Sales Hiring Trends: Act Fast or You Will Lose Out!

Devon-McDonald by

Every day on the news you hear about the looming unemployment rate. There are no if, ands or buts about it — a significant chunk of the American population is struggling to maintain and/or find jobs.

…And then there is the sales hiring market. Based on recent conversations with sales hiring managers and also what I perceive from my participation with the current interview processes with our portfolio companies — it’s a very different story.

The best sales candidates on the market are getting scooped up by top companies very, VERY quickly. The days of dragging your feet with the best sales talent are gone. If you have a top performer under your nose — act fast, but also be sure to do your due diligence on the individual to make sure they are legitimate.

Tips for not losing out on a rockstar sales candidate:

  • Keep a steady flow of interviews arranged with your best candidates — always have the next interview date in the books.
  • Ask right off the bat what other interview processes he/she has going on and what stage of process they are in with these companies…from there, really assess their thoughts on your role vs. their other opportunities.  This will help you avoid getting blindsided.
  • Talk to the candidate about his/her compensation expectations in the initial conversations. If they are totally out of your ballpark (particularly with crazy-high base salary demands), you need not waste time with this individual — get out there and find the next sales rockstar.
  • Check references early in the process once you’ve found a keeper.  a.) you will get more insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate, and b.) it will indicate to your candidate that you are very serious about him/her for your role.

… are you seeing a trend here?  COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE!!!

And my final thought/suggestion: Any of the candidates who are applying to a job description you posted online are very likely in other interview processes.  The top pool of those proactive sales role seekers are going to get hired VERY quickly. Lets face it — the best sales people are hunters — they know what they want, and they know who to speak with/what to say to get what they want.

That being said, be proactive with your sales recruiting. With basically the entire professional world now existing on LinkedIn, you really have no excuses. Target (yup, headhunt!) sales people who have a background/skill set that is ideal for your organization.  Shoot them a message (if you have the permission levels), request to be in their network and include a brief intro note, and/or do some research to find out what their email is and shoot them a note about your hiring needs.

Everyone always has an eye out for the next best thing — the individual will likely hear you out, and if nothing else they will be incredibly flattered. If you can easily/passionately articulate the value proposition of working at your company and there is potential for this person to get rich(er) working for you — you’re golden.

Proactive LinkedIn recruiting is how OpenView Labs’ recruiting team has found many of the top sales hires for our expansion stage portfolio — and in most cases, the candidates weren’t in 5 other interview processes. It’s about being PROACTIVE, not REACTIVE… and keeping very strong communication with the top sales candidates to understand where their head is at.

If you haven’t already, check out this posting from The Bridge Group regarding Sales Hiring Trends in 2011.