Talent Acquisition

Why is it so Hard to Hire Sales Talent?

Like all top talent, salespeople aren’t strangers to getting contacted on a regular basis by recruiters trying to entice them away from their current role and company. Individuals that work in sales are experts at these types of outreaches and have a more critical eye than most because of their own experience prospecting via cold calls and emails. They expect to be sold to throughout the interview and hiring process and want to know what’s in it for them.

Tailor your message to build rapport

Salespeople are savvy and can sniff out mass messaging, because they are used to doing the same while prospecting for their own sales leads. Therefore, they want to be “sold to” appropriately when you are trying to source and recruit them. They expect a relationship building approach to a message that is not only customized for them but also compelling enough to warrant a response from them. This is key throughout your sourcing efforts for any position, but even more so for sales. Remember to make them feel special and point out why specifically their unique attributes made you want to reach out.

Good candidates know they are good. They know they can have their pick of the litter when it comes to employers, and sales talent is no different. It is a competitive market to attract top sales talent. Their inboxes are filled with over the top and sometimes seemingly cheesy messages like “we are looking for a sales rock star like you!” Don’t use templates with too many exclamation points or it will appear unauthentic. Be creative and transparent in your messaging to give them a real perspective and window into the culture of your organization.

Show me the money!

Salespeople are typically motivated by money, so if your company’s compensation package isn’t appealing, they won’t give you the time of day. They are less interested in the intangibles and perks as they are about the overall On Target Earnings (OTE) potential for them. Give them specifics on what average deal sizes and quotas look like so they understand what is actually attainable and realistic.

With OTE being so important to them, sometimes they only pay attention to the water line of what their OTE is and not whether or not their OTE at that particular company is actually attainable. The important questions to ask around are: “What did you W2 the prior year?” and “Did you hit or are currently on pace to hit your OTE?” It is very important to describe what is realistic at your organization when recruiting them so they understand how many people are actually hitting or exceeding their OTE and what a top producer can actually make.

A lot of salespeople will leave or accept a competing offer for marginally more money in their OTE, not thinking about the bigger picture and the whole view of the total rewards in an offer. It is still important at that point to remind them of the things that they can’t really put a dollar amount on like company culture, perks, unlimited paid vacation, stock options, fully paid for employee medical, etc.

Put your money where your mouth is

There is not necessarily a shortage of sales talent out there. The challenge, however, is sifting through the candidate pool to get to the “A players” and the top producers. Salespeople are selling you on themselves, so you have to know how to sniff out the authenticity in their abilities and past performance. Asking for very specific numbers regarding their performance and how they rank against their peers is telling, but asking them what their manager would say about their performance if we called them for a reference can also be very eye opening. Salespeople will tell you what you want to hear a lot of the time, but having a candidate do a sales presentation as part of an interview, putting their money where their mouth is, is really telling.

Here are some questions to ask sales talent in interviews:

  • Why are you a good fit for this role and our company?
  • What’s your sales strategy? How do you approach selling? (Can you do a mock presentation selling our product?)
  • From your research, what do you think our company’s pain points are?

Also, realize that someone may be great in sales in their particular industry, but that isn’t necessarily transferable to your niche or industry. An outside salesperson versus an inside salesperson can be very different profiles. Similarly, a hunter salesperson versus farmer salespeople also have different skill sets, strengths, and preferences of what fulfills them in a sales career day in and day out.

It’s your job to ensure that the salesperson you are hiring will be happy and satisfied in that setting and particular sales role. You have to dig in to learn what else makes them tick besides money. Then, take that information to determine if they are a real fit within your organization and also if they will truly be able to deliver results.

For more information, download our eBook, How to Recruit Sales Professionals.

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