The Success Series: Smart resellers adapt to tackle the talent crisis

by Samantha Bell, Marketing Director.

The talent crisis
The IT sector has enjoyed exponential growth. There are 1.46 million people employed by digital companies (Tech City report) and IT spending in the UK has grown from $95.9bn in 2009 to a predicted $123.6bn revenues in 2016 (

Historically, resellers looking to hire sales people insisted that everyone on the shortlist had to have two years’ experience at a competitor and be able to bring a book of business with guaranteed earnings.

Competition for sales professionals with reseller experience is fierce. The industry is growing faster than the talent is maturing and it’s critical that businesses don’t fall behind due to a narrow approach to recruitment.

Why it is difficult to secure experienced sales people
Quite simply, the IT sector is growing quickly and every business, no matter how large or small, needs talented sales people. Experienced sales people within the sector have their pick of jobs – and they know it.

When companies realise their experienced sales staff are considering leaving, they counter offer more money to stay. This can result in a potential employer losing the candidate after making an offer, or being asked to pay them too much to join and risking a detrimental impact on the existing team.

Even when a candidate is serious about moving on, the chances are they will have five or six different opportunities to choose from. And it’s not just about earning potential anymore. Factors including employer brand, location, flexible working and benefits are also part of the final decision. Interview experience plays a big part here too and candidates are increasingly put off from employers who simply grill them about their current client base and who they can bring over.

We are seeing more vigorous pursuit of non-compete clauses in employment contracts and contracts that limit the risk of clients moving to follow a specific former employee.

The importance of keeping an open mind
Many leading resellers are adapting their recruitment model accordingly. Some are growing their own and promoting from within only hiring first or second jobbers at the junior end.Others are forensically picking of specific individuals from within the market in a discreet and focused way and putting together bespoke reward packages. Some are investing in their employer brand, the environment, non-financial recognition, the social side as well as the perks and benefits.

Then there are those who keep an open mind and seek to grow the talent pool by concentrating on #transferable skills and considering talent from outside the sector.

Growing the talent pool
We work with many of the top VARs such as Insight, Misco, Storm Technologies, CSS Media and Total Computer Networks, plus many smaller niche partners.

Over the last six months we have seen an increase in people joining from outside the sector.

In fact, 60% of all offers accepted by sales professionals in the last six months have come from outside the reseller sector. A quarter of these came from the IT Distribution channel and the rest from outside the IT sector altogether.

Experienced sales and marketing professionals from other sectors are keen to move into the IT industry because it’s growing quickly and they can see a long term career. It is well known as an industry that is a true meritocracy and one where fast promotions are possible. Yes, people new to the sector do require product training and coaching in the short term, but there is evidence that it pays off tenfold.

Dan Mundle heads up reseller recruitment at Roberson Sumner explains:
Candidates from outside the sector are faster to hire because they are not managing counter offers. They are very motivated to get into the IT sector and as such we don’t see them declining roles they’ve been offered.

Furthermore, they bring insight and learnings from other businesses that add value whether that’s marketing ideas, sales tactics, a new vertical market or even new technologies.

By working very closely with our clients that we spot if a candidate will be a good fit for one of our clients and if their skills are relevant. Then we can move quickly to facilitate the introduction.

Transferable skills
Taking a chance on someone is nothing new. It’s just becoming more accepted. Craig Drew is a Sales Manager at Insight. Craig was a rarity when he joined from outside the industry back in 2008. He remains open minded about where talent can come from.

Craig Drew says:

When someone is moving sectors it’s important that they have a sales process that they can deploy to unlock a new market. They need to evidence that they can learn quickly, that they are able to build good relationships, that they are intuitive, can read between the lines and adapt their approach to best meet a customer’s needs.

We can teach people about our products and services but we need them to be great at sales. No one can teach people to care about customers, to go the extra mile, to listen carefully and to think on your feet.

If I am going to invest in bringing someone into our business (and into our industry) then they need to add value and hit the ground running. We will train and teach products and services but they need to have the confidence and ability to convert this rapidly into sales.

Talent spotting
A close relationship between recruiter and reseller is a vital. In order to provide a relevant shortlist, the recruiter should have a good understanding of the business, of the opportunity, the skills needed, the culture and the sales environment.

Employers can’t expect to be successful simply using a job board as they will be inundated by a massive number of mostly irrelevant CVs.

Successful interviews
To evaluate a sales professional effectively, employers need to be clear about the skills they are looking for and ask the candidate for real examples to evidence their competencies. For example:

  1. Experience in learning a new sector
  2. Demonstrable customer service ethos
  3. Evidence of delivering on targets
  4. Outstanding communications skills
  5. Effective negotiation skills
  6. Examples of problem solving
  7. Ability to achieve conflict resolution

Robertson Sumner has been recruiting exclusively for the IT sector for 16 years and many of our team have worked within the industry. We aim to secure our clients with the right people first time. Over 90% of all the sales professionals we place are still in their role six months later (industry average nearer 50%).

When we include a candidate from outside the sector it’s because we believe they have a great mix of transferable skills and can add value to your business. Please meet our wild cards and give us feedback.

Join the Debate
Do you already hire candidates from outside the Reseller sector? How has it worked out for your business?
Please email any comments to me at or join our linked in group and post a comment.

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