IT sales insight report for Q3 2011: Connected again after summer downtime

It’s ‘back to work’ for UK PLC

Despite a summer of unprecedented social and economic unrest across continental Europe, Britain is still hiring. Such a statement appears to fly in the face of assumed wisdom and doom-laden media commentary, however the stats tell us businesses are still in the market for talented sales professionals. And, according to the Q3 BMS Sales Insight Report, year on year growth of sales vacancies is on the up.

The Report, which gathers sales recruitment data from across the UK to give an accurate picture of sales recruitment trends, shows confidence from employers in many industry sectors – with the rate of growth standing at 6.58%, up 0.9% compared to this time last year. With UK companies relying heavily on sales-figures to boost performance, the pressure is again on to recruit motivated, talented sales individuals that deliver results.

Candidate confidence remains low

Of course, the employer is only half the story. The other – around the candidate pool – is less positive. While businesses are hiring based on revenue and growth projections, often as not candidates are getting their information from the media who, of course, are not always wrong. But the aforementioned doom-mongering of many a tabloid and broadsheet has instilled something of a ‘batten-down-the-hatches’ mentality.

Despite the fact that Britain’s economy exceeded analyst predictions to grow at 0.5% in the third quarter, and we’re seeing stable levels of vacancy growth (the standout sectors in Q3 being Business Services and Construction, up nearly 6% and 4% respectively on 2010 figures), talent appears to be staying put. 

On the flip side, growth levels fell against the previous quarter’s figures in the hard hit FMCG sector, and manufacturing witnessed a normalisation after its stellar growth over the first two quarters of 2011; figures that, when taken out of context, do little to alter negative perceptions.
We discussed this issue last quarter and the trend – and its resultant challenges - continues.

New ‘coping’ strategies

This apparent disconnect is having a major impact on companies, with a massive 74% reporting they’re finding it tough to attract top sales people. In these challenging times, adapting to the new market realities means it pays to review what you do – and how you do it.

Which explains why, in a bid to increase their sphere of influence, 21% of companies now actively look outside their sector to attract talented sales people. And why, in the battle for top sales talent, 68% have changed their recruitment processes to find the best candidates.

So, despite the hype, for employers and candidates the Q3 BMS Quarterly Sales Insight Report highlights business as usual; or perhaps the continuance of the status quo. Vacancies are up, but for how long remains to be seen.

Connected again after summer downtime

With HR Tech Europe 2011 just a few weeks away, it’s a good time to be talking recruitment in the IT sector. While the show is mainly concerned with HR technology and business practices, much of the discussion on the exhibition floor will be how to gain and then retain top talent – whatever the field.

For IT resource buyers, the right senior sales person will be increasingly important as the tech sector undergoes significant change. According to a Sept 2011 survey from Siemens Enterprise Communications the market is witnessing huge and immediate changes.

Changing face of IT sales

In just two years, the Siemens research suggests, over seven out of ten CIOs will have moved some or all their communications into the cloud. Businesses selling premised-based hardware without a cloud offering are likely to become marginalised. And those that do have one will need a new mix of skills in their field sales teams to successfully gain market share.

Similarly, the same survey also suggested that 57% of the CIOs surveyed were investing in social media tools today. Again, having the right people to make a social sell, or indeed sell conventional CPE in a social context, will be critical.

And then there’s the move to open systems, and the changing business models this brings. We have already seen a complete restructure in internal IT departments as a result – with a reskilling away from legacy hardware-based proprietary systems. Such a move is now inevitable on the sales side.

The only way is up in 2011

So are we seeing an impact on sales recruitment? The answer is most probably ‘yes’. As witnessed by the BMS Quarterly Insight Report, we saw a rapid post-recessional demand for senior IT sales people in the middle of last year. That fell away sharply to negative growth by the close of 2010.

This year opportunities have risen consistently, if at a less impressive pace. The BMS Sales Insight Index reports a compound year-on-year growth for Q3 of more than 2%, with the quarter ending on a 2011 high up at 3.6%.


This is positive news for candidates in what is traditionally a very dynamic and high-turnover sector. It points to the ongoing need to both acquire and retain top talent to push through the kind of emerging technologies and transformational agendas that are increasingly demanded of IT and communications departments. One thing’s for sure, senior sales executives with a proven track record in both proven delivery and technology adaptability will be in increasing demand over the next six months.