Apparently, the Hardest Thing to Sell Is a Sales Job

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There was a time when sales jobs were coveted, sought out by smooth risk-takers willing to sacrifice steady paychecks for the promise of high commissions.

Those days are ending now, according to a new survey from partner relationship management (PRM) provider Impartner. Approximately 90 percent of hiring managers surveyed report it is becoming more challenging to recruit and hire enterprise sales professionals, with 57 percent saying it has become even more difficult over the past 18 months.

Why is it so hard to find salespeople? A skills gap may be to blame, as 46 percent of respondents said they couldn’t find enough candidates with relevant sales experience. That’s a bigger problem than it may seem on its face. Salespeople who lack relevant experience will have trouble selling in today’s complex markets.

“A vendor of cloud-based collaboration software for the education marketplace needs a sales executive with experience selling these solutions to this type of buyer,” says Dave Taylor, chief marketing officer for Impartner. “At the very least, they need someone with background in their industry or the industries that they serve.”

Experience isn’t the only problem. As technology becomes more complicated, finding layman salespeople who can understand and communicate advanced solutions to customers becomes more difficult as well.

“It isn’t enough to have a basic grasp of whatever solution they’re selling,” Taylor says. “They need to be product experts if they’re to serve as trusted advisors to customers.”

Other challenges uncovered in the survey include the high compensation demanded by qualified candidates and more competition between organizations for sales talent.

“Those who are fully qualified for a position are often too expensive to hire – and, in addition to being costly, they’re also at high risk of being poached by peer organizations,” Taylor says.

Direct vs. Indirect Sales Revenue

At any given moment, your best salespeople could be poached by your fiercest competitors. That’s not very reassuring. However, putting resources into indirect sales can help to insulate you businesses in the event of lost staff – or worse, lost revenue when poached salespeople take customers with them.

“There’s no foolproof way to prevent a sales rep from being poached by competitors,” says Taylor. “This is why companies can’t put all their eggs in the direct revenue basket. Why struggle to hire direct sales pros in an extremely competitive market when the indirect sales channel can provide an immediate avenue to growth?”

Taylor notes that in order for indirect sales to make up for lost direct sales – even in part – companies have to get their partners working harder than ever. Companies that don’t have indirect sales channels already need to start building them “to avoid being left behind in the market.”

By relying on partners to provide indirect sales revenue through their channels, businesses can take the pressure off of their dwindling direct sales staffs. Consequently, the pressure on HR eases up a little, and hiring managers can hold out for the right candidates to drive those direct sales instead of desperately hiring everyone who comes along.

By Jason McDowell