Sales Challenges in the Middle East IT Market

I was recently published in Reseller Middle East where I discussed valuing your sales staff. There are stark differences between the Middle East & the US regarding sales. I attempt to shine some light on how MENA managers can value their sales staff similar to how it works in the west.

You can find it on the ResellerME Online Magazine-Page 51. Or read the unedited article below.

Talent Retention starts with Recruitment

All recruiters and employers face common problems, yet here in the Middle East, and particularly in IT these problems all are noticeably amplified. Overall the perception is there are not enough qualified candidates – however common problems such under prepared, under educated or already gainfully employed are consistently mentioned. As a result many hours and much hard work go into the recruitment of the staff of your company. Despite this hypercompetitive marketplace rife with problems, and sincere intention of attracting the top talent the recruitment, development and retention for the position of sales is often overlooked.

Perhaps another article for another time, would be due if I have to tell you why skimping on the hiring of sales people is a bad idea. Instead addressing the larger prevailing attitude throughout the region that the sales profession is viewed a more of a stepping-stone to a ‘better’ position does more to help us understand the problem of attracting and developing top IT sales talent. While both job seekers and employers foster this misperception it causes pain on both sides of the equation. As a virtue of being treated as second-class employees sales professionals are always on the hunt for their next higher paying job, ready to jump ship with an increase of a few hundred dirhams at a moments notice. Employers are aware of this and thus treat sales people as a flight risk, under compensating, micromanaging, and fostering the atmosphere of irreplaceability. This results in a vicious cycle of disloyalty where by sales ‘professionals’ hop from company to company acting as hired guns for the next highest bidder.

Since this retention of top sales talent starts with recruitment, how do you attract the top talent? Simply put treating your employees well. A more complicated answer would be a larger organizational change, fostering an environment that is view upon as a great place to work. Since we as humans spend the better part of our days and particularly our lives at work we look for a great and dare I say fun place to work. But what makes a great place to work and how do I attract great people to work here? When advertising and recruiting for the position it is ok to use unique incentive structures to attract top talent, and just like offering value added services, this will distinguish your business in the market place. Besides straight monetary compensation here are some other incentive ideas to attract top talent, particularly sales talent.

A flex work environment – Offering the ability to work one day at home a week To keep employees productive on these days clear and measurable benefits and goals must be set

Emphasis on a diverse skill set – Talented people appreciate the opportunity to perform a wide array of tasks and responsibilities. Proclaiming this to be the case when recruiting and hiring will drive you top talent.
Offering training and continuing education – Along with a diverse skill set, top talent needs to be driven to excel. Mastery of concepts and technical aspects will contribute to employees personal and professional growth as well as creating more knowledgeable employees for your business.

Laying out a clear career path – Business is not expected to grow without a clear business plan, why should your employees be any different? Laying out clear career paths assist in showing employees how they must perform to get to where they want to be.

Unfortunately workers can become comfortable at their jobs figuring out how to do the least amount of work, but still impress their bosses. This is why unique and goal driven compensation can enable employees to perform not only for your business, but also for themselves.

There are many challenges in sales in the MENA region. Only when perceptions change and a few forward thinking companies start to change environments will then the market change and sales professionals will then soon follow.

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