The Gartner Chief Sales Officer conference in Las Vegas this week was filled with interesting insights, and this one jumped out as a counter-intuitive factoid:

54% of sellers are actively looking for a job.

The reason for this is that 89% feel burned out. No surprise because the top 3 cited reasons for this can be explained in the sales context as follows:

  1. Work overload: Sellers must work harder than ever to achieve the same result.
  2. Lack of autonomy: When times get tough, leaders are enforcing process adherence, and a tendency toward micromanagement at the front line creeps in.
  3. Insufficient reward: Despite working harder than they ever have, average attainment for sellers is trending to an all-time low.

This being the case, it is natural to assume that hiring will be:

a) Faster (Wrong – Sales hiring timeframes went from 36 days in 2019 to 60 days in 2022 on average, according to Gartner)

b) Less expensive because there are fewer competing offers (Wrong – Sellers require at least a 20% OTE increase to switch roles)

The reason for these two surprising statistics in my view, is that sellers have serious ‘loss-aversion’ when considering making a change. No one wants to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. People are being very considered when it comes to new roles and the risk/reward ratio needs to make sense.

Two things CXOs need to do:

1) Get better at developing your own talent

In this environment, it couldn’t be more important to retain and ‘farm’ talent from within your organization. Annual salary increases vary, but the averages show that base salary increases typically fall in the 3-5%% range – A far cry from bringing in an equivalently qualified person who needs a 20% bump to move. If you reflect on the signing bonuses and OTE increases we saw in a hot market (2020-21) this insight should feel right.

2) Open your hiring aperture to get access to a more diverse range of A-Players

I have yet to meet a hiring executive who tells me they are spoiled for choice regarding A+ talent. Conversely, I have met MANY who are fishing in puddles, rather than the ocean. Executives can avoid creating an artificially small pool of A-Players by doing these two things, which were well articulated by Gartner’s Christopher Gamble:

Writing job descriptions that specify capabilities rather than qualities.

The field of software engineering was perhaps the first to the gate in getting this right. Forward-thinking companies didn’t specify ‘MSc in Computer Engineering’ – Rather, they would set a coding test, and if someone could write good code in the allotted time, then they were considered (Regardless of formal qualifications). This is now the trend, and it opens up the aperture to an incredible pool of talent.

The best-in-class sales organizations are now writing competency-based job descriptions and screening based on that – Not the school you went to.

Recruiting from non-traditional sources

I am sure you can think of several non-traditional sources, and I will give you another: One way to shorten the hiring time and avoid the 20% bump is to seek out ‘return to work’ professionals. Christopher Gamble made some very good points about this talent pool:

  • They can engage in a rigorous interview/assessment process without delay
  • They can start immediately
  • They are eager to prove themselves and are typically highly coachable
  • They typically have more life experience, which can be applied to rapport building and problem-solving in the complex sale

So, the call to action is as follows:

  • Keep your people by developing them and giving them a career ladder architecture they can be excited about
  • Take that notional 20% increase and put it into reducing burnout for your people
  • Open your hiring aperture by seeking out folks from overlooked populations