Everyone keeps asking me "how is the economy effecting our business?" Well here it is. What we are seeing in our recruiting practice is that while there are a lot of people out of work, good sales professionals are not among them. While the economy is hurting, top sales professionals are still finding ways to sell their products and business is still getting done in many sectors of the economy. The majority of the sales professionals on the street today are merely the "farmers" that companies find hiding in their fields waiting for the phone to ring hoping someone wants to buy something
Companies are not letting their top performers go and why should they, they are the life blood of their business. In hard economic times, hiring top sales people is probably harder than in good economic times. We currently have over fifty sales positions open on our job board (http://www.brightmove.com/ATS/SearchPublicRequirements.do?companyGK=14657) and the majority of the applicants that are applying for these openings are not qualified for the position but merely hoping to get their resumes viewed by a recruiter. These candidates apply for every position we have clogging our system, adding to the amount of time we have to spend weeding them out and explaining to them why they are not qualified for the positions they have applied to.
I understand their desperation, I really do, but what most unemployed sales professionals need to understand is that when we are in an "employer driven market" like we are today, employers can afford to be picky about the candidates they are willing to interview. No longer are they willing to except a "good sales person" from another industry. Why not? They are not wiling to interview or consider candidates that just a few short months ago they would have been happy to see because they do not want to train new sales recuits and they honestly believe that they can get someone out of their industry. They would rather wait for one of their competitors to go out of buisiness or do a second round of job cuts (at least they can get tier 2 players) or wait for that promising start-up to loose its funding knowing that these sales professionals will be willing to make the jump and usually for less money.
So what does this mean for the few good sales professionals out there looking for a new career opportunity? It means you are going to have to be willing to put up with longer interviewing processes (most companies are taking from 2 - 3 months to make hiring decisions), providing more documented evidence of success, have a book of business you can call on immediately (get close to your former clients now even if its just to say hi and update contact information), and be looking for positions in your existing industry (this is no time to be thinking about changing your industry no matter how bad it might be!).
And what does this mean for employers? While it might be an "employers market" today don't be fooled into believing that good candidates are going to be beating a path to your door. Finding and retaining top sales talent is now and will always be a difficult task. You should be examining your compensation plans, in a down market sales will be lower and commissions will be less. This may be cause enough for your top talent to start looking for other opportunities.
If you are looking to fill several critical positions - don't wait hoping to hire that "all-star" from the competitor, they may never come. If your sales are dropping off, the only way to grow in a down economy is to have more "feet on the street" asking for orders. The longer you wait, the longer your road to recovery. I'm a firm believer that "top grading" a sales staff is best done in good times not lean ones. So start looking for top sales talent, proven winners in any industry, the time to teach product knowledge in far less than it is to teach sales knowledge.