By 2028, 50% of sales leadership roles will be filled by individuals from historically underrepresented groups, according to Gartner.
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.
Christopher Gamble, Senior Director Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Leaders Practice, comments, “CSOs are facing a talent crisis, yet are leaving crucial talent out of its pipeline. 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 says, “DEI efforts - targeting the talent pipeline, current sellers and sales leadership - are an imperative step in addressing current and future talent needs.”
According to Gartners research, 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, biassing 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 organisation’s focus on DEI.
Potential job-seekers may have a negative perception of the sales culture of B2B organisations where a lack of diversity is the norm, Gartner states.
According to the analysts, 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 behaviours, 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.
When it comes to retraining and motivating talent, members of underrepresented groups may fear that a sales organisation presents an unsupportive or even discriminatory environment, which does not bode well for retention nor motivation, Gartner states.
Gamble comments, “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."
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 organisation 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.