A Sales Manager’s Perspective on Recruiting

Oct 17, 2013

People Lined for workIf you have ever sat in a sales meeting, the following is probably familiar: The sales manager expects his or her team to make a certain number of customer contacts every day, and this number is usually higher than the number of contacts the salespeople want to make. The sales team retorts in the same way every time, “It is quality, not quantity, boss.” Who is right? Well, they both are.

That’s why we spend so many hours and resources training salespeople to be more effective with the contacts they make. But in sales you must make more contacts with prospects than the next person, and you need to skillfully navigate your interactions with these contacts for maximum benefit.

I work with many small- to mid-sized businesses. During a recent recruiting engagement, a client told me that he used to run a single ad and receive 50 resumes if he was lucky and screen out most of them until he was left with 10 to 20 potentials. Eventually, he would meet with about five or six of these candidates. He would have one mediocre or poor candidate at the end of this process and hire that person. Unfortunately, these people would seldom work out and he would be back to performing the same failed process over again.

Since most small businesses can offer only mildly competitive compensation packages and need the best talent money can buy, they have to find talent that is both enthusiastic about the opportunity offered and also has the qualities needed to achieve a high level of performance. This, in essence, is the best of both worlds — great talent at an affordable price. Finding this person requires either getting very lucky or a hiring process that dramatically increases the likelihood of success. This process is complicated and requires much training to carry out. If I had to choose one activity to immediately improve my results, it would be to follow the sales model approach to recruiting. Let us break it down to demonstrate how this works.

Step 1: In sales you need to identify your most likely prospects; in recruiting you need to create a pool of candidates. Just as in sales, not all of these prospects will be great, but you need to have enough good potential prospects to start with in order to figure out which ones are the great prospects.

In recruiting, you need a plan to attract the largest number of candidates who may meet your requirements for a high achiever. This will never be achieved by placing a single job ad on Invest a little in posting your ad in as many sources as possible, a minimum of four major job boards or aggregators and as many industry-specific job boards as possible. In addition to job boards, you will need an internal referral program and a social media campaign. The goal should be to attract 300 applicants for one job opening.

Step 2: If you curb qualify every prospect in sales, you will drastically reduce your pool of potential customers. In sales, call or knock on every possible door because you never know what you will find on the other end. Recruiting works the same way; everyone who is a potential A or B or even C candidate must be contacted to determine his or her potential. Of 300 applicants, you should look to speak with 50 to 100.

Step 3: Great salespeople qualify their prospects early in the process by asking great questions that engage potential customers. When searching for talent, we also need to qualify our prospects. You only do this by asking great discovery questions while getting to know your candidate. This both engages the candidate and also gives you control over the decision as to whether the candidate is a fit, as opposed to allowing the candidate to make this decision.

A typical successful sales funnel often looks like this:

You need to make 100 prospecting actions to get 10 potential customers (warm leads). Over a period of a week, you have 50 warm leads, and from that group, one or two become customers.

A successful recruiting funnel looks like this:

To find a diamond-in-the-rough candidate, you need 200 to 300 potentials. Of these, you need to speak with 20 percent to 30 percent. From these contacts, you can come up with 20 to 30 likely high-performing candidates who you can carefully scrutinize through interviewing and assessment tests. This hiring strategy enables you to identify who really is the best candidate for the job.

Unless you have a black book of highly qualified candidates who meet all of your specifications, you’ll have a difficult time finding a true top performer. Hiring great people is the same as finding great clients. Just as in sales, not every prospect is gold, but sift through enough of them and you will find your shiny nugget. One ounce of gold in your hiring efforts will often produce more success than you can imagine; it’s amazing the impact a top performer can have on business or a business unit.


image from 123RF

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