Recruitment and talent management are important topics in almost any business, but they have special significance in sales organisations. After all, research from Miller Heiman Group shows that most companies struggle to both identify and retain top talent, and turnover in sales is generally twice that of other corporate roles.

Given the fact that both talent management and recruitment are inextricably linked, and given their high overall importance within sales organisations, it is imperative that they are given the appropriate level of attention. In this post, we take a look at why both need to be handled from the top.

Leadership and Talent Management

There is a traditional viewpoint within the business world that responsibility for attracting, retaining and developing talent primarily rests with the human resources department. However, this approach to talent management is simply insufficient in the modern business climate and this is especially true when it comes to sales talent.

While HR clearly has a role to play, the human resources department are only likely to have very limited contact with staff and this will not usually be on a day-to-day basis. They are unlikely to be able to assess sales skills or sales performance, so it is unrealistic to expect HR to be able to manage talent strategically.

Some leaders try to get around this by hiring dedicated, centralised talent management staff. Yet, a variety of different studies highlighted by the Harvard Business Review suggest this approach fails to tackle key questions related to talent suitability, while only a quarter of companies integrate this with strategic objectives.

Leaders and managers need to come to terms with the fact that they are not only in charge of processes and finances. In fact, while process management and financial management are part of many leadership roles, the people in those roles are not primarily leaders of numbers – they are leaders of people.

How Leaders Can Manage Talent

The ability for sales managers and other leaders to have day-to-day contact with staff members allows them to not only get a feel for current performance, but also take an active role in employee development efforts. As a result, they can help to develop specific sales skills and plug any skills gaps that exist.

“Leaders are in the people business,” said Tom Peters, author of the international best-seller In Search of Excellence, speaking to the What’s Next! podcast. “I think a leader in the course of his or her career has the opportunity to significantly affect the development of their fellow human beings.”

Peters is also a keen advocate of a managerial style he refers to as MBWA – manage by wandering around. By actually moving around their organisation and talking to people in a less structured way, managers are able to get a better understanding of their talent than they ever would by looking at sales performance metrics alone.

As a result, rather than judging talent needs by simply looking at numbers on a screen, they can get a sense of the type of people they have in the organisation and the type of people they need. Additionally, they can get a sense of how happy staff members are and which staff are most likely to leave the company.

The Association With Recruitment

A significant part of talent management is the actual hiring of new staff and again, this cannot simply be delegated to HR. A comprehensive recruitment strategy will likely involve HR, but it will also involve the marketing department and input from the top of the organisation as well.

Recruitment is clearly linked to other aspects of talent management, such as employee retention. With very few exceptions, when a staff member leaves, a direct replacement is required to fill their shoes.

While marketing have a role to play in sending out recruitment literature, and while HR are likely to be involved in the selection process, nobody in the organisation is better placed to decide what skills and personality traits are needed to fill specific vacancies and fit into company culture than leaders are.

Essentially, this means that when leaders are involved, recruitment can become more strategic and tactical, resulting in new hires that are more likely to fit in, achieve fast ramp up times and be successful.


Despite the traditional view that it is a role for HR, successful talent management needs to come from the top of the organisation. Managers must recognise that they are leaders of people, have day-to-day interactions with staff and contribute to a strategic talent management and hiring strategy, that fulfils business requirements.

Talent management is just one of many topics that will be covered by expert speakers at upcoming Miller Heiman Group ‘Be Ready’ workshops and events. To find out more information and register your attendance, click here.