It’s a seller’s market out there — and those sellers are your candidates.

We all know the talent crunch is real right now. Recruiting and hiring top-tier candidates are huge challenges. Ten years ago, we might have said, “Tell me why I should hire you.” Now, we have to say, “This is exactly why you should come work for us.” For sales leaders, finding (and retaining) the ideal rep requires new approaches and strategies. Here’s what you don’t want to miss in today’s hiring market.

Sales pipelines are the lifeblood of a sales organization. Same goes for your hiring because recruiting is just like selling. If you wait until you’ve lost even one rep to start prospecting for new candidates, you could be pretty far behind the eight ball.

The company itself and the hiring manager should be always putting out content, whether through LinkedIn or other social media, to stay in front of “passive candidates.” Those are the people who are employed somewhere right now, but maybe in six months are ready to move on. They might remember something exciting that your company is doing and proactively think of you.

Sales leaders, managers, and their recruiters should also check in with top talent to see how things are going and if they would be interested in a conversation. You might hit someone at just the right moment when they’re ready for a change.

All of this takes time — especially when the crucial “time to fill” (a common term among recruiters) is elongating no matter the methodology. Whether it’s a contingency firm, a recruitment process outsourcing firm, or an internal team, it used to take about 30 days to fill an opening for a qualified sales rep. Now it’s closer to 45. That’s why it’s critical to be filling that pipeline continuously.

I can’t impress this point to sales managers enough: Understand and be very honest about the sales environment that you’re asking your reps to come into and work under. For example, a rep at a major organization may have a lot more sales tools at their disposal than going to work on your sales team at a 50-person company. They won’t have a sales admin at their disposal or million-dollar marketing where they pick up a phone and a prospect immediately recognizes the company name. Same goes for a large company that nabs a scrappy, successful rep from a startup or a new graduate fresh out of college. They won’t have the slightest idea how to use all of your sales technology or even potentially understand your industry, and you’ll have to understand the need for much more enablement and onboarding. Being very honest and candid with the candidates (and yourself) about the sales environment helps with attrition and retention as well.
Sales managers should also take a look at themselves to make sure they’re finding the right fit. If you don’t have the time to micromanage and do a lot of training, then you need to hire a person with more sales experience under their belt and a proven track record of working autonomously. If you’re not a company with a strong sales enablement program, then don’t hire entry-level grads. It’s not the fact that they couldn’t ultimately be successful, but there are a lot of new grads who move into sales positions because they want to explore sales. Quite frankly, I think that’s a great thing to do. But if your company can’t afford to have a whole crop of candidates-turned-employees decide they don’t want to be in sales on your dime, then increase the qualifications as far as tenure and years of experience in sales for the target profile.

Millennials and Gen Z candidates are really attracted to companies where it’s not about how many hours are worked inside an office building, but how much work they get done period. It’s a mindset that dovetails perfectly with sales because we tend to not turn off; we can work from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and be just as productive as those working regular office hours.

That’s all well and good, but it’s so important for the first two years of someone’s sales career to be in an office. They need the training, the camaraderie of working with teammates, and the understanding of what’s working well — or not. They need to have their managers close by and in actual proximity so they can go and ask questions.

When you get past the two-year mark, companies should afford location and hours flexibility — as long as reps are meeting or exceeding their sales metrics. It’s only going to give you an organizational leg up as far as recruiting. The number one question young candidates are asking is, “When do I have to be in the office and can I work remotely?” If you answer that question honestly and set the right expectations, these reps will be more likely to join your team and stick around because they know they’re working toward their career goal.

Understand and be very honest about the sales environment that you’re asking your reps to come into and work under.”

Angela Parsons | Chief Sales Officer, Xelerate