We’re at an interesting point in history. Sales jobs have surged as the world recovers from COVID, with many paying quite well. But companies can’t seem to find enough young talent to fill open positions.
Why is that?
In this post, I’ll fully unpack this phenomenon, explaining how the demand for sales jobs has increased, why recent grads are hesitant to become salespeople, and what you can do to make your company a more appealing place to work at.
The Demand for Salespeople is High…
Let’s jump right into the data. Recent research found sales roles have shot up by a staggering 65% in 2021, totaling around 700,000 positions in the US alone. After huge layoffs at the start of the pandemic in mid-2020, sales jobs are definitely back, which is illustrated by this graphic.
It should also be noted that many sales reps make good money. According to data from the US Department of Labor, those selling technical and scientific products earned over $108,000 in 2020.
Companies are in dire need of talented salespeople, and this isn’t a trend that’s likely to slow down any time soon. As more and more people become vaccinated and with interest rates being slashed in many countries like the US, this has led to rapid economic growth across much of the world.
Just check out this graph from the BBC that shows how the Dow Jones and other major stock market indexes have quickly climbed since the first vaccine was announced.
Combine that with stimulus checks and the fact that many people have resumed their pre-COVID buying habits, it creates a climate where sales jobs are very much in demand. In fact, it’s arguably easier to land a position as a salesperson than it’s been in recent history.
…But New Grads Are Reluctant to Get Into Sales
What’s interesting, however, is that companies are really struggling to fill these positions. There seems to be a new sentiment among new grads where they’re just not as inclined to become salespeople as previous generations have been in years past.
And it boils down to one main reason. Young talent largely equates this profession to working as a “sleazy used car salesman.”
In an article on The Wall Street Journal, business education reporter Thomas Patrick articulates it perfectly saying, “Many young workers assume that sales work means convincing customers to buy with high-pressure sales tactics, and are turned off.” In other words, there’s the lingering perception for many recent grads that they’ll be burned out sitting behind a desk, cold calling leads all day, and trying to clobber them over the head to buy.
That mental imprint is understandably a little cringy, so it’s easy to see why many companies are having so much difficulty assembling sales teams. The question is, how should you respond to this?
How to Appeal to Top Talent in the Current Sales Recruiting Climate
First, you need to understand the paradigm shift that’s happened in the sales world as of late. “Sales has dramatically changed in recent years, shifting from cold calls to potential customers to consulting with companies that often seek out products,” says Patrick.
One term I use frequently is trusted advisor, where leads are far more receptive to salespeople they view as a consultant who’s there to help them find the right fit, rather than someone who’s merely trying to get the quick sale and jam products down their throat. Research has even found 88% of leads buy when a rep assumes the position of trusted advisor.
So that’s the approach I recommend most companies take, as it aligns with the new era of customer empowerment, helps quickly build trust, and is simply more effective than outdated high-pressure sales tactics.
Second, you need to let applicants know this is the approach you take. “Changes in sales accelerated during the pandemic, and businesses are trying to entice more people into the job by demonstrating that they don’t have to operate in a pressure-cooker environment (or work the phones) the way sales workers once did,” Patrick adds.
I personally recommend making specific mention to this in your job description, letting potential applicants know they’ll take a more consultative role rather than a hyper-aggressive one. It’s also smart to work elements of this philosophy into the “about us” section of your website. This kills two birds with one stone because it should make your company more appealing to salespeople as well as leads who are considering buying from you.
Lastly, focus on finding salespeople with legit selling skills and who exhibit signs of curiosity and empathy rather than those who simply have a ton of industry/product experience. This is something I covered extensively in another post that you can read about here. Given that not many people intentionally target sales as a career while they’re in college, but rather often fall into it, some of the best and brightest may not have extensive experience in your industry or selling your product.
That’s why I recommend looking for people with the key traits I just mentioned, as well as others like ambition, tenacity, and initiative. Remember that you can always train someone on products, but you can’t teach “the it factor.”
Adapting to the Current Sales Recruiting Climate
Despite exploding job opportunities and solid salaries, there’s a reluctance among most young talent to get into sales. Something that’s mainly due to the perception of old school, hard-nosed sales tactics. But this is something your company should be able to overcome by taking a more consultative approach and seeking candidates that possess the relevant characteristics.