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The Way I See It… Train to Retain

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Pauline Godley, director of Masterclass Recruitment Ltd, explains why companies have to take responsibility for training their sales people if they are to reap commercial benefits.


With the gathering pace of the economic recovery, we are increasingly finding our recruitment clients with a dilemma – on the one hand, they ask us to search out the best and most highly-trained sales staff but, on the other, very few businesses nowadays run their own sales ‘schools’, as companies like IBM, Xerox, DEC or ICL once did.

Right now, we are having to tell them that there is a real skills shortage. A situation where businesses could take their pick from a large pool of redundant salespeople has changed in just three months as the supply has started to dry up.

People tend not to think of a career with just one company anymore, so it’s just not seen as cost-effective to invest a lot of money in training people who may then up and leave to pursue other opportunities. It’s therefore becoming harder and harder to recruit rising sales talent with the appropriate level of training and experience, while those who went through the traditional sales schools are now largely in more senior roles and may even be thinking about retiring!

Faced with this looming and growing deficit, it’s apparent that there is only one solution: companies will have to grow their own sales forces and that means accepting that it’s only going to be possible to tick off 50% of the ‘must-haves’ on the candidate wish list.

Companies must instead take on the responsibility for training their salespeople themselves. The simplest piece of advice we give our clients is: train to retain. In the transient world of the sales professional, the company prepared to invest in its people stands out from the reactive short-termists, as a better place to work. Those who fail to plan are almost always planning to fail, whether they realise it or not.

So, if you can’t recruit people with the right skills, how can you increase your chances of recruiting the people who can be moulded into the sales superstars you need?

Quite simply, it’s vital to identify candidates who have the right essential personal qualities: attitude, passion, the ability to learn and swiftness of foot. Once you have enough people with the right potential, then it’s a question of immersing them in a suitable sales training programme.

A sales team and its members will stand or fall on whether they can ultimately make a difference to a business’ bottom line. According to colleagues in our sister training division, a good way of identifying a sales training provider, is to pick out one who will make a similar commitment.

Setting metrics for a mutually-agreed return on investment in training with a would-be provider, ensures that all parties are 100% committed to the success of the programme, with a tangible investment in making it work. That applies to the sales team’s management as well, of course.

The ‘new world order’ we’re now seeing, will indeed offer a happy hunting ground to companies that are fully-primed and ready to take advantage of the new sales opportunities on offer.

Accept that each business must now act unilaterally and decisively in recruiting, training and thus retaining the right talent to turn opportunities into orders – and new leads into loyal customers – and the upturn could become a sunlit era of steady growth and lasting prosperity. Are you ready?

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