This article was commissioned for CRN's Rising Stars: Next 100 report, which was published earlier this week
The UK is still facing a skills shortage in the IT market and this is particularly relevant in the reseller/managed services space. However, at Robertson Sumner the reseller market still represented 64 per cent of our revenue stream in 2017, showing that this is one of the biggest growth areas in the IT sector. But only a small proportion of that percentage was us placing candidates with a ‘book of business'. We now have to educate every client we speak to so they stop wasting time and resource searching for miracle candidates and instead hire candidates for their strong IT sales skills from other areas of the IT sales channel - or go down the graduate route. You shouldn't just take my word for this, some of our clients and the most successful resellers over the past decade, now in the top 50 VARs, have grown more than tenfold by operating an organic growth method - the likes of Storm Technologies and Softcat.
Another reason successful resellers prosper by avoiding targeting ‘big billers' is because the supply is so small and demand is so high that these so-called miracle candidates have all the power and can name their price. We have found that what you can get for your money over the past five years has changed dramatically, and is now roughly as shown in the table below.
Resellers are still hiring and extremely active in the market. All are looking for the miracle candidate who can bring a book of business transacting £15,000 per month, but there is a lack of these candidates looking for a move. Larger VARs can afford to take the risk and wait for the talent, but the smaller, sub-£30m companies should be less picky and think outside the box. A small percentage of them realise this and will take on junior candidates from outside the industry. Salespeople approach us daily from a distribution background who may have one to two years' experience and want to take the step up, but their CVs are rejected with the reasoning "doesn't have a book", "isn't coming from a reseller" or "not relevant". It is our job to educate our clients to think of a plan B.
Experienced sales and marketing professionals from other sectors are keen to move into the IT industry because of the sector's exponential growth and they can see a long-term career in IT. The industry is a true meritocracy and one where fast promotions are possible. Yes, people new to the sector do require product training and coaching in the short term, but there is evidence that it pays off tenfold.
Our top tip for growth and longevity would be for start-ups/sub-£30m resellers to start looking at alternatives to the miracle candidate.
We believe that 2018 is a great time to be a sub-£30m reseller as the sector is no longer dominated by a couple of key players and there are many smaller partners doing really exciting things in the market. However, to keep growing and prospering in this market, leaders must think differently about hiring. Paying over the odds should be a thing of the past for sub-£30m resellers. Finding your own stars with less experience who can be moulded to your company culture and ethos will lead to a more loyal, together and engaged workforce.
Marc Sumner is managing director of recruitment firm Robertson Sumner
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