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Recruiting Great Sales People

By Colleen Francis

You say it to your sales team all the time: “ABC. Always be closing.” Well, as a sales leader, I’d recommend that you adopt a slightly different mantra for yourself: ABR: Always be recruiting.

Many sales managers settle into complacency when their team is performing well, or recruiting falls by the wayside when there’s too much else on their plates. But in reality, it’s essential to constantly have recruiting on your to-do list for three important reasons:

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  1. People leave. No matter how well you pay your team, or how well they seem to be performing, one thing’s always certain: turnover happens. Whether it’s someone winning the lottery, moving, or getting a better offer somewhere else, some of your employees will inevitably move on from your company. And as their manager, you’ll be last to know, so don’t be caught in a bind when one of your key team members gives notice.
  2. People underperform. Traditionally, sales teams fall into a pattern: 20% hit well above their target, they are your high performers. 60% hit their target fairly consistently, they are your workhorses. And 20% underperform or are too new to measure. You always want the option to replace your bottom 20% with better performers, and you won’t have any options if you’re not actively recruiting.
  3. Your team will grow. Even in the best case scenario—where all of your team members are over performing and you’re hitting it out of the park in your market, then it’s time to start attacking new markets. And at that point, you’ll need new reps to go after those markets.

Recruiting is an important aspect of any sales leader’s job, and there are some techniques that make it a more manageable task. Here are some of the best practices that our sales VP clients use in recruitment:

  1. Use a professional services recruiting company that focuses on sales. We often see companies using recruiters who are more general in nature, and unfortunately they sometimes just don’t “get” salespeople. One of the best  sales recruiting companies in North America is Peak Recruiting.
  2. Develop an internal referral program. A generous referral bonus will encourage your employees to bring in their network. Your employees understand your business best, and are most likely to cultivate loyalty when they bring in one of their own contacts. We suggest an offer of at least $5,000 per employee that is referred, hired and stays beyond six months. It’s less than you’d spend on advertising or recruiting, and likely a better quality candidate.
  3. Ask clients, vendors, partners and your resale channels for referrals. Your new hires are going to be the first point of contact with your clients and partners, so why not ask them whom they’d like to buy from or work with? Some of your best customers might be able to draw from their network or refer you to other sales reps they’ve worked with.
  4. Get varied interview feedback. It’s important that more than one person interview each candidate in order to get well-rounded and objective feedback. I recommend that the interview process incorporate three different people within the company, including someone who reports to you—perhaps another sales rep—and someone outside the department to see how they react to non-sales environments.
  5. Vary your interview locations. You should also consider varying the interview environment beyond just the office conference room. Can they focus in a more distracting environment, like a restaurant or coffee shop? Sales requires getting out of your own office, so you’ll want to see how they do in a variety of situations.
  6. Use social media. Post your openings on Facebook, LinkedIn or your blog in order to attract people from across the country or around the world if required. Also, use social media to check out potential candidates’ profiles before beginning the interview process.
  7. Ask one last question. There are a lot of things you can test about a candidate in an interview, but one tough long-term thing to measure is memory, which is essential for a good sales rep. I use one simple question at the end of the interview to help assess this: I ask the candidate to relay back to me what we discussed in the interview. If he or she can’t do so accurately, it’s a bad sign that their mind was elsewhere during the meeting.

By keeping these seven simple tips in mind, you can make recruiting a constant priority without devoting incredible amounts of time to it. Ensure that you’re never in a bind and treat recruiting like the sales process, where you always have a healthy pipeline of viable prospects.

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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