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Bay Area Sales Recruiting – 4 Keys to Succeeding in an Impossible Environment

Bay Area sales recruiting has always been more challenging than all other metros in the U.S. and in our experience, the world. There are a number of reasons for this: a less than 4% unemployment rate, the most expensive real estate in the U.S. and a staggering number of technology companies headquartered here competing for talent. These factors combine to create a candidate driven marketplace that is difficult for those outside of the Bay Area to comprehend. At Sales Talent, these challenges have forced us to adopt several strategies that we follow with every Bay Area search. In addition, we’ve learned the hard way that it’s imperative that all of our client’s decision makers are on the same page with regards to how we’re going to execute.  

Bay Area Sales Recruiting – 4 Keys:

1. Speed.

In the know companies have dramatically decreased the length of time it takes to move a candidate through their interview process. This is a point that I brought up in a previous post – Sales Recruiting in Tough Markets. It’s not unheard of to see a strong sales rep receive an offer within 48 hours of a first interview. Please note that I said strong and not exceptional sales rep. If you come across a sales professional that Can Do the Job, Will Do the Job and Fits your company, be prepared to execute. Speaking from experience, waiting to “see more candidates” is a recipe for a territory that is open for a long, long time. With all brutal recruiting environments, speed can be a competitive advantage.

2. Present A Competitive Offer.

The median income in San Francisco was 55% higher than the national average in 2014. If the average increase in wages continued at the preceding 3 years’ pace the median income will be closer to $90k in 2016. Again, this is “average” with an emphasis on average. Top performers are earning well into six figures.

San Francisco Income Growth

The takeaway from this data is clear. There is a battle for talent that is driving wages up faster in the Bay Area faster than the rest of the country (we see this especially in San Francisco and San Jose). If anything, this increase in wages is showing signs of accelerating. To be clear, I am not advising our clients to jump into a bidding war. What I am advising them to do is start with a competitive compensation package and be prepared for candidates to counter offer.

3. Broaden Your Profile.

It’s important to note that the pay in certain counties in the Bay is much higher than others. Be open to using that to your advantage. We also advise our clients to broaden their hiring specs. This could mean looking at candidates with less experience as an example. We also brainstorm with our clients to uncover new backgrounds that could work.

4. Be Realistic.

Superstar, can’t miss sales professionals with bullseye resumes can usually name their salary. If you’re not prepared to join the bidding war, you’ll have to be a little (maybe a lot) more realistic with your hiring specs. Sales Managers holding out for the perfect hire can be holding on for a long time.

“Perfect is the enemy of the good.”


How to Execute with Bay Area Sales Recruiting.

At the beginning of this year a long-time Sales Talent client needed to hire a sales rep to cover Northern California. Going into the search we knew that their compensation package was on the low-end for the market and advised them of the challenges when recruiting in the Bay Area. Fortunately they were on board with modifying our usual hiring process. The strategy we came up with included adding Sacramento to our target markets and increasing the salary to the upper limit of what our client could offer. 2 ½ weeks into the search we had found who we (Sales Talent) felt was our hire. The candidate was immediately scheduled for a phone interview. We kept recruiting (plan B) while our client fast tracked the candidate through the process. One week later that candidate was presented with a strong offer which our candidate countered with a well-reasoned response. Our client agreed with the request and the search was closed 36 days after it was opened. Compare this to our usual hiring process with this client which has taken us an average of 61 days from start to hire. Sales Talent continuously recruits talent until we’ve assembled a group of 3-5 vetted and “on spec” candidates that our client then meets with face-to-face for the first interview. The next 2 steps of their interview process usually takes 2-3 weeks to finish. That process was simply too long to succeed in the Bay. In short, successful Bay Area Sales Recruiting comes down to execution.

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. We post a new blog once a quarter on the 3rd Thursday of every January, April, July and Oct. These posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

You can find Chris Carlson on LinkedIn or contact him directly at: