Spotlight on sales: how to ramp up recruitment

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Contributors: Joseph DiMisa and Paul DeCoster

If your business hires sales people, you’ll appreciate how tough it can be to find high-performing talent in today’s market.

Recruiter respondents to recent Korn Ferry talent acquisition surveys have named sales roles as the hardest positions to fill, time and again — ranking them tougher even than IT positions.

So what’s driving this issue? And what can you do to improve your sales force hiring strategies and recruitment results? One place to find answers is Korn Ferry’s 18/19 Sales Force Effectiveness Survey. Over 125 companies participated in this inaugural survey. Korn Ferry’s expert team then provided their analysis of the data to provide an insightful snapshot of the current landscape.

Here are some of the key takeaways for recruiters.

Base pay is not the dominant motivator it was

According to respondents, the days of paying more and more money to retain are over. Just over half of respondents believe that base pay is the reason why they lose staff. But for the other 45% of sales reps, base pay is not an issue as they can make it up with incentives.

Turnover is an issue

Research suggests that a good level of sales force turnover is 20-25% on an annual basis (providing you’re not losing your best people). However, in the survey 45% of companies say they have less than 10% turnover, while 10% of companies say they have 30% or more turnover.

This potentially suggests that top salespeople tend to leave, and poor performers tend to stay. Employers are now starting to assess more – to determine what differentiates better and lesser performers.

Customer behaviour is changing skills needs

80% of consumer customers feel they have more leverage in the buying process today, and 64% of business-to-business customers feel the same way.

There is a profound transformation in customer behaviours, and companies are struggling with it. Today’s buyers are enabled by the internet, empowered by the enormous choice in every market, and possess the ability to compare real-time competitive prices. They have taken control of the purchase process.

Neither business clients nor retail consumers need a salesperson to tell them about a product’s attributes or pricing —that’s information readily found online. So, a growing number of firms want their salespeople to act more like consultants, having both technical expertise and superior relationship skills as well as the ability to offer customers complete solutions, not just pitch a single product.

It’s time to look beyond the obvious

Employers recognize they need to hire to a different skill set than in years past. However, there is still an unwillingness to hire candidates with great potential, but no relevant background. Hard skills, like understanding a product the company sells, can be taught. Smart companies look at the softer skills and drivers that will indicate whether that person has what it takes to succeed over time.

Define the right skills and competencies. Hire and assess against them.

The challenge for organizations in recruiting salespeople is to define precisely the kind of skills, abilities, and experiences that are critical to succeed in the position. This is where you can draw on market insight and best practice resources and then apply them to the specific needs of your business.

Then you need to attract candidates who meet the criteria – and ensure you assess against them through a robust screening and interview process.