4 Sales Recruiting Trends to Be Ready for in 2020

December 16, 2019

Though 2019 has been “slow” relative to years prior, headlines and financial experts everywhere are predicting U.S. economic growth to accelerate in 2020… and that a recession will not hit as feared.

And according to Gartner, by the time 2021 hits, the software industry will have grown another $113 billion.

This likely means unemployment will continue to reflect record lows (something it’s been doing faster than predicted) and that the war for talent will likely be fiercer than ever.

So if scaling your sales organization is a priority in 2020, here are the things you need to be aware of to make sure you do so successfully.

1. Marketing and Candidate Experience Will Be Table Stakes

An increase in competitiveness in the marketplace means candidates have more choices than ever. So giving them a reason to choose you will be essential next year.

What makes them want to choose you? In my experience both as a salesperson and as a recruiter, it’s primarily been four things:

  1. They want the work they’re doing to matter to them
  2. They want to feel like you’re invested in their success
  3. They want a product/service that’s doing something powerful
  4. They want leaders that can walk their talk

That’s why building your brand within the marketplace will be the key to cutting through the competitiveness.

Just like a strong brand helps your sales team get their foot in the door, it also helps you build a relationship with the prospective talent that will help you grow.

How to build a magnetic brand

The power of content done well from your own, genuine point of view is fierce. Stepping outside of your career-site to publish content on LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora and industry blogs connect people to your mission and can help candidates see how their work would be meaningful long before you’re even ready to hire–making it easier to do so when it’s time.

It’s an opportunity to showcase what you care deeply about, are working on and how you’re solving problems and is a powerful way to bring people that care about the same things your way:

Not only that, it connects you with new potential buyers as well (don’t forget, the lines are blurred and they could be one and the same).

The candidate experience during the entire interview process is a crucial piece of this puzzle as well. It shows them what it will be like to work with you if they accept your offer (i.e. that you’re invested in their success).

2. Work Flexibility Will Cease to Be an Option

A study by Global Workplace Analytics found that more than 9 out of 10 U.S. employees would like to work remotely for at least 2-3 days a week.

They also found that only about one-quarter to one-fifth actually do, which is a pretty big gap between what people want from their work environment and what they’re actually getting.

And because “water always flows downhill,” if you offer a flexible work arrangement, you’ll instantly be more attractive to just about every candidate.

Not only that, if you don’t implement one, it will put you in a position where your team might be on it’s way out the moment they get an opportunity that does offer it to them.

Types of flexible work arrangements

Modern sales rarely requires you to be in the office on a day in/day out basis (furthermore, the chances that they’ll all be within driving distance of the office is slim).

But if building culture is a concern for you, there are ways to create flexibility for your team other than going fully remote. Offering partially remote arrangements (telecommuting) is a great way to provide the benefits of remote while also having dedicated time to connect in one location.

3. Hiring Sales Leaders Will Get Harder

Hiring sales leaders is already difficult and with the average tenure of 19 months (and shrinking), the table stakes are higher than ever before.

Every year, FirstRound has conducted an annual survey of startup leaders to learn what is on their minds. And every year, they’ve agreed that hiring sales leaders is getting harder:

With the economy where it is, this trend will likely either stay the same or get worse in 2020. So to make sure you’re nailing hires like your VP of Sales, you’ll want to focus on 2 critical things:

  1. Marketing/branding: It starts from the top down. And just like with your sales team, putting out content that connects them with your mission and focusing on candidate experience will be critical in helping you make this critical hire too.
  2. Understand who is right for your business: Not all CROs/VPs of Sales are the same or do well at your stage and mishires at this level are VERY costly! So you need to make sure you really know who you need before you make a move.

Seek out help if you’re unsure of any of these things. There is a lot on the line with sales executive hires!

4. Talent Retention Is Just as Important as Client Retention

Hubspot recently shared that their top-performing articles of all time (in terms of traffic) are about doing interviews better to get sales hires right, meaning this is a top priority for leaders.

It’s harder than ever to replace salespeople when they leave, due to how competitive the talent market is.

That’s why retention will be more important than ever in 2020… just as much as client retention (you can’t have one without the other).

Here are four proven strategies for retaining your best salespeople:

  1. Create opportunities to help them growth – Top performers hate feeling stagnated. Find ways to give them opportunities to achieve more. This starts in the hiring process through open communication and carries over well after onboarding.
  2. Work on your leadership – Strong, collaborative leadership is THE top priority of the candidates we talk to those who are looking to make a move! Walk your talk as they say…
  3. Build culture – This is a heck of a lot more than unlimited PTO and beer… it’s about keeping your mission and values at the center of everything you do!
  4. Invest in their success – Help the people on your team be the best version of themselves. Get out in the trenches, listen, and take meaningful action.

Key Takeaways for 2020

The keys to your success in recruiting will be the same as they are in sales: building relationships, galvanizing the right people to support the mission and focusing on reducing churn because you’ve created a path to success together.

Do these well and you’ll scale quickly even in this tough market!

Founder and CEO of Avenue Talent Partners

With more than $100MM in revenue sold, a LinkedIn Insider and Top Sales Voice, Founder, Strategic Advisor, and LP at Stage 2 Capital, Amy Volas is a sales fanatic turned entrepreneur. She was bitten by the startup bug many moons ago and couldn't imagine spending her time anywhere else. She created Avenue Talent Partners to help grow early-stage startups through some of their most valuable assets - executive revenue leaders.