic, you may have determined that you need more inside sales roles; or you may need more account management roles with a specific focus on retaining and cultivating existing customers. With such roles requiring a different skillset and capabilities than the typical outside sales position, you might consider casting a line into the pool of talent for this.

More with Less: In some cases, your company may have pulled back as well – and may need sales professionals to take on a larger territory or a more varied role. These reasons, too, may necessitate the hiring of someone who has a stronger portfolio in the new or realigned territory; or with more of the skills you need from a more versatile role.

Of course, determining that change is needed, and making that change, are distinct concepts.

In its Harvard Business Review article titled “Now is an Unprecedented Opportunity to Hire Great Talent,” the HBR offers five initial steps to take:

  1. List three to five great players they would have liked to have hired over the past five years, and then check in with those people: “It’s possible that many will now be open to considering an offer because their circumstances have changed,” said the HBR.  
  2. Set up a task force to source potential candidates: The HBR noted that no less than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has implemented the task force approach, to great success. “All companies should bring this level of focus and discipline to sourcing potential candidates, especially during this period,” the HBR says.
  3. Interview and check references remotely with the same rigor you would in person: Even with much of the vetting activity shifted to virtual, due diligence remains the order of the day. “Ask behavior-based questions, such as ‘Could you tell me about a time you led your team through a big transition?’” says the HBR.
  4. Go out of your way to motivate the best candidates: Roll out the red carpet – set up meetings for your candidate to have direct access to senior leaders and spell out the ways that this role will add value to the company. “Pay can be important but research shows that what truly motivates knowledge workers is a high level of autonomy, mastery, and purpose,” said HBR. “In these trying times, flexible work arrangements will no doubt continue to be key, as will the chance to keep on learning and growing while working to build something larger than ourselves.”

Don’t ignore the sourcing, retaining, and development of in-house talent: You may need to look no further than someone else on the team that may be ready for a promotion or shift to a more challenging role. Talent assessments are a great way to gauge which employees have the skills, experiences and insights to take on more responsibility.


Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson is the Vice President of Sales Performance Research. In her role, she is responsible for spearheading industry research initiatives, overseeing consulting and diagnostic services, and facilitating ROI measurement processes with partnering organizations. Michelle brings over 25 years of experience in sales and sales effectiveness functions through previously held roles in curriculum design, training implementation, and product development to the Sales Performance Research Center.

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