Contributed Column

Marketing 101

by Christine Miller

Lack of salespeople? Lack of sales

As of December 2018 the Vermont Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent. A quick search on the job search engine Indeed, with the keyword “sales” in Vermont, yields results from entry level all the way to VP status, and includes just about every industry you can imagine. Looking to sell RVs, media, solar, finance, hospitality, automotive, or tech? Vermont has it and more. 

Many times I’ve said, “It doesn’t matter how much opportunity you have; if you don’t have the right team in place there is no opportunity.” The right sales team will maximize that opportunity and grow your business. The challenge lies in finding and retaining the talent that will get you to the finish line.

As the economy grows and companies increase sales positions, recruiting becomes one of the toughest challenges for business leaders. No longer can you post a help wanted ad and have talented reps show up at your door. College-educated sales professionals with several years’ experience are in high demand, and most of those reps are already working. Businesses of all size are fighting for those that are available. Why is it so difficult to find and hire good salespeople?

Underlying Causes

1. Fresh graduates are less likely to join the sales profession. Lackluster classes in sales and marketing, combined with negative stereotypes of salespeople, are turning new graduates away from this profession.

2. Unhealthy sales environment. With the high expectations and stresses of many sales jobs, junior salespeople drop out and change careers.

3. Poor training and sales culture, and a lack of career advancement, have allowed for less than desirable sales professionals in the market.

4. Good salespeople are employed and difficult to headhunt. Managers take care of top performers and top performers are hesitant to leave their client portfolio (and income).

5. The buyer is now more empowered. With a world of research at their fingertips, buyers can do their own research about companies and products. They don’t need a salesperson to tell them product features; they need help defining the problem and finding a solution. 

How to Find and Retain Talent

1. Protect what you already have. When resources are tight, competitors will offer your staff more money, better benefits, and opportunity. Don’t get poached.

2. Conduct “stay interviews.” Stay interviews simply pose questions that determine why employees continue to work for you. It’s also a great way to find out why they might decide to leave you.

3. Design a recruiting and retention plan. Protect yourself from the high cost of sales attrition.

4. Review the recruiting budget and be prepared to pay more to find top sales performers.

5. Consider utilizing recruiting sources to reach as many qualified candidates as possible. 

High sales turnover is one of the biggest complaints customers have with their vendors. Not only does turnover jeopardize your client relationships, it represents a large loss of revenue for your company. If you’ve never calculated the cost of having an open sales head position, do the math. You’ll be astounded by how much it’s costing your business in lost revenue, recruiting costs, and training for new hires. Do what it takes now so you don’t pay the price later.

In order to maximize opportunities you need a top-notch team ready to sell. Build your pipeline now in order to maximize growth. And if you’re looking to make a sales move, let me know. I’m always being asked if I know “someone”!

Christine Miller of Miller Sales Consulting is the author of Sales Geisha. She can be reached at (802) 734-5689 or

Index of Contributed Columns

For information on submitting a contributed column see here.