4 challenges troubling salespeople todayBY PATRICIA TAN
Sales professionals are always in demand across many industries in Singapore. However, many employers find it challenging to find the right sales professional to join their company. The immediate and palpable challenges that most employers face is the limited talent pool combined with high turnover rates.
This dual challenge faced by organisations results in a vicious cycle for the hiring and recruitment process of sales professionals. Hiring managers are unable to find suitable employees due to the talent crunch and find it hard to retain top talent.
There are a few reasons that contribute or are a part of this phenomenon in the sales industry that results in a limited talent pool and poor retention rates.
1. Too many ‘farmers’ and too little ‘hunters’
One challenge that is troubling hiring managers today is that the marketplace seems to be packed with sales professionals who exhibit characteristics of a ‘farmer’ rather than that of a ‘hunter’.
Farmers are sales professionals those who tend to cultivate and nurture relationships with existing clients, while hunters are those who are in constant lookout for new customers and are focused on closing new deals.
‘Hunters’ are preferred especially by new setups due to their aggressive and resourceful nature in bringing in new opportunities and generating revenue.
These sales professionals typically are apt at doing cold calls and finding new avenues and contacts to sell products and reap profits from commissions and this is critical to a start-up’s success in the local market.
Additionally, established companies find it equally challenging in searching for an adequate number of sales professionals who are able to ‘hunt’ for them, resulting in a limited pool of clients and more account managing than revenue generating.
Due to the high turnover rates and low job stability of sales professionals, it is also difficult for hiring managers to employ ‘hunters’ with proven track records.
2. Skills shortage due to non-transferable knowledge and lack in training programmes
A big contributor to the talent crunch faced by the industry lies in the nature of skills that sales professionals possess – these skills are often non-transferable and limited to a specific sector or industry. As a result, it is difficult for these professionals to switch roles or break into new industries.
Companies are also often reluctant to spend their time and money on training their sales employees and would rather pay a premium in hiring an experienced sales professional who is already familiar with that specific sector or industry the company operates in. And this result in a vicious cycle where the same talent pool is restricted to one area and professionals are unable to break into new sectors or industries.
The same sales professionals will experience inflated salaries because of the talent crunch, especially when start-ups are looking for talent from that specific sector.
Currently, there is a lack of consultative, solution-based professionals in the market. The current pool of sales professionals in this industry is mostly familiar with product sales, and since their knowledge is non-transferable, this pool of professionals is severely limited.
Moreover, the telecommunication industry has been unable to meet its demand for channel sales professionals and this talent crunch is directly attributed to the non-transferable skill-set and the unwillingness of companies to spend on training.
3. Start-up dilemmas: Lack of local talent for hire
Many start-up companies entering the local market have difficulty attracting local sales professionals as these local professionals are too conservative to join them even for a premium. These start-ups, especially in the IT, payments or professional services sectors, often require sales professionals who have high-risk appetites and are capable of doing the necessary ground work to capture sales and generate revenue.
However, local sales professionals are known to be particularly risk-averse and are unwilling to venture into start-ups where they are in high demands, especially since these foreign companies want to break into a local market.
4. Difficulty in Managing Sales Professionals
Managing sales professionals has always been a challenge for companies. Sales professionals are always incentivised primarily through monetary benefits, and this accounts for the high turnover rate across the industry as well when companies poach sales professionals with higher salaries or more lucrative commission structures. Hence it is hard to also manage and meet the expectations of sales professionals.
What Can Companies Do?
In order to overcome these challenges in today’s market, companies should do a lot more with regards to the areas of training and development as well as looking at different forms of incentives for sales professionals.
Companies need to change their perspective of training and development for sales professionals. They should see it as an investment and a sustainable way to grow and manage their sales professionals instead of a waste of their time and effort. Without proper investments in training and development, the talent pool will always be limited, and skill sets will remain fixed to sectors and industry.
Additionally, retraining staff and providing learning opportunities is also an incentive for sales professionals to stay with a company as opposed to switching roles for monetary incentives. Beyond monetary incentives, management also needs to look at providing the platforms for career progression for sales professionals, which is a more sustainable way to retain talent. This could include broadening opportunities for these people from local roles to regional roles and beyond.