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Thought For The Day

Recruiting Superior Sales Talent: Step 3 Searching

© The Gulas Group 2010

When I ask attendees at our executive briefing titled, "Recruiting Superior Sales Talent" to rank the importance of the recruiting steps, "Searching" is normally ranked incorrectly. In order of importance, "Searching" should be step 3 after the "Identify" and "Testing." Steps. However, many of you rank "Searching" as step two in your process, after "Identify." This confusion between the importance and sequence of steps causes many organizations to underachieve when it comes to executing the searching step. Organizations tend to panic and get in such a hurry to fill their pipeline with candidates they default to a traditional searching method that is, at best, ineffective for the 21st Century.

The traditional method of "Searching" for superior sales talent fails for many reasons:

- Marketing for the position describes the candidate a company would like to hire and provides way too much company information—instead, you should describe the opportunity in detail

- You need great sales people, but they are already in a job and typically not actively looking to change

- You have not built in insurance, such as testing, before conducting phone screening and looking over resumes

- Most organizations are confused about the real purpose of benchmarking and how to use it effectively in a search

- You are not using automation to its best capacity in the searching process to save your team time and energy

- You place too much faith in the job description

- Past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future performance (just like purchasing a stock history is not necessarily an indicator of future stock performance). If you make your search contingent on previous performance, you may set yourself up for a trap.

I will offer more detail on some of these traditional steps for searching for a sales superstar along with some suggestions for improvement.

Searching and marketing for superior sales talent are similar and neither can be done effectively unless you first did the most important step in this recruiting process: correctly identifying the right candidate. As part of the Identify step, you should have isolated things like the market your new employee will call on, the size of target companies, the average size of your accounts, length of your sales cycle, who the new employee will call on, and whether the end user needs and wants your product or service—or whether they need it but don't want it.

In your marketing you should fully describe the opportunity in detail, making sure to look up key words that candidates will search for online on job recruiting sites like Monster, the Ladders, and others. You marry up the key words using a template exercise. The template exercise works like a puzzle where you choose, then combine, common text phrases and demographic and psychographic words from your Identify step. Here is a brief example of how it comes together:

Selling high end business services to C-Level executives of large corporations in a complex selling environment and a growing market against the incumbent vendor.

Using the template correctly and indentifying all the challenges the candidate must overcome is an important way to shift from traditional searching for superior sales talent.

Another way to shift from traditional searches is to list your total compensation package in the marketing support materials. In addition, if you really want to break with the traditional way of searching for superior sales talents, don't ask for a resume. Have the candidate send one or two paragraphs describing how and why they meet the specifications in the marketing material. Next, make sure you automate the process by using auto responders  to direct candidates to a testing site before you decide which one to pursue. All of these exercises are designed in a way that someone who is not actively looking for a position says to themselves, "Wow that describes me! I need to look into this more."

Searching for superior sales talent requires an entire company effort. You should mandate an intense recruiting effort from the CEO to the receptionist that includes PR, marketing, and Internet employment ads. The stakes are just too high. The incidental cost of assessing candidates should be the insurance, not the final criteria. I recommend that my clients preferably have at least three hirable candidates after the assessment process in order to hire one. Most clients don't like to hear that. But usually one candidate won't fit for some reason that everyone in the department agrees on, and then you're left arguing about which of the remaining two will knock the ball out of the park. What a nice argument to have!

To up the chances of attaining three great candidates, you must understand the posting cost challenge. While your posting won't expire for two months, you must repost your ads every week to continue the flow of resumes. Then, you must know where to post the ad as well as the way the site's searchengines  work. With Monster.com, you must know how to use each field and drop-down list so that your ad comes up with the appropriate search key words. If potential candidates don't see your ad, they can't respond to it.

It should be evident by now that you need a new mindset to correctly search for superior sales talent in today's market. This article only touched on the highlights of a few steps in the process. Soon we will write about using Benchmarking in the search for superior sales talent.
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