Nov 21, 2022 • Podcast

How do I recruit top sales talent?

Paul shares powerful tips and ideas to help you put together your sales dream team.

Show Notes

Create a profile. You must know what you’re looking for.

The worst time to look for a salesperson is when you have a position to fill.

Even if you are completely staffed, you need to maintain a steady pipeline of new top sales talent.

Recruiting top sales talent is the managerial equivalent of your salespeople prospecting for new business.

Broaden your search. The greatest salespeople may not be in sales.

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How do I recruit top sales talent?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Well, it is no secret that sales managers are struggling to find good people. I hear this in almost every coaching seminar that I put together. That’s what we’re going to tackle on today’s episode. And this is based on a conversation I recently had with a sales leader—how we can find top sales talent. So, we’re going to get into that.

Now, before we do, just a reminder, pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. In this book, we have a whole chapter dedicated to leading an organization through tough times. If you’re a sales manager, if you’re a business owner, if you’re leading people, this one chapter is going to help you stabilize your team, motivate your team, and keep them pushing forward. So pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. Again, in the bonus section, we have a whole chapter on leadership. Selling Through Tough Times is available wherever you get your books.

Also, just a reminder, we have a Coaching for Sales Success public seminar happening here at my office in St. Louis on December 15th. There are still a couple of spots available. This class size, we keep it to about 12-to-15 sales leaders because we want to keep it interactive. We want to give you an opportunity to learn from each other. We’ll have more information on the Coaching seminar on this episode’s show notes, so check it out.

Let’s get to it. How do I recruit the top sales talent? I’m going to share about six or seven ideas. They’re going to kind of blend together, but these are powerful tips and ideas that will help you put together your sales dream team.

So first one, you have to create a profile. Number one, you’ve got to know who you are looking for. This is the same when salespeople are out there looking for new opportunities or new prospects. We encourage them to create a profile. That way you know what you are looking for. So as the sales leader, you need to be crystal clear on what type of salesperson you will need.

We love using the analogy of a hunter or a farmer, or in some cases, I’ve heard the term zookeeper used to describe salespeople. Realistically, your salespeople probably need an even mix of skills. They need to be able to protect and grow existing customers, and at the same time, go out there and hunt for new opportunities. It’s probably a combination of both, but you need to be crystal clear on what that looks like.

So, if you’ve got an established territory. Let’s say that’s where you are, let’s call it, fully penetrated, whatever that means for your industry. Let’s say you have 50-to-60 percent of the market share in that territory. If you have a mature territory where you have a lot of market share, you need a salesperson with some strong defensive-selling skills—a salesperson that can go in there, protect the business that you have, and also look for growth opportunities within those accounts.

Now, if you have a brand-new territory or a brand-new division, whatever it is, where the salesperson is having to carve out and grow that business from scratch, you need a salesperson that can go out there and hunt. You just need to make it perfectly clear. We call this strategic staffing when we’re in our coaching programs. It’s all about determining what type of position player you need. To use an analogy, the St. Louis Cardinals, they’re in the off-season now. They’re looking to build a team for next year, and so the management team is getting together, and they’re not saying, “Hey, we need the best baseball player.” Instead, they’re saying, “Okay, what positions do we need filled? Do we need more bats? Do we need more pitchers? Do we need more defensive players? What do we need?” You as the sales leader, need to decide what type of salesperson you need. Get crystal clear on what that looks like.

Number two, remember, the worst time to look for a salesperson is when you have to hire a salesperson. If you’ve got a vacant spot, you are more likely to get lenient on what you deem as a successful salesperson. You are more lax on the criteria because you just need to fill that spot. You’re trying to put a warm body in a hot territory and we’re calling that recruiting. Guys, the worst time to look for a position is when you have to fill it.

One of the best recruiting principles I’ve ever learned came from a sales manager that hired me when I was early on in my sales career. My team that I joined had been restructuring for a couple of years (we’ll call it that) which basically means, half the team was gone. They had to hire like five or six new salespeople. It was kind of a mess. But I was the last salesperson hired to complete the team.

Now, what was interesting is once my manager hired me and now all vacant spots were filled, he continued to interview. In fact, he interviewed so much, all the salespeople started talking. We actually asked our sales manager, we said, “Hey, we filled all these empty spots, but you’re still interviewing. Are you getting ready to add another territory? What’s going on?” He said, “No, I’m just going to continue to look for good salespeople.”

He interviewed so many salespeople that everyone on the team got nervous. We thought that, hey, maybe we were getting replaced—whatever it may have been. And so, the idea is you always need to be hiring; you always need to be recruiting. And for the sales manager, that means that you are constantly meeting with salespeople. Even if you are completely full, you need to maintain a steady pipeline of hires, of new top sales talent, that you can bring into your organization.

In fact, going along with the next point, in my coaching programs, I will often ask sales leaders, “How many of you, by show of hands, wish your salespeople would go out there and prospect more often?” And every hand goes up. And then I challenge them with this. I say, “Look, recruiting top sales talent is the managerial equivalent of your salespeople prospecting for new business.” Let that point sink in for another moment. As a sales manager, the equivalent of prospecting for you is going out there and recruiting top sales talent.

So, think about that. Are you dedicating at least 20 percent of your time to finding new talent, to looking for salespeople, talking to your people, asking them who they know? If you’re not, if you’re not dedicating at least 20 percent of your time to finding top sales talent, you really haven’t earned the right to complain about not finding people. Dedicate 20 percent of your time.

Now, let me share a couple other thoughts, because I know you’re thinking, “Okay, where do we find this talent?” There are two things that sales managers will do that limit the hiring pool. First and foremost, they restrict their search to their industry. I can’t tell you how many times I’m working in an industry like Oil and Gas, or Tech or whatever it may be, and every job description will say something along the lines of, must have three-to-five years of experience in the industry. Right then and there, you’re not only limiting yourself, you’re excluding the 90 percent, or 95, or 99 percent of salespeople that currently aren’t selling in your industry. So don’t be afraid to go outside your industry. And I know that it may take a little bit longer for you to teach that individual the industry—they need to get the knowledgeable expertise and all that—but, if they have the raw material makeup, it’s worth that added investment. Don’t be afraid to go outside your industry.

Another limiting factor is when we only recruit people that are already in sales. You know, sales, yes, it is one of the most common professions in the world, but everybody sells. Everybody is in the persuasion business to some degree, and, right now, the best salesperson that you could hire for your next position could be a teacher. They could be a customer-service professional. They could be a driver, whoever it may be. This individual may not be in sales already, yet they haven’t had an opportunity to get into it. Don’t just limit your hiring pool to people that have sales experience already.

Now that you’ve broadened your reach, the next thing you want to do—if you are trying to hire sales superstars, talk to the other superstars within your organization, from the shop floor to the top floor. They don’t necessarily have to be in sales. Bear with me for a moment. Jim Rohn, famous motivational speaker, he said that you’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. So it stands to reason that every top performer in your company, regardless of their role, is hanging around other successful people. Okay? Think about that for a moment. Yes, you’ve got your sales superstar already. Ask that individual, “Hey, who else do you know is eager to make a career change?” Or, “Who else do you know that I could reach out to?” Start there.

But then go to your top customer-service professional—you know that one professional in customer service or inside sales—and ask that individual, “Hey, who do you know that is interested in getting into sales?” Or “Do you know anyone I could talk to?” Talk to your best if you want to find the best. Again, the best surround themselves with the best. All you need to do is have the conversation and don’t limit it just to salespeople that you know. Again, the greatest salespeople might not be in sales already. Give them an opportunity. Don’t limit yourself.

Finally, one last thing, and this is more anecdotal. I’ve noticed this throughout my career when working with top-achieving salespeople, when understanding their process, and I really want to tap into their motivation, I want to know what drives them. Because top achievers, yes, they are driven, and there’s one commonality that I’ve noticed. Some of the best salespeople, who I’ve worked with, sell with a chip on their shoulder. They feel like they have something to prove. I remember one trade association where I did a study on top-achieving salespeople. And I went out and I talked to some of the top achievers, the individuals that are, they’re winning President’s Club year in and year out. And in this study, I noticed something. For a majority of these top performers, they felt like they needed to prove something, that someone took a chance on them. One salesperson I interviewed said, “You know, they almost didn’t hire me because I didn’t have a college degree.” And he said, “That really bothered me. Every day I’d almost wake up wanting to prove everyone wrong.”

Another top achiever that I interviewed, this guy was passed over on three different occasions to go from an inside-sales role to an outside-sales role in a company. And he finally said he got hired on as an outside salesperson and lit it up. I mean, the guy won President’s Club within the first year. And when he was asked about it, “Hey, what motivates you?” And he said, “You know, every one of those people that passed me over before, I want to be able to shove this in their face.” That’s what it means, Do you have something to prove? Is there a chip on that person’s shoulder? Sometimes the greatest motivator is doing what people say you can’t do. And, to some degree, if you could find that individual, just imagine what they could achieve in their role.

Make it a big day.

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