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Why Your Sales Talent Pipeline Sucks – 3 Answers

Why Your Sales Talent Pipeline Sucks - 3 Answers

The number one frustration we hear from sales leaders at companies looking to hire top B2B sales talent is a lack of qualified candidates. We even hear this from companies that have attractive positions and a compelling story. With white collar unemployment at 2.5% and dropping, building a strong sales talent pipeline of candidates is only going to get harder in 2016. Fortunately, several of the reasons most companies are struggling to find elite sales talent are fixable.

3 Answers Why Your Sales Talent Pipeline Sucks:

1. Using Job Boards?

With each passing year, I have watched the quality of sales talent available on the major job boards (CareerBuilder, Monster and even Linkedin ads) decline. The job boards might work for other roles but they flat suck for higher-end, B2B sales and sales leadership roles. To give you some data points, in 2007, 70.5% of the candidates Sales Talent Inc. placed were sourced from a job board or a job board resume database. In 2015, only 20.6% of our placements came from job boards and job board resume databases. This leads to the questions of why and how the quality could drop so much in just 8 years.

There is a simple answer for this. Linkedin. Today, all a top 20% sales performer needs to do to find a better sales job is be patient, sit back and wait for the right sales recruiter to reach out to them. Because of this, far fewer top sales performers are using the job boards. In summary, if job boards are your go to resource, you now know why your sales talent pipeline sucks.

2. Passive vs Active Candidates.

At any given moment, 40% of the workforce are either actively or casually looking for a new position. That leaves 60% of the workforce unreachable by the job boards (Linkedin Research). Guess which group contains a higher percentage of top 20% sales performers? Think about it. Top sales performers are excelling because they are focused on hitting their quota and maximizing their income. A high percentage of “active” job seekers, on the other hand, either lost their job, are about to lose their job or are in some way disgruntled.

With this is mind, sales recruiting in 2016 requires using resources that can tap into the “passive” candidate market. In 2015, 67.2% of Sales Talent Inc.’s hires were proactively recruited (think old school headhunting). From experience, I can share with you that recruiting “passive” talent is much harder than recruiting “active” talent. “Passive” candidates have a good job and will only consider moving for a better opportunity. This brings us to our final answer.

3. Your Company’s Online Presence.

A third explanation for a sales talent pipeline that sucks is a poor online Employment Brand. I’ve blogged extensively on this topic (short overview here). In short, professionals today are sophisticated, highly skeptical and look for “social proof” of a product or service (or sales job) before they consider buying (in this case, interviewing). Remember, a top sales performer is in demand and has choices. In my opinion, this “Yelpification” in hiring is a bigger game changer for B2B sales recruitment than even Linkedin. Companies will either get this right and win the talent war or neglect it and fall behind. This also explains why many companies and industries have an aging salesforce. “Old school” sales professionals that aren’t into social selling often don’t vet a company or sales position online (Glassdoor, Linkedin, etc.) before interviewing. Almost all Millennials and most Gen Xers do.

Winning the War for Talent.

Like it or not, the sales recruiting landscape has been and will continue to change rapidly. Today, filling your candidate pipeline with elite sales talent takes more than posting a job or calling the average sales recruiter. As depressing as that may sound, the alternate is a whole lot worse.

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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: