By 2028, 50% of sales leadership roles will be filled by individuals from historically underrepresented groups, according to Gartner, Inc. To address chronic talent shortages, chief sales officers (CSOs) must challenge existing recruitment practices and take steps to retain and motivate diverse talent.
With only three available candidates per open B2B sales job, and roles staying open for an average of two months, CSOs identify talent as their top external challenge.
“CSOs are facing a talent crisis, yet are leaving crucial talent out of its pipeline,” said Christopher Gamble, Senior Director Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Leaders Practice.
“Historically, the sales function has neglected to attract high-potential candidates from underrepresented groups, but the pressures from operating shorthanded require a renewed focus on improving and diversifying the talent pipeline,” Gamble said. “DEI efforts — targeting the talent pipeline, current sellers and sales leadership — are an imperative step in addressing current and future talent needs.”
Challenge existing recruitment practices
Sales leaders who are unwilling to challenge existing recruitment efforts stand to miss out on highly qualified candidates. The traditional candidate profile for a B2B sales rep relies on sales experience rather than skills, biasing the candidate pool toward those already in the function.
In addition, visible diversity in leadership sends a signal to candidates about the sales culture and the organization’s focus on DEI. Potential job-seekers may have a negative perception of the sales culture of B2B organizations where a lack of diversity is the norm.
To open up recruitment to a wider pool of candidates and attract diverse talent, CSOs should partner with HR to:
- Refocus candidate profiles on skills and behaviors — rather than experience — to widen the talent pool.
- Write job postings that properly frame the position to avoid skewed recruiting toward the same talent pool and demographics. Leverage tools that can bias-check postings.
Retain and motivate diverse talent
Members of underrepresented groups may fear that a sales organization presents an unsupportive or even discriminatory environment, which does not bode well for retention nor motivation.
“To retain the best sellers in the future, sales leaders must quell any negative perceptions of their sales culture by establishing an employee value proposition (EVP) that not only signals a commitment to DEI but also delivers on that promise by valuing and supporting sellers equitably,” said Gamble.
Specific recommendations include:
- Elevate the attraction, retention and promotion of historically underrepresented talent to the same priority level as other KPIs, such as quota attainment.
- Mentor diverse employees from within and outside the sales organization to help sales leaders increase their awareness of DEI challenges and uncover potential biases.
- Invest in productivity, collaboration and learning tools that support anywhere/anytime hybrid work.
Gartner clients can read more in “Predicts 2023: Surfing the Waves of Change in B2B Sales Talent”. Additional information is available in the complimentary Gartner webinar, “The Gartner Predictions for 2023: Talent Shifts in B2B Sales.”
About Gartner for Sales Leaders
Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential, and optimize sales force enablement. Follow news and update from the Gartner Sales practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerSales. Members of the media can find additional information and insights in the Gartner Sales Newsroom.