Estate agents and other sales professionals with no IT industry experience are becoming increasingly hot property in the channel as the skills shortage intensifies.
That's according to specialist IT sales recruiter Robertson Sumner, which says 60 per cent of all offers accepted by sales professionals it has placed at VARs in the last six months have come from outside the industry, up from about 30 per cent last year.
Robertson Sumner claims to have placed 4,000 IT sales professionals including 2,000 at resellers and partners.
Its managing director Marc Sumner said his clients are increasingly being forced to look outside the industry for sales talent this year because competitors are going all out to retain staff, including by tightening up non-compete clauses.
"The VAR community has become more switched on that competitors are attacking their staff, so they are doing everything they can to retain staff," he said.
"Consequently, when you get a VAR that wants to increase its headcount, there's not much they can offer to attract them so they are saying 'let's go outside the market'."
Graduate training schemes are becoming more prevalent as VARs increasingly opt to "grow their own", Sumner said, adding that channel firms are also increasingly open to hiring sales professionals from other sectors, including real estate, as well as recruitment professionals.
"If they've got the communication, rapport-building and negotiating skills already in place, and are proven in a different sector, it's really easy to transfer and we've had a lot of success stories," he said.
"We've had an estate agent being promoted at Misco, graduates going into Storm, and an IT training person going into Insight. With VARs, it's not normally a complex solution they're dealing with; it's normally a broad range of products and services, so it's just about training them on a bit of product knowledge."
The hunt for outside talent is necessary because resellers are stepping up their efforts to retain staff amid an intensifying skill shortage, according to Sumner.
"It's gone from 30 to 60 per cent, and I can only see that continuing to rise as companies think 'right, let's put a tighter non-compete clause in, let's make it more flexible working, let's make a clearer commission structure'. It's a fight to keep the talent once you've got it," he said, adding that a counter-offer culture - flagged up last year by another recruitment firm, Randstad - is also on the rise.
Sumner (pictured) said non-compete clauses are difficult to enforce and rarely end up in court, a case this summer involving reseller Decorus being an exception to the rule.
But he warned that sales staff wishing to leave for a competitor with their book of business under their arm will find themselves increasingly squeezed.
"[In the past] you could literally pick up your little black book of customers and walk down the road to a competitor, but resellers are getting wise to that now," he said. "So they are putting wraparound services on, and two or three people around the customer, and an overlay, and are putting contingency plans in place, so the sales guy doesn't walk out with £250,000 of business. In the end they stay where they are."
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