What it Takes to Really Attract Top Sales Talent

What it Really Takes to Attract Top Sales TalentTop-performing salespeople have one thing in common – they consistently achieve their sales goals. To recruit these talented and rare salespeople, employers need to take a hard look at what they are offering prospective candidates, and if they are doing what it really takes to attract ‘A’ players.

Hiring managers fail to acquire top performers when they don’t evaluate how their company is positioned to attract salespeople who are not actively looking for a new employer. “Organizations rarely examine what they can specifically offer to entice salespeople who are happily employed and progressing well in their career, and so they are continually disappointed by their recruiting,” says Brent Thomson, CSO at Peak Sales Recruiting. Companies need to evaluate the financial and intangible attributes they offer salespeople and outpace competitors who vie for the same stellar candidates.

Elite salespeople look for a specific set of characteristics from employers: they want to work for market leaders with strong value propositions that offer high earning potential and career growth opportunities. Shifting a company to embody these characteristics sets a clear path toward attracting and hiring the best talent.

Here are 3 ways employers can attract the best sales talent:

1. Define and Build an Employer Brand

An attractive employer brand is the primary reason great salespeople want to work for a particular company. As defined by Richard Mosley, author of The Employer Brand, this term denotes “an organization’s reputation as an employer, as opposed to its more general corporate brand reputation.” LinkedIn reports that 59% of executives are investing more in their employer brand in 2016 than last year, bringing new emphasis to marketing for job candidates. Appealing to top salespeople requires that executives develop their employer brands with these aspects in mind:

Position the Company as a Market Leader

Top salespeople are always interested in working for industry leaders or high-growth companies that are poised to dominate their sector.  If there’s no track record of success at a company and reps aren’t making quota, great salespeople are savvy enough to realize it’s not their best option to make a move. Respected employers, therefore, demonstrate their legitimacy by leveraging key client logos in the recruiting process and highlight the number of reps making and exceeding quota. By emphasizing their reputation and resources, they gain the attention of top talent.

Offer a Pro-Sales Culture

High-performing sales reps seek respect, not just within their immediate teams, but throughout an organization; they want to work for companies that value what they do. Therefore, in order to recruit top talent, sales executives need to highlight their pro-sales culture and underscore how they recognize that their sales reps are the primary drivers for company growth.

This kind of pro-sales culture stands out to prospective candidates because it emphasizes both team-wide collaboration and individual competition; both of which are job qualities that great salespeople want to experience on a day-to-day basis. A strong community of support that pushes salespeople to meet consistently high standards appeals to leading sales reps. Ideally, hiring managers emphasize this balance, as well as the willingness of a company to support the autonomy and ingenuity of their sales teams.

Create a Strong Career Track

To encourage top talent to join their company rather than a competitor’s, executives need to offer prospective candidates more than a better job. Top talent appreciates educational opportunities to build on their skillset and learn different selling methodologies, and want to know that a potential employer will provide the support necessary for them to build extensive sales portfolios. Outstanding companies combine these opportunities with fast career tracks, giving salespeople more agency to take on bigger accounts and move into management opportunities.

2. Offer Market Leading Compensation

If business leaders want to attract sales professionals with strong records of success, they need to provide competitive compensation. Mark W. Johnston and Greg W. Marshall, authors of Contemporary Selling: Building Relationships and Creating Value, explain why:

“Holding down sales compensation may appear to be a convenient way to hold down selling costs and enhance profits, but this is usually not true in the long run. When buying talent in the labor market, a company tends to get what it pays for. If poor salespeople are hired at low pay, poor performance will almost surely result. If good salespeople are hired at low pay, the firm is likely to have high turnover, with the resulting higher costs for recruiting and training replacements and lost sales.”

Top-tier talent only works for above-average compensation that matches their skill set, experience level and selling potential. When targeting these salespeople, executives need to offer premium compensation with simple-to-calculate commissions that have an immediate impact on their income.

3. Emphasize Job Meaning and Impact

The sense of meaning salespeople expect to experience on the job also motivates high performers to change companies. Patty McCord, who worked as the chief talent officer at Netflix for 14 years, believes that advertising meaningful work is an integral aspect of any recruitment plan.

At start-ups, in particular, sales reps can be part of a growth story, helping to form a company from the ground up. Instead of investing in outrageous perks — in-office bars, razor scooters, and pre-paid Uber accounts — emphasize the opportunity for employees to take ownership of their role within a company and have a material impact.

According to Fast Company, employees who derive this sense of meaning from their work are three times as likely to stay at their company, while reporting 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and 1.4 times more engagement on the job. Executives also need to recognize the role of these less tangible factors in motivating high-performing candidates to accept to a new position and stay with the company for the long-term.

Offer The Best to Get The Best

Talented salespeople are highly sought-after — they are used to receiving numerous job offers from a range of employers. Directly competing with other companies for a limited pool of top-tier candidates requires that leaders emphasize their employee brand, offer above-average compensation and stress the potential for each job candidate to impact their company in a meaningful way.

Susan Halliwell

Susan has a background in HR management and policy development. She provides independent HR strategy and advice to employers and regularly contributes her insights to the Peak Sales blog.
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