In good times and bad, recruiters say, there are plenty of jobs for managers who can build top-notch sales teams.
When an economic downturn makes selling anything more difficult, companies want the most successful people pushing their products, explains recruiter Craig Randall, executive vice president and managing director in the Chicago office of executive search firm DHR International Inc.
Randall was working recently to fill high-level openings at five area companies, and he expects to be looking for more sales leaders in 2009.
At the executive search firm Sales Recruiters Chicago Inc., founder and president Alfred Meyer says he has seen no drop-off in the number of companies hiring him to find sales talent.
Sales careers are more recession-proof than others because the skills carry across industries, recruiters explain. A strong sales manager in a weak industry has a good chance of switching industries; experience selling similar products is rarely what wins a candidate these top sales jobs.
Instead, employers look for someone with a proven team-building record.
"Do you know how to recruit, train and mentor a top sales team?" Randall says. "That's what everyone wants. That's the core DNA of sales leaders in every industry."
Still, more than ever, sales leaders today are expected to get out the door and personally build up business, Meyer says.
While employers view leadership as critical, he says, "They don't need people sitting around the office being a rah-rah person anymore."