Nurture vs. Nature: How to Source and Support Top Sales Talent

Sales leaders need to recognize and amplify their reps’ natural talents, or their “nature,” while simultaneously “nurturing” them with ongoing guidance and real-time, hands-on training.

In recent years, sales turnover rates have climbed up to 27 percent, indicating that maintaining a talented, healthy sales team has become almost as challenging as building one in the first place.

Still, common frustrations such as insufficient training and lack of support can cause top sales talent to look elsewhere or––at the very least––cause them to perform at less-than-optimal levels. But with the current cost of sales rep churn hovering at around $100,000 per rep, few companies can afford to see their sellers leave.

So how can you source and support your reps in a way that sustains company culture and maximizes ROI for years to come? A good way to begin is by considering the age-old “nature/nurture” discussion. As a sales leader, you’re required to recognize and amplify your reps’ natural talents, or their “nature,” while simultaneously “nurturing” them with ongoing guidance and real-time, hands-on training.

Here are some actionable tips on how to uncover natural sales talent and develop it once you have it on your team.

Nature: Tips for Securing Innately Talented Reps

One of your primary responsibilities as sales leader is to expand your current talent pool by securing the best possible salespeople to add to your ranks. As you begin your search, keep the following in mind:

1. Know what you want and how you’ll bring it on board.

It’s helpful to have a sense of your perfect candidate before you start looking. Try creating an ideal resume (editing as needed, should your priorities shift). Consider desirable traits and preferable assets such as creativity, Emotional Intelligence, performance history, and ability to collaborate. Next, outline what the rep will be doing and what will be expected of him or her, so you’ll be extra prepared as you head into the interviewing stage. Make sure, too, that you construct a detailed blueprint for seamless onboarding, so new hires can adapt quickly.

2. Don’t discount candidates too easily.

Recent research finds that sales candidates with backgrounds in different industries or functional experience outside of sales may still have “high-quality sales talent potential.” Remember: Talent comes in many forms, and sometimes a great rep can be found in an unexpected field. Be sure to distinguish between qualities that are natural (think personability, flexibility, and comprehension) and qualities that can be “learned” or cultivated (familiarity with the buyer’s journey, facility with brand messaging, and effective pitching). Don’t pass on an applicant simply because he or she doesn’t seem like an immediate fit on paper—instead, be open to letting talented “outsiders” contribute to your team.

3. Look to your existing talent for inspiration.

You don’t have to go too far beyond your own backyard to get a better understanding of what you’re looking for. Take time to evaluate your current top sellers and mine their histories for clues as to what traits and levels of experience will be needed to round out your sales force. It also will be helpful to gather your top-tier sellers’ opinions on what strategies work best on the job and what personalities are best suited to securing quality sales.

Once you’ve reeled in sales talent with the right “nature,” your focus should be on supporting and sustaining your team to “nurture” their growth as successful sales reps.

Nurture: Tips for Guiding Your Reps to Greater Heights

A 2017 CSO Insights Sales Optimization study suggests that organizations with “dynamic coaching processes”—as in sales coaching strategies that are interactive and ongoing––achieve a larger increase in win rates over time. As a sales leader, your process should include recruitment, training, and continued, “dynamic” sales coaching. Here are some essentials for maintaining a steady sales culture:

1. Create a list of specific goals.

Similar to creating an ideal candidate profile, make a point of defining what you’re looking for before laying out a plan for supportive coaching. Be sure to map out a list of goals and develop a definitive outline of what successes/tangible returns your reps will be expected to produce in terms of performance, engagement metrics, and ROI.

2. Be a human.

Make sure your business culture reflects the fact that your reps are more than just numbers. Check in with your team members periodically to take their temperature on any pain points and gather feedback on training techniques, content, personal aspirations, and more. Offer personalized constructive criticism and incentives where appropriate, and be ready to implement sellers’ suggestions for improvement if it makes sense to do so––particularly as this will help your reps feel their input is highly valued.

3. Employ technological tools to optimize processes.

Leverage tech solutions to facilitate real-time communication with your sellers. Sales enablement platforms can provide several key functionalities, including content management capabilities and solutions for storing and managing sales playbooks, which can serve up contextualized training tips, step-by-step guides for sellers, and more. In addition, sales enablement platforms can monitor sales activities and deliver comprehensive engagement metrics to help optimize sales training and guidance practices.

4. Integrate past successes into your best practices.

Take advantage of your top sellers’ expertise by asking them to share their tried-and-true strategies for success. Get a sense of your top performers’ go-tos when it comes to content, pitching, and buyer interaction, and use these lessons to inform your coaching processes. Wherever possible, refine and organize these strategies and then integrate them into your tech platforms so they can be accessed by other reps who might be struggling.

Harnessing naturally talented reps and nurturing those reps on the road to success are both crucial components of sales leadership. Do your best to strike a balance between the two if you’re hoping to build an empowered team that produces lasting results.


Eleni Hagen is a content strategist for Highspot, an advanced sales enablement platform that helps organizations close the loop across marketing, sales, and customers.

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