Sales Candidate Attributes:
Desired or Required?
By Lee B. Salz
Companies spend tons of money trying to attract sales talent through
job boards, yet they impair that campaign with what they put in
their ad. Close your eyes. Think of the perfect mate. Are you done?
Close your eyes again. Think some more. How long is your list of
requirements of the perfect mate? Are there five of them? Ten?
Perhaps, you have twenty. Think about your list again. Are each of
those really requirements of your ideal mate? Or, are those desired
attributes? On which items are you willing to be flexible? For
example, some people say the religion of their mate is a requirement
while height is only desired. For others, it is the other way
make decisions every day based on their desired and
required aspects. There are some aspects on which people can
compromise and others where they cannot. This challenge hits
employers when they are trying to attract sales talent to apply for
their open positions. Instead of creating ads on job boards that
invite folks to apply, they tightly close the spigot. I regularly
look at the job boards to see how companies are attempting to
attract great sales talent. What I find is interesting. Companies
place an ad listing what attributes are required of the
candidate. However, when I speak to companies about their ad, I find
that many of the items on their list fall more in the desired
also talked with sales people about their perceptions of a job
advertisement that lists requirements. "I look at the list of
requirements in the posting and if I don't have 100% of the
background, I don't submit my resume", said a sales person actively
looking for a new role. When I ask employers about their biggest
challenges, finding great candidates ranks high on their list. "It
just seems that we place an ad on a job board and we get few
candidates to respond," said one employer.
the disconnect. Employers publish job advertisements to lure sales
candidates to apply. Yet, that same tool is choking the entire
process. In essence, instead of enticing candidates to apply, they
are convincing them that they won't be considered. Here is an
example of the requirements section from a job board advertisement
successful candidate must have
with a focus on business or life science
from a well-respected institution
years sales management experience
years business to business sales experience to the Fortune 1000
knowledge of principles and methods in a recognized professional
field, or working knowledge of multiple fields
Well-versed in using CRM tools
Experience selling in disciplined, formal sales methodology is
be good at developing and articulating ROI to C-Level Executives
Telecommunications experience is a must
people meet this list of criteria? Very, very few. Would this
company really not consider a candidate that met the most critical
elements of their criteria, but was missing an element or two? Well,
by publishing an ad that is so restrictive, those candidates won't
apply. The company misses out on those potential superstars.
huge proponent of formulating a profile of a company's ideal sales
candidate. Yet, if that profile is so restrictive that only one
person in the world matches it, how will this company ever hire
anyone? I'm not suggesting that companies reduce their standards or
that they hire subpar performers. No one wins in those instances.
However, there are two follow-on steps of the process.
say you have come up with twenty items for your ideal sales
candidate profile. The next thing to do is to rank them in
importance so that each item is ranked one through twenty. The first
one on the list is the one deemed most important. In essence, you
are prioritizing the importance of the criteria. Not much different
than what people subconsciously do when searching for a mate.
that is done, the next step is to categorize each as either
required or desired. I won't insult your intelligence by
defining those. Start with number twenty (least important from the
prior exercise) and work your way down to number one. If this
exercise was done correctly, the lion share of the items become
"desired" while the finite few at the top become required. It
is the few items that are deemed critical to one's success in the
job that should be listed as required in an ad.
a challenging set of exercises, no doubt. That's the whole point.
You want to make sure you encourage the right candidates to apply
versus discouraging them. Thinking back to the company who had the
laborious list of requirements. Would they really not hire a really
bright individual who lacks the MBA component of the profile? If the
answer is no, they shouldn't list that in their ad as it discourages
potentially strong candidates from applying. Did they put the
requirement of a telecommunications background in the ad because
they prefer not to teach the industry? If the answer is yes, then
they wouldn't want to put that in the ad because they could miss out
on a superstar sales person who needs a little assistance learning
issue isn't limited to candidates and employers. Recruiters are
frustrated too. The company provides them with such restrictions
that they feel handcuffed in their ability to find the right
candidates. "I really want to help my client, but I feel like I'm
searching for a needle in a haystack. I don't dare send any
candidates unless I find an exact match to what they've given me,"
says one recruiter. Continuing on, "I don't think they intend to be
so restrictive, but that's what they have given me to work with."
Attracting great talent is very difficult to do. The great ones are
typically wedded to their employer. Don't let the few great ones
that are in the market get away. Make sure your communication to
attract talent is formulated to truly represent what was intended.
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