When we think about jobs in the technology industry, typically programmers, engineers and marketers come to mind. But what about the sales people, particularly B2B sales people? The rapid pace of innovation has created an exponential demand for B2B sales professionals. Just look at the explosive growth of AI, and the industries it is expected to revolutionize. Adoption of new technology can’t be achieved without businesses selling to businesses. This means it’s a lucrative time to be swimming around in the IT sales talent pool.
I had the good fortune to sit down with Elza Marincus, Head of Talent Acquisition here at SALESDOCk. She is the cofounder of the external recruitment division, which specializes in providing sales and marketing talent for its clients as well as executive recruitment. With over twelve years of experience in recruiting, she is the go-person for anyone seeking career advice. Elza has quite the story to tell. She started from absolute zero, and actually landed her first position by hunting her employer.
Given the increasing demand for sales talent, I was curious to find out what Elza sees as some of the top trends in recruiting in the B2B sales industry. Her answers might surprise you.
What’s the primary tool that you use when recruiting for positions in the B2B sales industry?
The day and age of “post and pray” is long gone. That was a process where we would post a job online and then pray that the perfect candidate would respond.
Today, recruiters in the IT industry must hunt. In fact, I would say recruitment is at least 90% about hunting for qualified candidates. Our primary hunting ground is LinkedIn.
However, I like to joke that it works more like Tinder: a smart, good-looking recruiter looks at your profile for an average of six to eight seconds and decides whether or not to pursue you. I always say we can’t reinvent recruitment, but we can make it a fun and unique experience.
In addition to tools like LinkedIn, recruiters must also have other ways to hunt, like having access to a personal network of candidates. It's very important for each recruiter to build their own individual brand and their own network. Building this kind of network takes time.
What do you advise workers in the B2B sales industry to do in order to enhance their skills and knowhow?
First and foremost you should identify where you want to go, as there are so many opportunities for employment and growth in the B2B sales industry. Based on that internal assessment, then determine what skills you may need to improve and then get started. A walk through your local bookstore or a few clicks on the web and you will see an infinite number of books as well as online and offline training courses. Of course, there’s also the type of in-depth sales training that we offer here at SALESDOCk, like through our online Sales Academy. It may seem obvious, but people forget that there is an ocean of resources available when it comes to learning hard skills.
Perhaps most importantly, what I always advise when someone wants to grow is to develop your soft skills, in addition to hard skills. The most effective way to do that is to select a mentor. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a mentor. To find a mentor, you can start by looking at the people in your organization that you respect the most. If your personalities click, then ask that person to mentor you. The ideal point in the relationship between a mentor and a mentee comes when the mentor also learns from the mentee. So that is why it’s incredibly important that the personalities click. The mentee enhancing the skills of the mentor is a beautiful thing to see.
What are some red flags for recruiters?
The biggest red flag is a lack of energy. You can’t do anything in any type of sales capacity if you lack the juice. An overall lack of mental organization also ranks highly on the list of red flags. This typically presents during the recruitment process, ranging from the way a candidate communicates to their responses during the interview and follow-up communications. The underlying reasons for these kinds of red flags typically come from burn out or dissatisfaction with one’s career path.
Global tech powerhouses like Apple, Google and IBM are reducing the requirement for a university degree. What is your take on this?
I started cutting the bachelor's degree requirement from job descriptions over five years ago because I noticed a large talent pool with only high school diplomas. I challenged my hiring managers with regard to educational requirements because I’m rather disruptive. I would say that around 30 to 40% of my new hires do not possess a university degree.
Perhaps even more surprising is the trend when it comes to executive positions. The requirements for higher education are no longer as strict, if they exist at all. However, there are some countries where if you want to manage a sales team you still must have a university diploma. For me personally, and for hiring managers that I know, of course a university diploma is a nice thing to see. I would say it shows your ability to move through a complex process which includes living on your own and managing your time.
As a recruiter, aside from educationaI requirements, I would say we also take a good look at your outside interests. For example, a candidate that participated in competitive sports in their youth is likely to be both a team player and competitive. Those are traits that you want to see in people working in the B2B sales arena.
What are some of the most significant changes you have seen over the past few years when recruiting in the B2B sales industry?
I’ve noticed several patterns.
The first has to do with working remotely versus working from the office. When it comes to technical positions and connected functions like project managers, I would say there is an increased demand to work remotely. However, salespeople are social animals, right? So a big chunk of my candidates still prefer to work from the office.
The second pattern has to do with freedom and flexibility regarding the work hours. I think the wise companies are those that are offering a flexible setup.
The companies I see that are pushing a conventional nine-to-five schedule are usually the ones that are losing. So this increased demand on flexibility and being able to create a comfortable work-life balance is really important to candidates.
The third pattern has to do with the range of talent available. There are definitely more candidates in the pool.
Will AI manage the entire recruitment process in the future?
My answer will be a controversial one.
Yes, I do see this future. That being said, I don't necessarily agree with it. And yes, it will be successful. Although I'm kind of an old-fashioned recruiter, I believe that some elements of our work can be supported through AI, like in high volume recruitment for example. So in certain cases, it might be more effective than people.
I was recently speaking with a recruiter from one of the largest global tech companies. They conducted an experiment where AI performed the sourcing, initial screening and setting up of the first face-to-face interviews. It resulted in a 70% no-show rate to the in-person interview. I think that people will be reluctant to be handled by robots. We need interaction in order to survive, right? Like Gabor Maté advocates, if a baby is fed and changed, but does not experience touch or communication, it dies.
On the other hand, what if we were to compare a bad human recruiter to an AI recruiter? The effects of a bad human recruiter can be felt throughout the entire ecosystem, and even tarnish a brand. With an AI recruitment process, a company can set certain criteria and expectations from which it will not deviate because AI can’t experience a bad day at the office. So if I had to choose between these two in particular, I’d place my bets on the AI recruitment process any day.
That being said, in the end, I’m not afraid about the talent acquisition function being replaced by AI.
Looking for B2B sales and IT talent that hits all the right notes? Learn more about our approach to talent acquisition and how it will save your organization time, money and inconvenience here.
Elza Marincus is the cofounder of the external recruitment division at SALESDOCk, which specializes in providing sales and marketing talent for its clients as well as executive recruitment. With over twelve years of experience in recruiting, she is the go-person for anyone seeking career advice. You can follow her on LinkedIn.