Why Does Your Startup Keep Attracting The WORST Sales Applicants?

attracting talent to your company

Attract Better Talent

Need help attracting talent to your company, particularly in the sales department? You’re not alone. Finding top sales talent is a significant pain for startups and larger companies, especially in 2018.

Without the right people to ideate, build, and sell your product, profit will be less than optimal. According to comprehensive research cited by McKinsey, superior talent is up to eight times (800%) more productive than average performers.

That is why the most valuable and successful organizations fiercely compete against each other in a relentless war for talent to find, hire, and retain elite professionals. Yet, 82% of Fortune 500 companies still believe they need to be more successful at hiring highly skilled people. Only two out of ten HR leaders from these big players think their recruitment and retention strategies work as planned.

Finding, attracting, and keeping such high performers on your roster will likely be a moonshot, especially if you’re running a fresh startup with bootstrapped resources. In contrast, the likelihood of attracting mediocre, unreliable, and crappy job applicants claiming to be competent sales professionals can go off the scales.

You wouldn’t want to waste time, money, and energy on these shenanigans, but if you send the wrong signals, hordes of these unwanted sales candidates can swarm your recruitment process like a plague. So make an honest assessment of your brand messaging, talent culture, and recruitment journey. You might be inadvertently drawing the wrong types of talent (e.g., good at making excuses, excellent at being mediocre, highly skilled in job hopping) under your banner.

how to attract top sales people

7 Reasons Why Startups Are Not Attracting Talent (Especially in Tech Sales):

  1. You’re looking for sales talent in the wrong places.
  2. You’re using outdated recruitment practices.
  3. You project a corporate brand that lacks excitement.
  4. Your job ads are horrendous.
  5. Your comp plans do not give reps enough incentives.
  6. You convey a boring, tedious workplace reinforced by a gloomier career path.
  7. You provide a poor recruitment experience for applicants.

1) You’re looking for sales talent in the wrong places.

The job market is in flux. Skills and talent are in dire shortage, and workplace demographics are also shifting. Baby boomers are retiring in droves, while millennials and younger generations are steadily taking over the reins. Moreover, competent sales practitioners are often busy doing what they’re good at — closing deals or successfully building rapport with clients without actively looking for jobs. As a result, you won’t reach them through traditional job boards or online postings. If you stick with conventional ways employers search for candidates, you’ll be left with the dregs of the job market.

TIP: Establish your company’s ideal sales candidate personas. Study the behavior of these personas and understand where you might reach potential candidates and how best to catch their attention. Use indirect but consequential messaging on social media channels (such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) during industry events, conferences, and specialist sites that provide content, training, and other resources for sales professionals.

2) You’re using outdated recruitment practices.

The process is key to efficiency, but only when it evolves with emerging market realities. If you were to rely on snail-mailed resumes or posting job ads in the Sunday paper, for example, your competitors would have already onboarded a few good candidates well before you can set a job interview with the sub-par applicants they’ve already rejected. Implementing a one-size-fits-all recruitment strategy would also short-change your team, especially when you deploy specialized roles in your sales organization.

TIP: The world has gone digital, and you’ll lose out if you don’t have a catchy, upbeat presence on online job boards and other channels. But even that is just the bare minimum. As mentioned previously, don’t rely solely on conventional postings. There are other tools, such as applicant tracking systems (ATS) and cloud-based talent management platforms, that you should try out. Build a virtual talent pool on social media channels by publishing thought leadership articles relevant to sales practitioners.

best interview tips for sales jobs

3) You project a corporate brand that flat-out lacks excitement.

When you accept that your niche is unsexy, you doom your team to a mindset of irrelevance—your brand matters. If you go far afield with a brand and a disposition that shouts “boring,” you’ll repel excellent sales professionals who demand the best from employers in exchange for delivering outstanding performance. These elite sellers won’t settle for a timid, lackluster brand that doesn’t seem to care about the people behind it.

TIP: Millennials and younger generations place a high premium on “experience” and online reputation. Your corporate culture and “employer rating” will be at least as necessary to this subset of professionals as the compensation package you’ll offer them. The first step is establishing an open environment that values people and provides systemic support for their careers, health, and happiness. Doing this equips HR or a public relations team with solid authenticity to present a workplace culture worth thriving in. Next, aim for audience mindshare by which your company comes top-of-mind each time an excellent sales practitioner begins looking for a new employer.

4) Your job ads are horrendous.

Your job posts say a lot about how much you value your advertising role. Avoid using run-of-the-mill templates that don’t differentiate your brand, your needs, and the benefits you offer from other recruiters. Ambiguity, long-windedness, ridiculously high qualifications, triteness, grammatical errors, excessively formal tone, and disproportionate focus on the company can dissuade job seekers from further considering your post.

TIP: Be accurate, error-free, and upbeat when creating the copy for your job posts. Focus on what the job entails but fine-tune the message along a job seeker’s vantage point and emotional lens. Clarify both the requirements and the benefits. Don’t use a copy that sounds too formal or demanding. That will scare half of the job market. But don’t make it sound too easy either because that turns off achievers looking for challenging roles.

recruiting tips salespeople

5) Your compensation plans need to give reps more incentives.

This is where the rubber hits the road. Most professionals place compensation near the top of their priorities, and any recruiter playing scrooge on compensation risks discouraging good sales candidates from applying. Worse than scrimping is creating the impression that you offer generous packages but can deliver a much smaller paycheck. Doing so causes major candidate frustration when they realize the truth and tarnishes their reputation.

TIP: Be honest when it comes to compensation. If you offer above-market rates, it’s better to mention the package in your post to draw more applicants. Otherwise, hold off disclosing your hand and focus on non-monetary benefits such as free training, a flexible schedule, and other perks you offer. The bottom line is to persuade excellent candidates that your company is worth working for without resorting to dirty tricks.

6) You convey a boring, tedious workplace reinforced by a gloomier career path.

Compensation is a significant part of the employment agreement, but it is not everything. If your organization seems peculiar, like the company parodied in Dilbert and other satirical comic strips/television series, you have a lot of house-cleaning. Tedious labor without the possibility of achieving a healthy work-life balance or getting sensible promotions drains motivation and productivity like a leaky faucet.

TIP: Make working with you both fun and fulfilling. Whenever applicable, send a clear message that salespeople are valued in your organization. Highlight advantages such as company-subsidized professional development programs, travel incentives, generous commissions, job meaning, impact, and clear career paths and growth avenues for sellers. If these are still on the wish list, think of other tangible ways to make your company worth working for.

sales recruiting agency

7) You provide a poor recruitment experience for applicants.

Your hiring process provides a window to your workplace’s actual day-to-day conditions. A poor experience for applicants during this process portends a poor experience working for your company. If your recruitment process seems disorganized, unnecessarily takes a lot of time, and feels too convoluted, applicants will quickly lose the appetite to see the whole thing through.

TIP: Create a clear and effective recruitment plan. Map out each step and set expectations at the onset of the hiring process. Hence, candidates are always transparent and updated about their application status at any point in the process. Streamline interview questions and bridge any gap in communication across the engagement.

Key Takeaway: Good recruiters attract good candidates

You need competent salespeople to grow your startup. But they are hard to find and rarely come cheap. For highly skilled and motivated sellers to join your team, you must do your part as a responsible employer that values its people. And it all starts with the applicant journey as sales candidates go through the stages of your recruitment process. To hire the best people, offer the best value you can.

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