The underlying problems in FMCG sales hiring and what to do differently

Clients often put it to me that there’s a scarcity of qualified professionals looking for that second or third job in the Sales and Account Management space in FMCG.

But the truth is, there’s not a lack of impressive professionals. They’re simply just looking in the wrong places.

If you too are struggling to hire a National Account Executives (NAE) or Junior Commercial Talent, there may be some hard truths to face.

In this blog, I’m going to cover the 4 main reasons you might not be getting what you’re after and tips on how to avoid putting all you’re the best candidates off.

1. Candidates aren’t wow’ed by your benefits as much as you think

It might seem obvious, but if an individual has had over a year’s exposure to P&L, they need not only need to be rewarded. They need to be rewarded adequately.

Especially if they have the right skill set.

Remember: It’s rare these candidates can be secured for packages lower than £40k per annum.

2. Candidates aren’t demanding as much as you think

Those who want a £10k pay rise and will only work for a top 20 FMCG brand might sound bold, but in reality, this is a reasonable market rate and requirement when it comes to salary change.

3. They’ve got more options than you think

And I’m not just talking the top brands.

These days there is a whole new world of choice in the start-up, SME space.

What’s so appealing?

The next wave of innocent drinks copycats may entice with modern interior, multi-functional breakout spaces, flexible and co-working options working, cycle to work schemes and other perks like unlimited beer taps and table tennis next to their desks.

This means there’s nothing stopping candidates stepping outside the sector and into the consulting, finance or tech industry.

Remember: it’s likely that they’re able to use their client-facing experience to command a premium.

4. Entry opportunities offered aren’t as exciting as you think

This may come as a shock but not that many people want to trek round the country for a couple of years in a branded Mini. It seems a lot of companies are missing a trick if the opportunity for entry level FMCG sales is limited.

If they don’t come through a graduate scheme and this is the only way to secure an admin-led NAE role they’re probably going to be put off.

Remember: field sales experience is useful but is rarely a springboard into national accounts these days.


If you want to bag the best of the best read these 2 tips below:

1. Invest in grad schemes / programmes
As they grow with you, you’ll be able to hold on to your talent for longer.

Candidates who enter the sector earning at £30,000 can easily be progressed within 2–3 years to a larger role earning up to £15–20k more.

It’s often at this point they need a career move to smash through the glass ceiling to the next level.

2. Hire outside of FMCG
Aside from this, my advice to FMCG hiring managers is that you must, must open your eyes and understand there is a huge pool of talent outside FMCG.

If you don’t step outside the box when hiring, you’ll only end up hiring all the same type of people. You can do so much better than only hiring people who have worked in FMCG doing the same role in a similar business. P.S. moving from retail buying doesn’t count!

If you have a diverse pool of talent it adds richness through different lenses of knowledge, experiences, cultures and backgrounds.

Diversity breeds creativity and innovation equating to better financial performance.

A common misconception is there’s a shortage of talent in applicants for FMCG.

But in fact, there is great talent, it’s just you that you’ve been looking into the wrong place! Talent can easily be attracted by some of the sectors mentioned above and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the industry is still blinkered, and mainly hiring from within.

The bulk of hiring managers want candidates who ‘tick every box’

What do you need to do differently?

Firstly, get real!

When you change your mindset you change the game.

If you are doing any of the 4 points I mentioned above, then I can guarantee the candidate will be bored in three months and looking for his next step in 12 months at the latest!

Remember: there’s always someone else prepared to offer an extra £10k and a bigger job.

So, forget the industry and focus on the person.

Find the right competencies, the right personal attributes, which match your brand values, and train the rest!

In three months, that person will be a far stronger and more positive employee that’s genuinely grateful for the opportunity your business gave them.

If you want to read more about this topic and understand why sales professionals are moving from retail to the supplier side more and more, check out my colleague, Richard Bowen’s most recent blog.