Why is There a Sales Talent Shortage?

If you are a company that relies on your sales team, whether you are a start-up or an established firm, you have probably realized how hard it is to hire and maintain talented sales personnel.

A recent Globe and Mail article, Companies Struggle with Shortage of Sales Talent, discusses how sales is in the top five hardest jobs to fill every year – not just in Canada but globally.

Why? Why are companies having such a hard time finding and/or keeping sales personnel?

One of the most important reasons for sales talent shortages is due to current demographic trends. Many millennials coming into the workforce are not as interested in a sales career in comparison with previous generations. They are interested in salaries, not commissions, and a flexible work/life balance. Many are not as willing to dedicate themselves to a profession that requires an intense commitment to success, often including frequent travel.

For companies to attract a wider pool of potential sales personnel, especially millennials, they may need to be flexible in how they structure their sales positions and compensation. For example, they could move to a higher salary and lower incentive compensation plan. This may require a closer and more active sales management approach when a senior sales representative who has been motivated by large commissions is replaced by this structure.  A company may also look at adding additional sales people in a territory and a compensation structure that does not increase overall sales costs but shares sales compensation over a greater number of individuals. This could help reduce travel and stress on the sales team and result in improved customer contact cycles and service.

It would appear, however, that companies are slow to act. A recent Manpower survey last year showed that only one in twenty companies are looking to increase salaries or enhance benefits, only three percent are redefining qualifying criteria to include individuals who have a “teachable fit,” and only one in ten will change recruitment strategies to reach untapped talent pools.

Companies that are best at recruiting sales people are always engaging and interviewing talent on an ongoing basis and not just when they have an immediate need. They also are good at developing bench strength within the company by hiring customer service and inside sales people who they believe will develop into excellent outside sales professionals. They also don’t take their current salesforce for granted and, over and above compensation, support them in their career goals, work/life flexibility, ongoing education, interesting assignments, and sincere appreciation for their successes.