Individuals receiving training
The co-founder of Doquaru identifies thorough onboarding procedures as key to SME success. Adem ALTAN/AFP

A recent in-depth analysis conducted by Scottish Business Consultancy, Doqaru, titled 'The State of Sales Skills in UK SMEs', has shed light on the challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in finding, assessing and developing sales talent.

The study, which involved interviews with twelve business leaders, underscores the untapped potential for growth and scalability within British SMEs but highlights the hindrances caused by inadequate support for the sales function. In response, Dr Yekemi Otaru, co-founder of Doqaru, offers key insights from the report and presents actionable suggestions for SMEs operating in technical industries to enhance their sales performance.

The research encompassed an in-depth examination of the methods employed by UK SMEs in finding, assessing and developing sales talent. Alongside the interviews with sales and business leaders, the qualitative research incorporated secondary research and identified three main topics: sales outcomes, onboarding and training and sales skills and hiring process.

One notable finding from the study concerns the hiring process employed by UK SMEs, particularly smaller ones. It was revealed that recommendations often dominate the hiring process, limiting the talent pool available for recruitment.

Although SMEs typically follow a relatively formal hiring process, business owners frequently rely on instinct, prioritising soft skills over industry-specific and sales abilities. Dr Otaru stressed the significance of identifying and fostering critical traits in prospective sales personnel, such as reliability, self-motivation, empathy, technical proficiency and market understanding.

The study also underlines the difficulties smaller SMEs face in implementing internal training programs and managing their constrained training expenditures, which can range from £500 to £5,000 per employee on average.

As a result, SMEs frequently hesitate to spend money on sales training, especially when they depend largely on their sales staff to generate income. To overcome these barriers and achieve long-term success while boosting sales retention, Dr Otaru advises SMEs to prioritise a comprehensive onboarding procedure and make regular investments in training.

Furthermore, the study uncovers a strong correlation between social selling and effective sales performance. Salespeople who consistently exceed their quotas attribute their success to the effective use of social media.

In light of this finding, SMEs are encouraged to embrace social media platforms and provide their sales personnel with the necessary tools and training to leverage their potential. Dr Otaru stresses the importance of being open to experimenting with different sales techniques to determine the most effective strategies for individual SMEs.

Dr Otaru offers valuable advice to British SMEs seeking to boost sales performance and enhance their understanding of talent development. The report provides nine important findings along with related recommendations, including the creation of a clear hiring process that values both soft skills and industry-specific and sales abilities.

The Doqaru cofounder also opined that businesses can attract top talents by creating clear and comprehensive job descriptions. By doing so, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can appeal to candidates who possess relevant experience and skills that align with their goals.

The cofounder also commented on the importance of providing quality sales training during the onboarding process for SMEs. Otaru suggested that by investing in sales training, businesses can attain sustained performance and enhance their ability to retain sales personnel, thus benefiting their human resources in the long run.

In addition, the report highlights the significance of adopting social media platforms and utilising data analysis to monitor sales achievements and identify opportunities for enhancement. Furthermore, it underscores the value of nurturing a sales culture that places emphasis on collaboration, teamwork and ongoing growth, as this will prove invaluable to businesses.

To summarise, the report emphasises the importance of acknowledging the growth of sales capabilities within British SMEs. It suggests that by implementing transparent hiring procedures, comprehensive onboarding processes, and making investments in continuous sales training, SMEs can improve their sales performance and foster sales retention.