How to Attract Top Sales Talent in a Competitive Market

Recruiting salespeople has its challenges. It is hard enough to identify a willing and active candidate, let alone one who has the sales motor, personality and track record of success that most hiring managers find essential. Coupled with the fact that the market for salespeople is highly competitive, the task at hand seems nearly impossible.  But don’t fear … they are out there. You just have to be quick, to reel them in when they’re found!

Every hiring manager wants an “A” player– a stellar resume, reputable school, long tenure at previous employers and sales that blow out quotas. Maybe you can capture their attention on the phone or even an in-person meeting. However, closing a candidate and getting them to join your firm can be extremely challenging. Why is that? Well, you’re not the only suitor. You might think you have the best product, office culture, and even the most lucrative compensation package. But for every company like yours, there are dozens of others that offer something similar … and they want those “A” players, too. So how do you beat out the competition? The same way you outshine your competition when you’re on a sales pitch.

“Think about it. The best candidates have a variety of compelling career options that they’ll consider relative to a portfolio of needs and wants (e.g. professional development, corporate culture, compensation, etc.),” says John Erban, Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Axiom Law. “The most effective recruiters and hiring managers consider the unique motivations of their top candidates and consistently employ specific ‘selling’ strategies throughout the interview process to increase their chances of ‘winning’ these candidates.”


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Get to know the candidate

Firstly, uncover the candidate’s primary drivers. Why are they leaving their current employer or why did they leave their most recent one? What are their motivating factors? What are they looking for in their next role? Oftentimes, an organization is so focused on making the candidate prove themselves, they forget to unravel what inspires and motivates them. Once you uncover those motivations, tell the story of your firm and highlight the things that are important to your candidate.

Secondly – Keep them engaged. Time is your enemy! The longer you wait to interview or the more time you have in between interviews, increases the probability that another company will come in and sweep them off their feet.  Sales candidates, especially millennials (trust me, I am one), are incredibly impressionable and can change their mind on a dime if presented with an alternative, and seemingly more attractive option. Don’t jeopardize the thoroughness of your interview process in finding out if the candidate is the right fit or not. Follow the 3 E’s:

Expedite the process, be Efficient, and ensure Effectiveness in your recruitment processes!

Lastly, do what you do best and sell!  Once you’ve uncovered a candidate’s motivations, led them through the process in a timely manner and realized that they’re a good fit … you need to close them. It is important to not only delve into the roles and responsibilities that the candidate would take on, but also to share the full scope of the employee experience- from company culture, to monetary benefits, and to growth and development.

-Do they value culture? Have the team take the candidate out for a company-wide function. Talk to them about initiatives and activities that they can participate in, or even programs that they can join. Show them how they can immerse themselves and become a valuable player in the organization, outside of their day-to-day.

-Do they value compensation? Make sure you’re aware of their compensation expectations. Are they more interested in a higher base? Would they rather have a lower base but a higher OTE (on-target earnings)? Do they value equity, benefits, and vacation days? There are many factors that go into an offer, not just monetary incentives. Be able to communicate these early and often, and make sure that when you come to the table with an offer, it’s one the candidate is expecting.

-Do they value growth potential? Reiterate at every step of the process what this role could evolve into one day.  46% of millennials left their last job due to lack of career growth. A strong pull in the decision-making process is in one’s potential to grow. Make sure to be as explicit as possible when explaining what growth and development look like within your organization– do you have a formal performance review process? How often do employees meet with their managers? The more transparency, the better.

-Do they want to feel like they’ll make an impact?  Having a CRO, VP, or even CEO, reach out to deliver an offer can be extremely influential in a candidate’s decision-making process. This can make the candidate feel important, while showing them the scope of the impact they’ll make at the organization.

I’ll leave you with this as an example … one you college football fans will enjoy.  Pretend you’re the best high-school quarterback in the country. You have head coaches from every major program knocking on your door, telling you to come play for them. Would it be great to play for Nick Saban (University of Alabama) and be on a dominant team? Sure. Would it also be great to play for Michigan and take them to glory? Absolutely. You’re going to the NFL anyway and you’ll be a star no matter where you go. It’s up to the school to recruit YOU! One of the best recruiters in the country, Jim Harbaugh (University of Michigan), went so far as to sleep on a top recruit’s floor in order to convince him to sign with them over their rivals, Penn State. What happened? The recruit flipped his commitment to Penn State and signed with Michigan. Just goes to show, sometimes in order to get top talent, you have to start at the bottom.



Corey Getzoff

Corey is a Senior Associate with Russell Tobin’s Sales Recruitment Practice. He leverages his expertise and broad network of sales professionals in order to match those talented candidates to clients looking to hire sales talent.

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