7 Ways to Attract Top Passive Sales Talent

Passive sales candidates may not be looking for a new job opportunity. However, with the right recruiting strategy they may be willing to listen! While passive candidates make up about 75 percent of the workforce, only 45 percent are open to talking with a recruiter, making them harder to find using traditional search methods.

With the global unemployment rate dipping below 6%, talent leaders and strategists must develop competitive ways to attract these passive sales candidates with high tenure, have solid credentials and are consistently showing a pattern of winning. Toward this end, the following explores seven definitive ways to spark the intrigue of today's top passive sales talent.


Research shows that a strong employment brand is a top priority for companies and candidates alike. 70 percent of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before applying. Eight-four percent of job seekers would consider leaving their current company if another 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.

These individuals are looking at various companies trying to decide if they want to work for a company based on their employment brand and, simultaneously, if the consumer brand reputation will help open doors for them.

Explore how General Electric (GE) completely transformed employment and consumer brands with a budget of $0 − by empowering their people. 


Glassdoor reports that, if a business is not offering at least $35,000 to $45,000 as a base salary range for sales professionals, they will likely have trouble attracting the right talent. By offering at least $45,000, businesses can attract 73 percent of the sales market.

In addition, uncapped commissions have become industry standard. Compensation structure should be easy to understand, and employers should emphasize the value of the over achievement bonuses/accelerators. Top sales performers rank recognition trips as the No. 2 most important aspect, after total pay.

3. Highlight your COMPANY CULTURE

Strong company culture has shifted from "nice to have” to “must have” for today’s sales candidates. Employers need to ensure they are highlighting benefits, vacation time, incentives and unique, company-specific qualities when speaking about or marekting open opportunities. Today's candidates truly care about a company’s mission, vision, values and goals.

In addition, many candidates research companies online before interviewing; this information needs to be clearly, authentically communicated on your company website and social media profiles (not to mention job descriptions). Likewise, recruiting teams need to be fully aligned on messaging, while fully believing what they're saying is true. Sales candidates want to know what you stand for, where you're going, and how they might factor in helping you get there. Be transparent, genuine and accountable in all ways; your culture will organically grow through this.

4. Know the TERRITORY

The Sales Benchmark Index suggests companies provide candidates with a description of each territory with viable candidates (i.e., be sure to list accounts, industry, geography and/or segment) and how much commission has been generated ver 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, efforts are rewarded and any concerns of time to transition to another account is alleviated.


Top sales talent wants the opportunity to continue developing and honing their craft. Training is a win-win for both employers and candidates. Develop training for new hires based upon the processes, methodologies and tools used by your top performing salespeople.

Show prospective candidates you are devoted to your people through investments and cultivation via robust employee development programs. These programs not only show employees they are valued, but they improve loyalty and increase employee retention. 

6. OPPORTUNITY FOR Advancement

“Will I have the chance to advance my career?” and “Is this opportunity limited to just sales?” are questions hiring managers should be prepared to answer. If you're answer to these is "no" then perhaps it's wise to take a step back and reevaluate your career path strategy for current and prospective hires. Top sales representaitves are most attracted to specific examples of salespeople promoted to positions of greater responsibility after starting with the company.

Significant incentives for sales talent should consist of offering opportunities to grow with the company, flexibility and trust. 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. Beyond this, however, your talent wants to know they're valued, that you're confident in their efforts and ability, and that you shwo genuine recognition for high performance. There are a wealth of ways to ensure you're meeting your talent's performance managament and growth needs. It just takes a little effort on your end.  


Seventy-six percent of job seekers rank employee referrals as being of "high" to
"extremely high" importance. Simply stated, people trust their current or former colleagues, friends and/or family more than they trust marketing or advertising campaigns.  Jobvite lists sales as the No. 1 field in terms of highest employee referral hiring. Factoring in the research and the importance of trust in today's too often un-trusting environment, job referrals have become a business imperative.

When recruiting top sales talent, it’s important to keep in mind that the best sales representaitves 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 your opportunity! Finally, when prospecting the best of the best, patience perseveres.  Like any good sales representative would say, "'No' often means 'not right now.'" When seeking to attract passive sales talent, always leave the door open.

Evaluate where you are using the strategies above, and unite your sales talent ecosystem with WilsonHCG's and HRO Today's joint report/guide to best-practice sales hiring:

[GUIDE] Measuring Sales Representative Turnover’s Impact on the Bottom Line

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.