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The Sales Review

Learn about emerging best practices, strategies and insights on B2B sales today dedicated for the modern sales organization.

Attracting And Keeping Sales Talent

Posted by Dave Howe on Oct 23, 2016 7:00:00 PM

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A topic that doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as it should is attracting and keeping sales talent. Sales pro turnover rates are 20-30%, which is nearly double the turnover for all industries combined.

Sales Benchmark Index estimates per 100 pros this turnover rate is costing your company $15M - 25M a year! That’s why it’s so important to sales managers to not only continue attracting sales talent but perhaps more importantly, retain that talent as well.

Attracting and keeping talent have a few things in common. Frankly, to both attract and keep talent, you need to be doing things like hosting events, building culture and broadcasting successes on social media. 

You’ve got to look at the same three things from both internal and external capacity. In an external capacity they’re used for attracting talent, and in an internal capacity, for keeping talent.

Attracting A Talent Pool: External Events

Events are very important from both internal and external point of view for attracting and keeping talent. From an external point of view, there are now in most major cities at least in North America and other parts of the world tons of talent events happening on a regular basis.

A few weeks ago, Tech-fast hosted a recruiting event Steam Whistle brewery with over a 1,000 attendees from the technology industry. The event was very entrepreneurial and startup focused. There was a lot of talent there with a kind of young energetic vibe to it.

These are the types of events where companies are looking to gain visibility and attract the new millennial talent on their team. The old-school style of recruiting frankly is a lot more manual work, and doesn’t exhibit the company’s culture.

In recent history, when Sales for Life has been hiring people, we get an interesting mix of applicants. Literally we get people from Bangladesh and from Brazil putting in resumes for a job in Toronto. And while they may be very qualified individuals, and there is potential to hire them for some future expansion, at present time it’s just simply not what we’re looking for.

We’re looking for someone who’s close to home, who can easily commute to the office, who doesn’t require a work visa into the country to be able to join the team. There is just tons of talent so close to home that hiring someone half a world away just doesn’t make sense. And yet, through the traditional style of recruiting this is the talent we’re getting for our jobs.

Instead of this traditional and frankly outdated method, events are incredibly effective and can be utilized to not only find talent, but simultaneously to engage that talent.

You have two or three team members at one of these events and your energy, synergy and company culture comes through so much more than it ever would through a static job description on your website or LinkedIn. So while these static descriptions are obviously easy for you, you won’t attract the kind of savvy talent you might really be looking for.

I’m certainly not advocating giving up the use of recruiting websites and/or services by any means. All I’m saying is that having visibility and engagement at in-person talent events is incredibly important for attracting the new millennial style of employee who really wants to get a feel for a company before making a commitment to join their workforce.

You could even correlate talent recruiting events to the modern buyer. So much of what we do with social selling is educating sales professionals on the modern buyer, and selling the way that buyers wants to buy.

There’s no point in trying to educate your marketplace and buyer via the phone and email if they are digital and they’re educating themselves online. A seller needs be online where their buyers are educating themselves.

In the same capacity, a company needs to be hiring talent the way that talent wants to be hired. Millennials want to engage with the company in a social, casual environment with a drink in hand. And so for that reason, events are incredibly important for attracting talent.

Team Building And Growth: Internal Events

In terms of keeping talent, events of course play an essential role. At Sales for Life we like to organize company events at least once a quarter. It gives everyone an opportunity to connect outside of the office on a more personal level.

And while there are a lot of things that will attract someone to a company, at the end of the day, there are a few things more important than relationships in terms of keeping them in a company.

When an individual feels like they’re a valuable member of a team, when they can connect with the people on their team on more than just a 9 to 5 work level, when they can socially engage, and have a chance to interact in a kind of casual manner, it really goes the extra mile for building a company culture and keeping people on the team.

The reality of work is motivation is not a constant. And that’s one of the things that’s always bugged me about this whole self-motivated movement. Nobody is self-motivated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nobody on the planet — not even the Dalai Lama!

People need synergy, they need the people around them to bring them up and to work through the highs and lows in motivation. Because that’s the reality that frankly nobody wants to admit.

Sometimes sales marketing professionals may have a bad month, they may have a lot of things on their plates, they may be really stressed out. It’s their team and team events that bring everyone together. The team atmosphere helps re-energize and reinvigorate everyone so they can continue bringing each other up and to helping each other through these highs and lows in motivation, which are reality.  

Barbeque’s, Beers & Company Socials: Internal Culture

That brings us to culture. Culture is equally imperative in terms of both attracting and keeping talent. And events tie in very closely company culture.

Not only is this necessarily a quarterly event, but beer Fridays, company barbecue’s, just the idea of coming together regularly as a team and openly sharing ideas, talking about successes and learning experiences really go a long way to building a company culture that is essential for retaining talent.

Become A Talent Magnet: External Culture

Sharing these kind of events on social also obviously goes in hand with attracting sales talent. I mean, the companies around the world that have zero problem attracting a talent are the Google’s, Facebook’s and LinkedIn’s of the world.

They are known globally to have incredible offices, to have day-care centers for their employees’ kids, to have gyms, to have napping areas, to have games rooms… the list goes on.

The idea is to create a fun environment where people look forward to staying there engaging with their teammates after-hours in a more casual and social manner. Cultural relationships keep people around.

When that culture is then broadcast, when word of that culture hits the streets, that’s what’s really bringing new people to the door — when they get a feel for a company culture and it aligns with the type of environment they’re looking for. That’s when new people just continue to come in the door.

Do A Little Bragging: External Social

The idea ties perfectly into the the third pillar for attracting and keeping sales talent: the idea of social. Because social on an external level allows you to broadcast culture.

For instance, we recently started up the idea of our media center, which was to not only socially share valuable content for our marketplace as we do on a daily basis, but also to share company culture.

Starting up an Instagram, Facebook, or even Snapchat for your company, isn’t a bad idea. These are the social platforms that the younger generation, the millennials, are using now.

And when companies are there visible in a fun, yet professional capacity, it’s alluring to the younger generation and the new talent pool.

Digital Is Now Part of The Workflow: Internal Social

From an internal capacity, especially on the sales and marketing side, new talent wants to be able to interact with their consumers the way that they interact with their friends.

No longer do people have patience for company that has mandated no social media during work hours. Because their buyers and their marketplaces are on social, they need to be on social as well in order to be effective.

You might have heard the whole kind of joke between the CEO and CFO before. The CFO says, what if we invest on our talent, and they leave? And the CEO says, what if we don’t and they stay?

The same kind of mentality can be correlated to social interaction. Massive Fortune 500 companies still have incredibly stringent social media policies. The fear behind it being, well, what if we allow our employees to say anything they want on social media?

Well of course, the reverse of that is, what if they say nothing?

Reinvesting In Your Talent

A last point for attracting and keeping talent is investing in your talent. Millennials and new employees both want to develop their skill set and they want to build their skill portfolio.

It’s like that classic Richard Branson quote, “train your people well enough to leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” This couldn’t be more true today.

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve spent a lot of time personally developing the idea of our company’s internal development program. The program essentially allocates budget for people to be able to have the freedom to either take part in an internal development program or research and get funded for their own.

When companies have the capacity to see the importance investing in their internal resources, that’s when people really, really value a company.

The Law of Reciprocity rings very true for an employer as well. When you have first provided value, you are more likely to receive value. The same is true with loyalty. When you show loyalty and how you invested in your resources, you have then provided them value. They are significantly more likely to be loyal and to invest in you in return.

In summary, these are the four key pillars to attracting and retaining talent. Though the list is certainly not exhaustive by any means! This isn’t to say that there are no other valuable factors as in keys to keeping attracting talent out there.

But for companies that are looking to revamp their culture, companies that have gotten stagnant and are trying to attract the new millennial talent and having trouble, in my experience, these pillars go a long way.

Events, culture, social media and investing in your employees are 4 of the key aspects which are often overlooked or undervalued in many companies. And in order to attract new talent and keep the talent the they attract, these 4 areas need to be addressed and invested in.


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Dave Howe

About the Author

Dave is a gifted salesman with a passion for training. Having started from humble roots as a doorknocker in Australia, Dave quickly excelled over his decade long sales and marketing career to hold several VP and Director level positions. Prior to joining the Sales for Life team, Dave was involved with start-ups; building and training their sales teams from the ground up.