The Sales Recruitment Network UK Ltd

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Widening the Gene Pool

Our recruitment assignments come from two principle areas: succession planning and reactive recruitment.

The former great to work with but sadly rare. I tend to be asked to assist in this scenario when working in my Sales & Marketing Consultancy role where expansion into new markets, new product launches etc lead to a requirement for new staff.

In these situations, there is plenty of time to carefully consider the scope of the role and to put together a candidate profile ensuring that relevant knowledge, experience and potential are carefully balanced and a suitable package budgeted for. Advertising and candidate searching can be planned, interviews scheduled in plenty of time and the whole process tends to move very smoothly, with real enthusiasm from the candidates.

Reactive recruitment is the type of assignment normally undertaken by recruitment companies and is a very different animal. Here someone has left a job for any number of reasons but the scenario is always the same: ‘We need someone quickly, who can hit the ground running. We’ve no time to train anyone, we need them to have contacts. We need results quickly.’

All of this is perfectly reasonable and when recruiting obviously the client is king and we stick to his brief. It is, however, worth considering an alternative path to the ‘knee jerk’ reaction above; sometimes you can catch a better fish by broadening your net.

An absent employee puts pressure on existing members of staff to fill the gap. Sales and account manager roles in particular have impetus behind them as the lack of representation in the field can perhaps quickly be filled by competitors and if the roles’ previous incumbent has gone to a competitor there is a fear of him ‘poaching’ your customers – that’s probably why he’s been hired by your competitor.

However virtually all professional organisations have CRM systems. All of the contact details and activities relating to an account are readily available to all relevant parties. Your sales person does not ‘own’ your customer base and whilst they have a (sometimes close) relationship with them the customer is ultimately buying from the company, not the individual.

It’s very easy to inform the customer base of the situation and for them to communicate with the company and so the urgency of the matter can easily become disproportional – your customer base understands the difficulties imposed by the unexpected loss of an employee and as long as the service / product is unaffected no harm will be done in the short term.

If your former employee has gone to work for a direct competitor, he is most likely to try and ‘buy’ their business using his knowledge of your pricing strategies.  I’ve dealt with this situation more than once myself (despite non-disclosure agreements being in place – they can be difficult to enforce).

This is unlikely to ultimately gain any business; even if you’re selling a commodity product your customer base will be aware of its alternatives and buys from you for a reason: service, marketing support, trading terms or any number of things but if you sell on price alone you will always lose customers and have to find new ones so your mercenary sales person makes no difference to the ‘churn’.

If you have a more sophisticated approach to the market then your customer base is more secure; there are probably a multitude of reasons why a customer buys from you: technical back up; branded goods; quality standards; whatever the reason if your competitor is unaware of your commercial advantage until your former employee explains it to them and convinces them that it will make a difference; it will take them a long time to match your offering. 

Again, never forget the obvious credibility issue of the mercenary sales person. He’s been expounding the virtues of your company but now he has to justify the virtues of a competitor. Even if he can present a good, sound argument there is always the awareness that his loyalty has been purchased and anything he says will lack credibility because he lacks credibility.

All of this addresses some of the issues of account management but if you are employing people to develop new business then your options are often more open.

Fundamentally a sales person needs to prospect, whatever the industry, whatever the product or service. By definition he needs to speak to people not using your company and ideally not known to you. He needs to pick up the phone, meet people, attend events, network.

Selling is a skill, a sales person is a professional. These skills are transferable. Obviously there are radically different approaches to sales, from a ‘quick close’ car sales person to an IT Account Director who may take two years to close a multifaceted deal.

If you identify the right type of sales person required to fill your role you can then look for pertinent experience. Some roles require a high level of technical knowledge which narrows your options but a lot of skills and knowledge are readily transferable.

I once recruited for a roofing company who insisted on roofing experience. Candidates with knowledge and experience of the construction industry, who could read technical drawings, had sold to architects and contractors, who understood building regulations and the way the industry works were deemed not suitable because they hadn’t worked in roofing. To me this was an absurd situation and the company declined many excellent candidates before taking on an experienced roofing guy who had changed jobs every two years and probably always will; I wouldn’t have hired him.

Investing a small amount of time and effort in training can pay massive dividends. It can provide you with keen, motivated staff who will be more loyal as you have invested in them. A readiness to train and acceptance of a learning curve used to be common practice but seems to have become unacceptable. This would seem to be a mistake.

Considering someone from ‘outside’ your specific industry has two other key benefits.

It puts you in charge of the money. You can pay the salary that you want to pay rather than the one required by the experienced candidate to move. With tax being what it is most people require quite a premium on their salary to make a worthwhile difference to their pay packets, are they really offering value for money?

The other key benefit is that to thrive a company needs new blood. It needs new ideas, new perspectives, new impetus.

You get much more of this by bringing people in from outside. By recruiting from a wider base you will gain exposure to a wider pool of experience. If an industry only recruits from within this incestuous practice will lead to stagnation and corruption and is possibly why so many companies are not realising their full potential and simply trying to maintain the status quo.

As I mentioned in my previous blog a CV factory will not be interested in any of this; they want you to recruit someone already in the role you’re recruiting for, it makes their life easy, suits their methods and gives them easy money.

But a professional recruiter will be able to help you to find both people who are in the role and people who could easily step into the role. If you broaden your brief slightly you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Michael Thomason

TSRN are a specialist and experienced sales recruitment consultancy covering the whole of the UK, search our active vacancy database or register your CV and we can help you in your next career move.
 

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