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Recruiting sales candidates is never easy. Unfortunately, in the coming months, it will become even trickier. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant market upheavals, and these shifts will create an entirely new landscape in the talent market — especially when it comes to engaging passive candidates.

Some markets will escape the pandemic relatively unchanged or even more lucrative than ever, and top sales reps in these sectors will continue to excel in their roles. Other sales reps, however, will see their markets decline. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be ready to jump ship. Some will remain dedicated to their companies after witnessing how their leaders took care of their own. Other candidates may be interested in making a move, but they may understandably fear doing so in such an unstable market.

As we emerge into this new economy, we must determine the best tactics to keep our pipelines filled with top sales candidates. I recommend following these three steps to get on the right track:

1. Approach With Empathy

No two sales reps are going to have the exact same experience with this pandemic. Some may have excellent relationships with company leaders, but as the economy changes and their sales take a downward turn, they may start wondering what else is out there. Others might maintain their sales numbers — but under what conditions? The possible scenarios are virtually endless.

What all sales candidates — especially top-earning sales candidates — do have in common is an above-average ambition to succeed. They’re not willing to take no for an answer — but when the economy forces them into lower sales numbers or gives customers no option but to say “no,” the best reps know to exercise empathy. Sales candidates will appreciate it if you reach out to them with the same kind of empathy they’ve shown their customers.

Research what’s happening in specific industries. Record market trends and keep an eye on sector sentiment to assess candidates’ emotions as the economy changes. Once you have your finger on the pulse of your target industries, reach out to sales professionals with empathy and understanding. Let them know you understand what they’re feeling and are eager to discuss options for their futures.

2. Pick a Niche Outreach Channel

Passive sales candidates aren’t hanging around on major job boards and eagerly searching for their next career move. Especially during a downward trend in the market, they’re more focused on supporting customers and putting in extra hours to hit their sales quotas.

To reach these candidates, you need a more targeted outreach effort. For example, niche job boards aimed specifically at the sectors in which you’re seeking talent can be good sources of relevant candidates. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make your outreach personal. Send a tailored note to establish a personal connection, instead of reaching out with a stock template.

It also helps to become a known thought-leader in the spaces where your targeted sales candidates spend their time. Share industry information and insights to keep them updated during unpredictable times, and engage in conversations and trending hashtags to show you are a member of the community. If you have a credible reputation in these spaces, candidates will be much more receptive to your outreach.

3. Get Right to the Point

As mentioned above, passive sales candidates have little time to waste, and they’ll be extra leery of making a career change during a market shift. As a result, you only have one shot at making a memorable impression that gets them interested in your offer.

Give candidates a reason to immediately trust you by sharing as many details as possible in your first message, including compensation range, role expectations, benefits, company culture, and why you believe the sales rep would make a great fit. When feasible, you can establish an even stronger first contact by allowing sales managers to perform the initial outreach.

Don’t forget to include a quick note regarding the company’s previous success and plans for the future. At the top of their minds, candidates will be wondering about a company’s current health and how equipped its leaders are to weather the storm.

Here’s an example of what an initial outreach message might look like:

Hello, X. I’m Karyn, a sales manager at Y Company. We’re a medical technology company that reached an evaluation of nearly $1 million last year. Now, our close-knit company of 50 is looking to expand our sales team as the demand for our product increases.

You immediately stood out to me as a good fit for our account executive role due to your communication skills and sales experience. In this full-time, flexible position, you’d be in charge of maintaining current accounts and nurturing new business relationships alongside a dedicated and supportive team. You’d earn a base salary of $60,000, with an overall earning potential of $100,000 with commissions.

I’d love to share more about our plans and discuss how your communication skills and passion for sales have made you successful in your current field. Let’s connect for 15 minutes this week. Does Friday work for you?

By getting right to the point with a clear, concise, and detailed message, you immediately show the candidate you mean business. This will make them much more intrigued in your role and much more likely to consider your offer.

Karyn Mullins is president of MedReps.com. Connect with Karyn on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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