Study: The Massive Skills Gap in Sales Is Getting Worse

Sales people can get a bad rap. In reality, a true sales professional will offer a smooth, engaging experience that treats the customer’s needs first and facilitates a simple, painless transaction. Sales pros are the oil in a well-oiled machine: Easy to overlook, but essential to the process.

And as a new study indicates, a lack of sales professionals is leading to a talent shortage that’s beginning to highlight their importance in the commerce ecosystem.

9 in 10 Struggle to Recruit Sales Pros

The 2017 study, out from Impartner and based on the results of a survey of hiring managers of 200 corporations that do business nationally and internationally, hinges on one admittedly major stat: Ninety percent of the hiring managers polled found it tough to “recruit and hire direct sales professionals.”

Also, 57 percent reported the talent problem has gotten worse across the past year and a half.

The upshot? Almost three-quarters of the respondents hold that the talent shortage directly prevented their companies from hitting revenue goals.

What’s Driving the Shortage?

According to the Impartner infographic above (and which you can see in full over here), one large cause can be pinpointed: A lack of candidates with relevant experience. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem: Sales pros are too inexperienced to get jobs, and can’t get jobs they’ll need to become experienced.

Also problems: 22 percent of candidates don’t understand the company’s solutions, 16 percent require high compensation, and another 16 percent lose out due to competition from their peers — and that last issue simply reinforces the fact that this skills shortage extends across the entire sales industry.

The solution is either to wait for the market to re-adjust, or to look for a way to disrupt the system with a form of automated sales channel that might effectively replace the sale pro with an AI version. Either way, the shortage of sales pros will need to be addressed soon.

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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