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The Big Sales Hiring Panic

Are you ready of the big sales hiring panic? Although my crystal ball is no longer functional, it is with some level of confidence that I can predict that markets will improve in the not too distant future, the investment will return to the software industry and companies will, once again, be required to triple in size overnight.

Some say later this year, some say next year, but whenever it is, I can also predict without a shadow of any doubt, that we will once again have a situation where companies are not prepared for the ‘hiring extravaganza’ that will need to take place to meet the needs of the  investors and we will once again be in the realm of the ‘panic hirer’ !

The competition for sales talent will begin once again, crazy numbers will be flying around and inbox’s will be full of messages offering unbelievable opportunities that will be absolutely ‘ideal for you’.

The paranoia will set in for Sales leaders who will be wondering why their top sales performer wants a day off and counter offers will be flying out the door.

The Great Resignation

The ‘great resignation’ will once again be the main talking point.

 According to a report published by YuLife, the tech-driven insurance company on a mission to inspire life, a majority of workers in the US and the UK (55%) are either starting a new job or are looking for one. A further 35% of working adults say it is likely they will consider changing jobs within the next year.

As recruiters, we live for these times, making sure we have enough cashflow and new business to keep us going until the ’good times’ return, when we can advertise proudly that we’ve just had a record quarter and ‘this is our best year ever’. When a company says they want a 90-100% match, but end up hiring a 50% match because they seem decent enough and we need to make the hire.

It’s at this point that the recruitment industry tends to double in size with anyone who has an idea of how to recruit, deciding to set up on their own. And why not, it’s a lucrative time, why make money for someone else when you can make it all for yourself. (The reality can be different but you can understand the drive)

Experience and Knowlege

I’ve been in the industry since the late 90’s and I’ve seen this happen a number of times, I remember Y2k when contractor rates went through the roof, I remember the dotcom bubble, the 2008 financial crisis and of course COVID.

I have stopped panicking in a downturn because I know it will be back, it always has and it always will and there will be many more to come .

But, what I have never understood, is that people never seem to learn from it.

When its boom time, they hire frantically in order to meet demand, making quick and ‘desperate’ hiring decisions to fill seats and take advantage of the improved market conditions.

Very rarely have they actually thought about this in advance and planned effectively for it.

If you speak to any Sales or HR Leader and ask them if they expect the market to improve and return to the ‘good times’, many will say YES, it’s ‘cyclical’ and we’ve been here before’.

They know that famine is followed by feast, they don’t know when it is likely to improve, but they know it will.

This is the bit that baffles me, they know it’s coming, they know that ‘panic hiring’ will return, but they are doing absolutely nothing to prepare for it.

To some extent, you could say this is quite understandable. When redundancies are happening, sales are down and the pressure is on to deliver, is anyone really going to focus on preparing for a boost in sales hiring in the future. This, in my opinion, is why very few organisations are prepared for an upturn, as it seems bizarre to think about planning for effective hiring in a downturn.

‘We’ll deal with it as and when the situation arises’

And so we return to the status quo !

Panic…. Panic…. Panic…..

So what is the answer?

The answer is quite simple really, it’s about engaging with prospective candidates well in advance of any hiring. It’s about speaking to candidates before they are actually candidate. It’s about establishing relationships and getting your brand in front of prospective employees now.

Let’s focus on sales hiring for now:-

If you asked a SaaS Sales Professional if they are actively looking for a new role now, a very very low percentage would say yes. If you asked the same SaaS Sales Professional if they were open to receiving information on new sales opportunities, a larger percentage would say yes, but would make it clear that they are ‘not looking’. If you then asked if they expect themselves to be more active on the market in the next 6-12 months, then it is very likely that there would be quite a few of them would say yes, or probably.

The average tenure for tech sales is about 18 months

It seems illogical to focus hiring efforts on a group of people that represents only a small fraction of the total addressable market, but by looking to recruit people at a time when you need them onboard, that is exactly what you are doing. By focusing on people that are active or interested in a move now.

Many may argue that they get a good response from their direct outreach when they are looking to fill a role.  I would argue that sales people are naturally inquisitive and many will always be interested to hear what it’s like in different organisation, but actually getting them to make a move at that moment is down to a lot of things, other than just an inquisitive nature.

If you’re not planning effectively for sales hiring, then you are never going to engage with and secure the best talent on the market.

Here are some tips

  • Start connecting with and talking to prospective candidates, even if you don’t know when you are going to be looking.
  • Keep them updated on the business and ensure your brand is always in sight.
  • Meet them for a coffee, start an informal interview process well in advance.
  • Don’t rely on the ‘speculative application’ link on your website – go and pro-actively reach out in a personal way
  • Treat it like you are prospecting for a new client
  • Use an external company, like Harvey Thomas, to build and manage a pipeline for you

Now, you may say that’s all well and good but what about replacing someone who has left, you can’t plan for that.

Never Stop Hiring – Talent Pipeline

Absolutely right, you can’t plan for that specifically, but you can plan for that eventuality because it is inevitable that people in your sales team will leave.

Imagine how much better it would be if you were already speaking to someone that could be a suitable replacement – How much time would you save ?

If you are looking at this from the perspective of a sales professional, the benefits of building a ‘prospective employer pipeline’ are also very clear – reduced stress from a job search, more time to make an informed decision and ability to plan around comms payments, deal closing and holidays.

The talent pool, or talent pipeline, is not a new concept, but it tends to be used as a place for storing applicants that either haven’t got the job or have applied speculatively and is used alongside advertising as a place for finding people for roles that need to be filled NOW, which means you are again reliant on them being available.

The key is to continuously recruit, regardless of your current needs and build a network/community/pipeline of great talent ready to start when YOU and THEY are ready.

Never stop hiring !

If you want to learn more about building and engaging a pipeline of future sales hires, get in touch with one of our specialist recruiters today.

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