HR and Sales Need Each Other More Than Ever

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Jul 10, 2020

Every day, salespeople solve clients’ problems and fulfill myriad needs by providing unique, individualized solutions. Those interactions, when handled expertly and efficiently, engender loyalty. Sellers are the stewards of trust. Without them, it’s difficult to reap referrals, win bids, or generate positive reviews.

Without exceptional salespeople, your business won’t go far — and that’s particularly true at this pivotal moment. The pandemic has created plenty of economic uncertainty, which makes cultivating top sales talent for your organization more mission-critical than ever. 

That’s precisely why HR and sales teams need to develop a strong alliance.

Fostering Connections Between HR and Sales

Many people don’t see the natural link between HR and sales, partly because most HR and sales departments remain siloed under traditional corporate hierarchies. Only about 30% of businesses are set up for agility. So if your company isn’t already flexible and adaptive, the current business climate offers an opportunity for HR to think differently and bring innovative ideas to sales leaders by attracting, selecting, and developing sales talent.

On the sales side, leaders will need to adjust how their organizations sell in the face of new buyer preferences and challenging economic times. HR leaders have been at the forefront of helping companies respond to COVID-19 from an employee perspective, which means they can offer best practices to help sales leaders adjust to new priorities. While the corporate strategy might remain the same, how organizations execute on that strategy most likely has shifted.

The pandemic escalated the already rapid pace of automation. As businesses reopen, companies have to adjust to new ways of working without face-to-face contact. According to McKinsey, “B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.” 

This begs the question: How prepared are your salespeople to sell virtually? HR can play a definitive role in helping sales leaders understand what skill sets and mindsets are necessary to continue selling and serving customers in a time of continuous disruption.

Start With Your Buyers

Where should you start? First, invest the time to understand your market (buyer) and how COVID-19 has impacted the selling approaches and associated roles that support buying. This includes understanding how the various roles within a sales department work together.

Many HR departments are already involved in hiring sales talent. They understand that not all sales roles are the same. A top producer (measured in revenue produced) in one type of role, like new-business development, may not be as successful in nurturing relationships with long-term customer accounts. However, it is crucial to gain further insight into how these roles may have evolved so you can figure out what needs to change to source and develop talent moving forward.

As you work with your sales managers, help them lay out the competencies and characteristics that are essential for these distinct sales personas. You’ll also want to keep any additional virtual requirements in mind, particularly since sales leaders have not historically sought such skills in candidates.

For instance, you might be able to pinpoint which sales behaviors are and aren’t coachable. A self-directed job applicant without all the preferred credentials may be a better fit for a remote position. On the other hand, someone who lacks internal motivation but possesses a ton of impressive references may not do well without a more formal face-to-face structure. It’s hard to teach motivation, after all. The sales manager might not think about these characteristics, but HR can add value by illuminating these points during the interview process.

Perhaps the most critical thing you can do to bolster your salesforce — and therefore your revenue — is to conduct a sales talent audit to uncover information about the people already on your team.

Perform a Virtual Sales Talent Audit

Not all salespeople can handle all sales roles effectively, and not all salespeople can thrive in a virtual environment. A virtual sales talent audit is simply an inventory of which virtual skills exist and which are needed by sales positions and teams across the entire organization.

The data can be used to create individual and team development plans. This is especially beneficial if you don’t have the capacity to onboard new players but want to make better use of your current staff.

By working in tandem with your sales team to conduct these audits and recruit top sales talent, you can ensure your business will be in a more secure financial position regardless of what happens in the world. All it takes is a willingness to think differently and proactively about collaborations between your departments.

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