The specialized skills necessary to be a successful B2B sales rep make recruiting for sales roles a particular challenge. And in the current tight labor market, recruiters and hiring managers have been stymied by a shortage of candidates who can readily fill their sales pipelines.
And that requires doubling down on techniques that slice through the mishmash of mediocre prospects to attract the best and the brightest. Here are nine tactics to improve your sales recruitment strategy to ensure your team can maintain and exceed your sales goals.
Manage Recruitment Like You Manage Sales
You wouldn’t put a rookie sales rep in charge of closing a major client, so why would you have anyone other than an experienced sales recruiter hire top sales rep prospects? It’s not just theoretical to regard your recruiters as an extension of your inside sales team. Your recruitment team is ultimately selling candidates on the overall growth opportunity associated with your company. By recruiting a better sales team, you are creating a sales engine that gives you a competitive advantage.
In most organizations, recruitment is typically a function of the human resources (HR) department, charged to fill a variety of positions from sales to accounting, from administrative to marketing, and more. However, selling skills are highly specialized and a talent acquisition generalist may not be prepared to make the best hiring decisions. Often, corporate recruiters use the same application and interview process for all candidates in every department of the company. But this could allow otherwise qualified candidates to fall through the cracks.
Companies without specialized and skilled sales recruiters have consistently disappointing results in recruiting, hiring, and even retaining the right candidates. Sales recruiting professionals will understand the nuances associated with selling your product line, they know the industry, and they appreciate the unique skills and capabilities required to move prospective clients through the sales pipeline. Sales recruiting specialists may be successfully outsourced, as can be your entire sales team. Either way, they are an excellent complement to corporate recruiters and can be pivotal to an organization’s progress.
“Companies without specialized and skilled sales recruiters have consistently disappointing results in recruiting, hiring, and even retaining the right candidates.”
Promote from Within
Sales candidates want a clear path to career growth. Assuring sales candidates that they will be recognized for achievements with corresponding compensation and leadership opportunities are often a key area of interest for candidates. Besides, a tight job market demands that you invest in existing resources. Sales reps with a proven track record of winning deals and demonstrated leadership and management skills are worth nurturing for future growth opportunities.
Develop a culture that encourages your reps to expand their skills, build on their strengths, and take on new challenges. Assist them by providing continuous training and development that endeavors to constantly improve their selling skills. Reward them for hitting specific performance goals along the way. Make leadership development a part of your training program.
Open Your Skillset Mindset
Often, the best sales reps start out with no sales experience at all. Ticking off a laundry list of requirements and overlooking candidates who don’t check all the boxes won’t work in today’s labor market.
Broaden your view of the ideal candidate to encompass meaningful “soft” skills. Even with no sales experience whatsoever, such qualities as a winning spirit, a natural curiosity about life, good listening and speaking abilities, and persistence in achieving personal goals often set the stage for excellence in a sales career. The candidate with years of sales experience may have to unlearn bad habits, but a resume that exhibits a fresh outlook and willingness to learn new things may hold more promise. Look past the resume. With the right onboarding and training tools, you can take someone with any background and transform them into a sales powerhouse.
The “great resignation” is a two-way street. Although sales candidate resumes aren’t piling up in your inbox, your outbox to potential candidates is unlimited. The remote selling environment means you can find candidates anywhere, and this includes reaching into regions with a slower job market and where talent is more available.
Embrace Virtual Selling
If you’re reticent to accept the new virtual sales landscape, you’re sure to lose excellent candidates to your competitors. Recent research by Yoh found that 40% of Americans would only consider work that was out of a traditional office at least part time if they were looking for a job. If the pandemic has taught B2B sales team anything, it’s that a sales rep working from home and interacting with colleagues and clients digitally can be just as productive, and often more so, than traveling in the field or sitting in a corporate office.
The traditional nine-to-five corporate work week is old school. Now, candidates expect to work remotely at least some of the time, and offering the flexibility of working from any geographic location is a significant perk. Obviously, sales reps must be working during normal business hours and when clients and prospects are available, which is doable with a laptop and phone at the kitchen table as well as in an office.
More often than not, the best candidates come through referrals. A recruiter trying to sell a cold lead on a job may not be as fruitful as a pitch from a current employee directed to a friend or family member. Employees understand the ins and outs of the job and the corporate culture better than anyone and can convey it truthfully. Coordinating an employee referral program and effectively marketing it to your employee base is a smart way to identify excellent sales talent and grow a roster of interested candidates.
LinkedIn reports that 45% of employees sourced from employee referrals stay for longer than 4 years, and only 25% of employees sourced through job boards stay for over 2 years.
Make Onboarding Engaging…and Continuous
The onboarding process gives new hires the chance to get to know a company’s brand and develop a positive relationship with the company. When done well, it can lead to a long-term commitment; when it falters, it can cause new hires to jump ship. Onboarding that incorporates an element of fun through gamification and encourages users to interact can be a more positive experience. Training and mentoring should be ongoing and respond to the unique needs and skill levels of the individual sales rep.
Hiring should be continuous, too: Just as there is churn among B2B customers, there is churn among your sales staff. Have a plan ready to fill vacant seats at all times and to meet new revenue forecasts as they evolve throughout the year.
Enrich Your Benefits Package
In a candidate-centric environment, prospective employees can be more selective in their job preferences. Candidates won’t be forced into jobs that don’t meet their requirements and the kind of company whose culture reflects who they are. This combined with the competitive nature of the sales industry—salespeople are constantly in high demand—means you must offer something above and beyond the ordinary in your suite of benefits. Make the role extra-attractive with competitive compensation, paid time off, work/life balance, flexible work schedules, product discounts, and more. Be imaginative when it comes to benefits, and listen to what candidates want so you can adapt to their needs to make the offer more attractive.
With candidates entertaining multiple offers, hiring managers must be able to make quick decisions. Most jobs candidates won’t tolerate a lengthy, multi-week interview-to-hire process. Many companies are shortening their interview and hiring-decision process to allow them to be more competitive. Some companies are giving hiring managers the authority to hire for positions “on the spot” to ensure that they don’t lose quality candidates.
Don’t let the process drag on and don’t be slow in making an offer; if you like an applicant take advantage of the immediacy and availability of remote video interviewing, and act fast. Otherwise, you risk losing top talent to your competitors.
Consider an Outsourced Sales Recruitment Partner
Many companies aren’t adequately equipped, from either a technology or human standpoint, to successfully recruit a high-performing sales team. The burden of ramping up new reps may be so great that hiring can’t keep pace with turnover, and territories may be left vacant. Or, staffing may be needed for a seasonal or special sales project that is too cumbersome to manage in-house. This is when B2B sales companies should seriously consider outsourcing the sales recruiting function to a sales staffing provider. A third-party provider has the resources to recruit, onboard, and train talent to address your gaps quickly and effectively.
Organizations that specialize in sales recruitment can deliver measurable results, such as:
- Improved quality of hires
- Greater speed to hire and productivity
- Reduced recruitment costs
- Enhanced scalability to address seasonal or project requirements
- Swift backfill of open territories and top-grading of sales talent
- Assured territory coverage
- Proven ability to launch a national sales team in 60 days
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