As we know in our industry, finding and matching talent to a job is no easy task. When that person is your next sales rep, the challenge becomes even greater. In my experience recruiting all kinds of positions, both for clients and for my own team, it is the single toughest position to fill.
So how do you maximize your chances of finding that next rainmaker for your firm? You do it months, even years before you need them. Just in time may be great for the manufacturing industry, but it stinks when you are sourcing critical talent. Let’s be honest, the tried and true practice of placing an ad, screening resumes, and interviewing candidates may be great for readily available and easily measurable skill sets, but it’s less than ideal for sales reps. Sales is just as much art as it is science, which makes it difficult to adequately determine a candidate’s potential through the traditional recruiting process. And, just as you shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry, you should never hire a sales rep when you are desperate for one.
That’s why as an owner or manager you need to continuously identify, evaluate and engage sales talent before you have an opening. In fact, I would go so far to say your goal should be never to go through the formal recruiting and interviewing process for internal employees again. You should be focused on constantly building a pipeline of talent just as you would a sales pipeline.
So where do you go looking for talent? Here are a few suggestions:
- Referrals. Create a lucrative referral program for your internal team. Ask your network who the best sales reps are that they know. Ask your clients what sales reps from other industries are calling on them and which ones are the best
- Networking events. Attend events that your clients and prospects attend. Pay attention to the sales reps that attend and watch how they sell. Hiring competitor reps can have non-compete challenges, so look for reps in different industries that target the same prospects
- Vendors. As an owner or manager, you probably are getting called on by a variety of sales reps. Rather than dismissing them, take the opportunity to see how they perform in their jobs. Look for potential as much as current skill. They could be a diamond in the rough that just hasn’t received the right training and coaching yet.
- Trade shows. Go to trade shows that target your prospect. But instead of just attending the show, focus on the exhibitors. You essentially get to see potential candidates Ina real-life sales scenario instead of an interview.
The key to finding your next superstar sales rep is to find them way before you need them. Filling your talent pipeline is critical to the success of your firm, and should looked at as a key responsibility for you and your company’s leadership.