Sales Recruitment in South Africa – Insights and Recommendations for Employers and Job-Seekers


With the high rate of unemployment in SA, no doubt you know someone on the move, or a company looking for new sales folks. I thought you might find my perception of the sales employment sector of interest.

Not based on scientific research as such, just my ‘personal take’ on what I’ve seen happening out there and from ongoing feedback received in the sales employment sector over the past 9 years.

Insights – For Employers

1. Good sales managers and salespeople with the right skills are becoming even harder to find but because some companies don’t look after their superstars, there are always good people on the move.

2. Recruitment agencies are more savvy in placing sales folks but handling sales positions is still one of their greatest challenges thus you need to manage the process carefully.

3. There has been a major increase in employers advertising directly because of online tools such as LinkedIn and to save the cost of recruitment agency fees.

4. Poor quality CV’s and overwhelming response rates to adverts are making it harder to filter down to find the right people.

5. There is still very little (if any) proper onboarding assistance provided to new sales employees to help them ramp-up effectively in the first 3 months, especially for new business development.

6. Many sales salaries offered don’t seem to have kept up with inflation over the past 5 years, nor have petrol and cell phone allowances.

Insights – For Sales Folks on the Move

1. PNet and more recently Careers24 as well as LinkedIn are still among the top online portals used by both employers and recruiters.

2. It’s a tight job market but there are always good jobs out there for good sales folks at any one time.

3. 80% of CV’s I receive are poorly presented, are often inaccurate and incomplete – including those of sales managers, key account managers and sales admin folks. Clients and recruiter colleagues tell me the same.

4. There is still no “benchmark” for sales salaries – massive differences as seen from sector to sector and within each sector.

5. I’m seeing very little preparation done ahead of interviews – whether with the recruiter or the employer.

Recommendations For Employers

1. Try recruit directly. Develop skills on how to recruit salespeople and managers effectively – there is loads of info available online.

2. Use PNet, LinkedIn and/or Careers24 – single ads only cost from R595 to R1300 for 30 days.

3. Check out too, this is a no-charge job site that also pulls in every job advertised on career portals – there are also some great smaller career portals within industry sectors i.e. BizCommunity for the advertising/media sector.

4. Make sure you’re giving your newbies the support they need in the first 3 months – this still remains one of the main reasons salespeople (especially the really good ones) leave within the first year.

5. Use my LEFT principle (Look Everywhere For Talent).   Recruit/network all year round to ensure you have a few potentials ‘in the wings’ at all times. Waiting until someone leaves and then only starting to look will place unnecessary pressure on the whole team and put sales revenues at risk.

6. Look after the good people you have. They will be snapped up in days because of the sales talent shortage out there.

7. Be efficient and professional when recruiting – not getting back to applicants or taking months to make a decision is unacceptable and just damages your brand through word of mouth.

8. Use personal networks and referrals as your primary source of finding quality sales folks, but don’t take any shortcuts – formal interviews and extensive work history and reference-checking is essential.

9. Be open to employing older sales folks i.e. over 50 – they can be exceptional assets and have a great deal to offer.

10. Be open to having to train juniors who have the right attitude but may lack experience or some selling skills, especially if your salary offering is low.

11. People need to cover their basic running costs. Offering no basic or a very low basic with no car, no petrol or benefits and only the promise of high commission generally doesn’t attract the person you’re looking for

12. If you don’t have a formal sales process in place, if you don’t know the length of your sales cycle, if you’re unprepared for the onboarding of your newbie, then expect your ramp-up period to be much longer. 3 months’ probation is unfair if you’re not giving the newbie the support he or she needs.

13. Don’t exaggerate on what a fantastic sales environment you have or how easy it is to make “massive amounts” of commission in a desperate attempt to attract a sales performer or to fill a sales position quickly. Within the first few months, the newbie will soon suss out the real lay of the land and move on. Not only are you messing with someone’s career, the cost to the company is huge.

Recommendations For Sales Folks on the Move

1. Approach job-seeking like a true sales professional – use your CV to articulate your value. A poorly-presented CV speaks volumes as does a great one.

2. Don’t apply for every job out there, be selective and play to your strengths. If you absolutely hate prospecting from scratch, then don’t apply for that job, you’ll just end up being performance-managed out in the months ahead which could be incredibly stressful.

3. Tap into your personal network and reach out to managers at companies you’d like to work for. Nurture those relationships.

4. Keep a ‘career file’ from the day you started your first sales job and keep your CV and supporting documents up to date.

5. Google yourself – if we can’t find you or you haven’t got a decent online presence, it tells us you’re not on top of your networking and prospecting skills.

6.  Lying or being anything less than 100% honest on your CV will come back to bite you at some point – every detail is checked these days. It’s a small market and people talk – don’t damage your brand.

7. Do your research on your prospective new employer thoroughly, including the management style of the person you’ll be reporting to; make sure that the grass IS greener.

Article from The Weekly SalesBrief For SA Sales Professionals – subscribe here

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