Sales Team Training & Development

How to attract, develop & retain top sales talent with Alex McNaughten [summary]

Jonathan Hubbard
Jonathan Hubbard
March 1, 2024

After 6 years of selling and time at large US firms, Apprento co-founder Alex McNaughten noticed there were serious sales talent issues in NZ.

He saw 5 problems:

  1. Hiring salespeople takes too long - over double the time for other roles.
  2. Sales hires fail at a very high rate - from 1-in-5 to 1-in-2.
  3. It can take up to 3.5 months for a rep to get up to speed.
  4. Only 44% of reps hit their target each year.
  5. The average tenure for a sales rep is 11 months.

Alex joined Jonathan and Connie on December 8th to discuss his solution to these 5 issues. 

In this summary blog, we’ll give a quick recap for Sales Hitch Episode 3: attract, develop & retain top sales talent. Check out the contents below to find what you need!

Find what you’re after:

  • Attracting top sales talent
  • Developing salespeople
  • Retaining the people you’ve got
  • Top 3 takeaways from the event
  • Further reading recommendations from Alex + resources
  • Contact Jonathan & Alex

Summary: attract, develop & retain top sales talent with Alex McNaughten

Check the replay below to get the full story.

How to attract top sales talent

Improve your hiring process

To find the right salespeople, organizations need extremely specific hiring processes. Here’s Alex’s approach to building a better process:

  1. Carefully and painstakingly define the vacant role’s requirements so you’re targeting candidates who can actually do what you need. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Will the successful candidate be working on top of funnel lead gen? Existing deals in the funnel? Current clients? A combination of all? Don’t just ask these questions: dig down into daily and weekly activities.
  2. Have a clear hiring process every candidate is run through. As a minimum, have a 4 step process: screening, an interview, a 2nd interview with other people in the sales team, an assignment (Alex suggests a role play presentation.) It’s about creating a flow which efficiently exposes each candidate's strengths and weak points against the role’s criteria.
  3. Bring in assessment tools/scenarios to help you take a more quantitative approach. You can’t rely on opinions, particularly since salespeople are quite good at selling themselves. Breakdown past results and sales processes. “What does your first 90 days look like?” “How would you seek to understand the business, understand the market?” Get the candidate to present back: are they pitch-slapping you, or are they taking time to ask powerful questions?

Improve your onboarding process

“If I’m a sales leader, I would ask myself: am I equipping my new hires for success?”

Components of a better onboarding process:

  1. The basic hygiene: rep has their laptop, email, tech access setup on day 1. 
  2. Set the rep up with knowledge: product, industry, and market knowledge! First 2 weeks are about helping them learn the market, learn the product, learn who they’re selling to. You can bring in role play and practice sessions now, building up a weekly practice.
  3. By week 3, the rep’s confidence should be at a point where they can start getting in front of people. This is where quick improvements will happen.
  4. After week 3, it’s time to develop. The difference between high performing organizations and the rest? It’s how they transition from onboarding to continuous development. 

Advice for developing your salespeople

“Your number one role as a sales leader is to coach your team to improve, to bring their skill set up.”

3 things you can do right now to start developing your salespeople:

  1. Have a regular leadership cadence. Meeting agendas should be tight and focused: from the sales meeting on Monday morning to Friday’s recap meeting. Throughout the week, find development opportunities, whether it’s in a 1-on-1, bringing the team together for 15-30 mins for skill practice, or giving feedback on a call. In any purposeful development situation, there’s value for the rep and the leader. 
  2. Recognize as a sales leader your number one role and responsibility is being a coach for your team. Avoid the mindset “I'm just investing in them and then the next person will benefit.” If you have this mindset, reps will leave. If you feel out of your depth, you might need to look into ways you can upskill yourself - becoming a good leader is a learning process!
  3. Once you’ve embraced rep development, look for coaching opportunities. They’re everywhere: you might hear a call from one of your reps that isn’t quite right. You can easily step in with a simple: “Hey Alice, that was a good call, but can I give you some feedback?”

From here, you can get creative. Curate content for reps to take away, consume, and report back on at the month’s end. Do some research and seek out some books or podcasts the team could benefit from.

You’ve just got to start. I think like a lot of these things, um, but it always starts with a little bit of introspection that “hey, I'm probably not doing everything I could be right now.” Start there, and then.

Retaining the talent you’ve got

What does it take to retain the fantastic people you’ve got? Pay your people properly and invest in their development. 

“It's far cheaper to pay your reps properly for good performance, than to lose them, because the cost of losing a sales rep on average is about $95,000 USD. That's how much it costs you in terms of having to replace them and in terms of lost pipeline, lost revenue.”

Take care of your front line people and they’ll take care of you. Sales leaders, if you want to keep the sales team happy, the easiest way is by helping them earn money. As you begin to review budgets for the year, consider what you could be investing in your reps: the people who drive the revenue that creates the budget in the first place. 

“When I was a rep, the leadersI loved were the ones who invested in me, gave me skills, so I could earn a fat commission check at the end of the month because they were teaching me stuff that would help me earn. Why would I leave?”

Top 3 event takeaways

3 tips for attracting, developing, and retaining top sales talent
Takeaways for SH#3

Further reading and resources

Apprento’s hiring and onboarding eBook: Download here

Todd Caponi (selling in tougher times and recessions): LinkedIn profile

Jason Bay (outbound selling + podcast): LinkedIn profile

Alex’s podcast: Rev Up Sales podcast

Contact Jonathan & Alex

Check Alex out on LinkedIn and send him a message: 

Send Jonathan a message: 

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