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What is Creating a Sales Talent Shortage and How to Solve It

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Do you have vacancies for Sales Management and Sales Team members and struggling to fill them? Is there a sales talent shortage, or has the game changed, and you missed the memo?

Today’s media is full of conversations around the great resignation and related stories of being unable to find staff as Australia emerges out of lockdown. But is the great resignation and staff shortages a symptom of other issues employers are starting to experience? What effect is this having on sales forces and their management?

Over the past eighteen months, sales staff and their management have faced once-in-a-lifetime challenges selling in a difficult market. Some companies were able to shine, and others, particularly those with territory representatives or field reps, were locked out of their customer base. The loss of the live conversations was restricted to known mobile numbers only. Zoom calls create pressure on changed selling practices.

The telemarketing industry has been hit hard with the challenges of reaching out to potential customers or customers to engage in conversations. Central switchboards became message centres with communication via Microsoft teams and similar platforms. Unfortunately, those messages were deleted as quickly as they arrived as sales reps were unable to get responses. In addition, emails are being ignored, and opening new doors is nearly impossible for some industries.

Many companies have pivoted how they do business in an attempt to address the challenges and work on finding ways to streamline conversations and gain access to decision-makers. Some were successful, and others not as well due to the industries. For example, hospitality sales, tourism, and other similar sectors had no demand driving them, so sales calls were no longer relevant.

For many employers and human resource departments, the strain and pressure experienced by sales is often underestimated as they lack an understanding of the nuances of sales, which is reflected in their advertisements. The advertising content reads like job advertisements from a flourishing market back in 2018 and 2019.

The advertisements reflect a market where companies chose people to hire and could set the tone for who was on the team and who was out the door.

Sales management and sales teams have endured 18 months of sales hardship through lockdown and industry impact. During this time, they have had time to consider their careers, their industry, and importantly, the companies and management where they wish to work.

1.      The priorities have changed, and one of the contributors to sales talent shortages is candidates are looking to shift to other industries. They can see the longer-term damage and potentially low sales numbers that will be delivered over the next one to two years. So they are moving on to more prosperous industries.

2.      Some companies have been understaffed for a sustained period of time, and sales management has had to go back to selling and salespeople carrying the quota of vacancies in the team. As a result, they feel overworked and overwhelmed by the pressure of the new selling environment. This will be the biggest motivator for changing roles. If the feeling of being overworked is not starting to lift, they will be moving to companies that have recovered more quickly from the lockdowns.

3.      Industry loyalty is no longer as strong as in the past. People are learning new products quickly and can change lanes to similar industries rapidly. Employers may prefer industry experience, a mainstay of hiring in the past, but they will be potentially locking out great candidates with this old-school thinking.

4.      Sales management is savvy and can identify companies that have adopted practices to align them to the new selling environment. They are looking for companies of the future, not companies resting on their laurels from past years. Big brand names no longer are a solution to attracting talent.

5.      Salespeople across the board are the first to leave a company that is not hitting its numbers. They can see the writing on the wall, and if the extra effort in selling does not reap the rewards, they are on the move. In addition, salespeople are savvy at identifying potential issues in companies.

6.      Who will manage them? The most important decision for any staff member looking at new sales positions. What will the manager contribute to their career? How do they manage? What is being expected of them? How real is the job description to the actual role on offer?

7.      When applying for roles, all these points are considered. The final step is ‘what are the perks?’. The commission, the working environment, the hours, the KPIs, and the other team members.

Candidates are in the market looking, but they are scrutinising the jobs more closely. They are reviewing the content of job advertisements closely to shift through what is on offer and research the company. They are not randomly applying for a multitude of jobs as seen in the past. Instead, they are reviewing, qualifying, and carefully selecting who they will apply for. They know their talents are in high demand so they have time to be selective in their next career move.

1.      Have an Employer Page on the job board that conveys the right messages and information that today’s candidates can evaluate your company. Marketing departments need to be active in posting those Employer Pages and managing the brand and messaging.

2.      Advertisements need to balance the company’s requirements with the candidate’s requirements and offer a point of difference and a way forward post lockdown.

3.      Employers need to be open to candidates from like industries where their selling capability transfers over, and product training is a part onboarding process.

If you implement the required changes, you are most likely going to realise an increase in candidates applying for positions.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.