Hiring salespeople is often among a business’s biggest budget line items, even costing more than software. Hiring and training a replacement inside sales rep can cost businesses anywhere from $75,000-90,000, on average. Other sales positions? Up to $300,000.
That’s a scary number, especially for small businesses. With turnover rates for sales positions as high as 30-40%, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) can’t afford to make mistakes when recruiting and hiring.
Figuring out how to reduce the cost of hiring top sales talent can be a crucial competitive advantage for SMBs. Below, I’ll walk you through some tactics to help you hire the best without blowing up your budget.
3 tips to recruit top sales talent without breaking the bank
Here are three tips to help you find the best candidates without spending a ton.
1. Write a job advertisement, not a job description
Too many job descriptions for sales positions are just that: descriptions. They’re boring and unappealing.
“The Sales Development Playbook: Build Repeatable Pipeline and Accelerate Growth with Inside Sales” by Trish Bertuzzi is full of advice for sales reps and managers. (It’s also on our list of “3 B2B Lead Generation Books You Can Listen to on Audible.”)
Bertuzzi advises hiring managers to write a “role elevator pitch” rather than a standard job description. This difference is essential in sales because the competition for top talent is fierce; a quick search for “sales representative” jobs on Glassdoor generates more than 100,000 results.
To attract the best applicants, you should use your job posting to sell the job to potential applicants. Betterteam recommends making the introduction count by starting with what makes this role attractive to applicants.
Be sure to briefly describe your company, not just simply state what you do. In the company description, tell candidates why they want to work for you.
This can include how long you’ve been around, your average employee tenure/turnover rate, and your most interesting clients and projects. If you offer opportunities for advancement, paid training, or a fun working environment, reference that in the job posting (and be specific about what it entails).
Bertuzzi recommends using videos with real sales reps at your company to show, not tell, candidates why they want to apply. Be sure to showcase any awards and accolades they or your company have received.
One of the best things about writing a great job advertisement is that it doesn’t cost any more than it does to write a bad one, making it an accessible area for SMBs to compete with enterprises in attracting great candidates.
2. Look for specific skills that match up with your unique sales context
Another book on our “3 B2B Lead Generation Books You Can Listen to on Audible” list is “The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million” by Mark Roberge.
Roberge writes about mistakes he made creating the sales team at HubSpot during the company’s early days.
One of those was trying to recruit top-performing salespeople. How was this a mistake? Because not every salesperson succeeds in every sales position.
Most salespeople have specific strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t help to find someone who’s great at building long-term relationships if most of your sales are one-and-done. Hiring someone who is great at something you don’t need is a huge waste of money for your business and frustrating for that employee.
The key to hiring the right person for your team is aligning their natural talent and your needs.
You may be inclined to hire someone who made the most calls at their last job. But if your product is a new idea in the marketplace that requires a lot of education, the ability to educate prospects is a talent you should prioritize over call volume.
On the other hand, patience and listening skills may not be all that useful in a sales context in which prospects already fully understand the benefits of your product and you just need someone to speak to as many people as possible in a short time frame.
Not only does hiring for your unique needs not cost any more than hiring people who are just top performers, but it can actually save you money. Roberge spent a lot of time and money wining and dining sought-after sales reps who didn’t end up being a good fit for HubSpot. Learn from his mistakes at your business.
3. Mine your network for passive candidates
Some people—like Bertuzzi and her clients—have a lot of success writing great job advertisements that help them find sales reps they want to hire. But if that’s not working for you, you may need to follow Roberge’s lead and craft a “passive recruiting strategy.”
While the above advice on crafting a compelling job listing should help you get better applicants, Roberge contends that “Great salespeople never have to apply for a job.”
Roberge learned this the hard way after posting job ads, interviewing hundreds of candidates, and hiring none of them. He has hired hundreds of sales reps, none of whom found him through a job board or posting.
Roberge finds that great salespeople are “passive candidates”; they’re not actively looking for a job but are constantly fielding offers from potential employers. In his experience, hiring the most effective salespeople isn’t as simple or cheap as posting a job listing and watching resumes roll in.
To create a passive recruiting strategy, Roberge began by hiring recruiting firms. He quickly realized that this was an expensive proposition, costing between 15 and 20% of the hire’s base salary.
Then, he turned to LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a powerful recruiting tool that can be leveraged effectively by SMBs, even if you don’t pay for premium features. Roberge used LinkedIn’s advanced search to create a list of qualified sales candidates, applying search filters such as zip code, job title, school, and company.
Your SMB can do the same thing, for free. Create an advanced search using your office’s zip code to exclude candidates who live too far away to reasonably commute. Then, add a filter for the job title you’re looking to fill, which ensures that the list will contain only candidates with relevant experience.
Better candidates at a lower cost-per-acquisition
Hiring isn’t cheap. It costs a lot no matter your business size, but for SMBs it can be the difference between success and failure.
Find great sales reps—affordably—by writing enticing job ads, prioritizing candidates with the right talent for your unique sales context, and using LinkedIn’s advanced search function. All of these actions are free, meaning your business can take advantage of them regardless of how small your budget is.