According to a recent report by the Canadian Sales Association, commercial sales is “a rewarding profession that carries a 90% job satisfaction rate.” In addition to other insights, the report found that an increasing number of women, non-Caucasians and Millennials are joining sales teams. Increased demand for sales candidates has outstripped supply in many parts of North America. Attracting, hiring, and retaining top-shelf sales professionals is a challenge that many employers currently face, depending on their sector and geographic location.
For more insights into the western Canadian market for sales professionals in different industries, we asked two of our recruiting specialists to identify regional recruitment trends. Alessia Pagliaroli and Jessica Miles are our two senior recruiters specializing in B2B Sales and Marketing positions. They have a wide exposure to recruiting sales and marketing professionals in a variety of industries including IT, Life Sciences, Industrial Technology, Building Products, Pharma/Medical, Biotech, and Consumer CPG. Their geographic scope includes Canada, the USA and International.
What are you seeing in terms of regional demand for sales professionals?
It has become a candidate’s market in Vancouver
Jessica: “B.C. has a very diverse economy that is currently strong across many sectors. We have observed a tipping point in the last six to nine months where it has become a candidate’s market in Vancouver. We have had many situations in the last few months where candidates we are recruiting for our clients have at least one, and often multiple, other job offers to consider and compare during the period of their job search.”
Alessia: “My sectors have also held strong, including technology, from entry-level to managers. In Alberta, it’s a different story, which continues to suffer due to the downturn in oil and gas, but select industries are doing well, such as automotive aftermarket wholesale.”
Jessica: “Although it’s been slower in Alberta, recently we have seen some renewed demand in the Fort McMurray area. That is still a difficult market to recruit for because of the location. There is a preference of many potential candidates to fly in and out, rather than relocating, and there is still an expectation for high salaries.”
“In many cases, because the oil and gas economy is not as overheated as a few years ago, employers are now reverting back to their pre-boom standards of employee qualifications when hiring, which had been relaxed when the economy was booming. The best employees with top-notch qualifications are still difficult to find.”
What level of sales employee do employers want?
Employers like an ambitious personality
Jessica: “We have a lot of clients looking for the ‘young and hungry’ profile, candidates a couple of years out of college or university, with professional sales experience, training and attitude. Employers perceive them as having the energy to cold call and do whatever it takes to get the sale. The other common profile is for candidates with extensive, very specific industry experience in in the employer’s sector. That could be butterfly valves, software sold to government and enterprise clients, surgical devices or consumer products to specific retailers. They want specialized related experience. The real challenge is when an employer asks for quite junior candidates with extensive experience.”
Alessia: “Yes, that’s what employers might want, and it’s not always so easy to find. Also, when it comes to compensation, this generation is confident in their abilities and their value. A candidate may be just out of school, but they often want a good base salary as well as the upside. Matching the two can be challenging because employers like an ambitious personality, but they also want two to three years of experience, and currently employed candidates who meet these criteria are only going to consider a change if they see an upside in terms of compensation, career growth, or personal fit. A really great sales professional with only five years of experience will want to be compensated as a really great sales professional, regardless of years of experience.”
Jessica: “In addition to this, a lot of our clients are in the baby-boom generation, and they are talking about succession planning. They may not have groomed current management, so they are looking for leadership potential, candidates with some experience who can be fast-tracked to management.”
Are there many passive candidates looking to move?
Many factors affect their potential motivation
Jessica: “In our industry we are often connecting with passive candidates, people who are already working and not actively looking for new employment, to gauge their interest in a new role. Many factors affect their potential motivation to change jobs including compensation, work life balance, career growth opportunity, work environment or industry interest. Money is rarely the only factor though usually an important one.”
Would you say salespeople are more driven by compensation than other candidates?
They want to know that there is potential to grow
Alessia: “Yes, compensation is often a more important factor for sales candidates than professions. The commission structure is more relevant than the base; they want to know that there is potential to grow. The desire to earn more by their direct efforts is one of the reasons they choose sales as a profession and what drives them to success. “
Jessica: “It’s important to remember that there aren’t as many head offices in western Canada as there are out east; there often isn’t as much potential to move up the management ladder here. We often hear that salespeople are looking to change jobs to increase their earning potential if they feel capped out or underpaid by the compensation standards of their industry. There also are large differences in sales compensation among different industries from IT to pharma, to food wholesale.”
How does a Canadian recruiting agency like Goldbeck add value to the recruitment process?
It’s our job to uncover the numbers and to be aware of all economic trends
Jessica: “We’ve already touched on one, which is the network of passive candidates that we maintain – it’s an incredible source of information about the marketplace as well as a source of candidates. Employers usually have to rely solely on candidates actively searching for a job and applying to their postings. We’re also good at identifying people with proven sales accomplishments. It’s fine for someone to say they were a territory manager for ten years, but what did they accomplish? It’s our job to uncover the numbers and to be aware of all economic trends that might impact a candidate’s history. For example, it was completely normal to be laid off in Alberta in 2014, would not necessarily be a negative for a candidate. We would research the reasons behind it. Other candidates may have a period of sales growth in a booming market, but how much of that growth was due to the market vs the candidate’s initiative? We consider many factors.”
Alessia: “Hiring managers and HR departments rarely have the time to directly headhunt candidates from their competitors and related industries. Many of our clients initially come to us after they have tried positing their positions with no success. We directly headhunt, thoroughly screen, interview and qualify candidates so the employer only meets a small number of highly qualified candidates. Sometimes the position is so specialized that they may only see one or two candidates. We also have the expertise and experience to recruit across Canada and in the USA.”
Jessica: “We are also often asked to do confidential searches where the employer does not want the search made public for a variety of possible reasons.”
Your company’s sales compensation plan is not the only factor when attracting great candidates but it is of vital importance. How you pay and reward your salespeople makes a considerable difference in the success of your recruitment and retention efforts. In 2018, you can avoid losing good quality sales candidates by doing these three things:
- Include on-target earnings and market rate compensation as part of the job posting
- Be flexible when negotiating and make sure you present a competitive offer
- Don’t delay, make quick decisions when your recruiter presents an excellent candidate to avoid losing them to other offers
Contact Jessica Miles
Contact Alessia Pagliaroli