7 Ways to Attract Top Passive Sales Talent

Passive sales candidates may not be looking for a new job opportunity, but with the right recruiting strategy they may be more willing to listen.  89 percent of Glassdoor users are either actively looking for a job or would consider a better opportunity.  While passive candidates make up about 75 percent of the workforce, only about 45 percent are open to talking to a recruiter, making them harder to find using traditional search methods. With the unemployment rate dipping below 5%, employers must develop competitive ways to attract these passive sales candidates that display tenure with an employer, have solid credentials, and are consistently showing a pattern of winning.


Statistics show that a strong employer brand is a top priority for companies and candidates alike. 70 percent of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before applying. 84 percent of careerarc.com survey participants would consider leaving their current company if another company with an excellent reputation offered them a job, and about 11 percent of job seekers said they would decline a job offer from an employer with a bad reputation–even if they were unemployed.

While recruiting top sales candidates these individual are looking at a companies employer brand trying to decide if they want to work for the company based on the company’s employer brand and if the consumer brand reputation will help open doors for them. Work with your current sales leaders to assess the current state of your brand.


Glassdoor.com reports that if a business is not offering $35k-$45k as a base salary range for sales professionals, it might have trouble attracting the right talent. By offering $45K+, businesses can attract 73 percent of the sales market. An additional note, uncapped commissions have now become the industry standard.  The compensation structure should be easy to understand, and employers should emphasize the value of the overachievement bonuses and accelerators. Top performers rank recognition trips as the second most important aspect, after total pay.

3. Highlight your COMPANY CULTURE

Strong company culture has gone from an “it would be nice to have” to a “must have” for today’s sales candidate. Employers need to ensure they are highlighting benefits, vacation time, incentives, and unique, company-specific qualities when speaking about their opportunity. Potential employees also want to see the company’s higher mission or goals. Many candidates research companies online before interviewing, so the company will need to list this information clearly on the company website. Sales candidates want to see that the team understands the end goal and that each team member will work efficiently and cohesively to improve the sales process.

4. Know the TERRITORY

Sales Benchmark Index suggests that companies provide a description of the territory with viable candidates (list accounts, industry, geography, or segment) and how much commission has been generated in the past two years. Top sales candidates want to know how employers determine territory configuration and how frequently it changes. They also want specific examples of how companies handle account transition. It's also imperative that after the hard work of winning an account it is rewarded and any concerns of time to transition to another account are alleviated.


Top sales talent wants the opportunity to continue developing and fostering their craft. Training is a win-win for both employers and candidates. Develop training for new hires that is based upon the processes, methodologies, and tools used by your top performing salespeople. Show prospective candidates your devotion to your employees through investments and cultivation via robust employee development programs. These programs not only show employees that they are valued, but it improves loyalty and increases employee retention rates.

6. OPPORTUNITY FOR Advancement

“Will I have a chance to advance my career?” and “Is this opportunity limited to just sales?” are questions hiring managers should be prepared to answer. Top sales reps are most attracted to specific examples of salespeople promoted to positions of greater responsibility after starting with the company. Some sales professionals may want to remain within the sales function for their entire career, but others want the option and flexibility to choose other opportunities within the organization should they decide to take their career in a different direction. Significant incentives for a sales person may consist of offering opportunities to grow with the company. Extra incentives such as stock options, promotions, and the promise of participating in the growth of a fast-growing company may be a deciding factor for many high caliber candidates. 


USA News reports that seventy-six percent of job seekers ranked employee referrals as being of high to extremely high importance. They also state that at small companies with 99 or fewer employees, 14 percent of new hires came from referrals. Medium companies (100 to 999 employees) employ 24 percent of referrals, and companies with 1,000 or more employees fill 27 percent of jobs through referrals, making it critical for organizations to have a robust referral program. Note that companies who use employee referral programs have average retention rates of 46 percent, compared to the 33 percent retention rates of organizations that only use career sites.  Finally, Jobvite.com lists sales as the number one field with the highest employee referral hiring.

When recruiting top sales talent, it’s important to keep in mind that the best sales reps are being targeted by multiple organizations and agencies.  It’s not only important for hiring managers to be sold on a candidate; it’s equally important to sell the passive sales talent on the opportunity.  Finally, when prospecting the best of the best, patience perseveres.  Like any good sales rep would say, “A no is usually just a “Not right now.” When reaching out, always leave the door open. Tell the candidate to feel free to reach out if anything changes, and most importantly, ask them if they know of anyone that may be a fit for the role.

[AT A GLANCE] Learn More About Securing The Right Sales Talent In Five Minutes  Or Less.

Sales Recruitment Sourcing Strategies

Krista Connell

Krista Connell is a Recruitment Consultant for WilsonHCG, and has over a decade of sales recruiting experience. She is the Co-Committee Chair of WilsonHCG Operation Transition Committee, and in her spare time volunteers as a Career Counselor for Hire Heroes USA, both of which empowers U.S. military members, veterans and spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce.