Need to hire a digital technology sales person? Good luck with that!

11th November 2015

Need to hire a digital technology sales person? Good luck with that!

If you have a recruitment strategy that is delivering great sales talent seamlessly into your business on a consistent basis you are in the lucky minority and should stop reading now.

The reality for most SaaS technology businesses operating across E-Commerce, Marketing Tech or Ad Tech, finding the right talent will prove to be a major challenge to your company and will directly impact the performance of the organisation.

Without doubt, the individual contributor sales person is the most difficult role to fill for the vast majority of companies.

Why is this?

Quite simply, the issue is supply and demand. The growth across Marketing Tech alone has been phenomenal, fuelled by VC-backed businesses looking to scale up quickly.

The market in the UK grew from an estimated 350 companies in 2011 to 950 by 2014. Between January 2014 and January 2015 this number grew to over 1,800! A high number of these companies are growing rapidly and expect to raise staffing levels significantly in the next 6-12 months, with sales consistently featuring in the top 3 areas of expansion.

Job openings are growing quicker than talent is developing, which means there is a serious shortage of qualified sales people with the relevant sector experience. This in turn is pushing salary expectations up to unprecedented levels.

Very early-stage businesses really have their work cut out.  They may not have the financial clout to compete for the best, they often don’t have benefits packages in place and they won’t have a strong recruitment brand. Using equity as a pulling factor seems to be less effective with many candidates preferring to take the immediate cash in salary and OTC.

On the flip-side, hiring decisions are often driven by trying to reduce as much risk as possible and only considering candidates with very specific skill-sets and/or sector experience, making the task of finding the winning candidate even harder.

Just for a moment, put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. If you are in a sales role and performing well, why would you move? If you are sat on a healthy pipeline and earning good commission, it’s tough to walk away knowing you will have to start over.

So what can you do?

There are a few steps you can take to improve your chances of a successful hire - some more obvious than others.

  • Benchmark the salary correctly and pay well. It needs to be an attractive package. Trying to hire on the cheap will most likely end in tears. You might get lucky and do a great selling job to secure the right candidate, but if you don’t reward well you will leave yourself exposed. There will be someone prepared to pay more and you might find you have a demotivated the employee very quickly. If you have limitations around basic salary, reward with a great commission plan. Commission drives behaviour and you would be rewarding success.
  • Increase your pool of candidates. The pool of available candidates is a well fished pool. Challenge yourself to really question just how important it is to have an exact sector match. Think about who else sells to the business line you want them to sell to. If your company primarily sells products into specific roles within businesses, think what other products or services are sold into those individuals and hunt there. If you put your mind to it then you may be surprised by the increase in your candidate pool. If you find a candidate with a great track record of closing deals with the right people, and you can plug the product knowledge gap then go for it.
  • Recruit attitude over experience. Hunger, drive, energy and competitiveness can’t be taught.
  • Have a hiring plan. Sounds obvious but sales is not a sector you can drop in and out of to hire. Traditional methods of hiring such as job boards do not work in this sector. It is a pipeline building exercise that needs to be nurtured. You need a clear plan on who you want to engage with and you need to deliver great content over a period of time and create a great recruitment brand that stands out in a highly competitive sector.
  • Select a great recruitment partner or two. Work with recruiters who know the market, who can guide you through the process and get the right people on board. Then invest time with them to make sure they have as much ammunition as possible to work with. Check out their credentials and work with them through to a successful conclusion. Yes, it comes at a cost, but consider the ROI vs. the cost of hiring the wrong person, and a good recruiter will help you reach parts of the market and contacts you don’t have. Also, if they know their markets well you can gain invaluable sector knowledge which will help with future hires.
  • Using a high number of agencies is not the way to go. Many companies make the assumption that if they go out to a high number of agencies they will get better results and more candidates to select from. This is rarely the case. Generally it creates a CV bunfight, drives recruiters to send you CV’s without properly assessing candidates, and can put candidates off if they get multiple calls from different sources about the same role. It devalues your brand and demotivates the recruiters very quickly. They won’t go the extra mile for you and in many instances may not even bother putting any effort in.

These are just a few pointers. If you want to have a more expansive conversation and understand how you can overcome your own challenges please contact me at [email protected]

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