When you don't have a pipeline of sales talent to go to when making a hire, you can become desperate. You become desperate because you believe having someone in the role is better than a vacancy.
In the 6th blog of our series No Assembly Required Hiring, Tony discusses how to avoid making reactive hiring decisions and the 3 rules you must follow to improve your candidate selection.
What are your expectations of your salespeople when it comes to prospecting activity and a healthy pipeline? If you were going to go fishing, what is one of the keys to catching more fish? Not into fishing, then let us talk photography. If you want to capture the perfect sunrise picture, what is a fundamental principle to improving your probability of success? Last question to help make my point. If you want to improve any skill you have, change any outcome that you are unhappy with, what must you do?
The answer to these questions can be summarized here:
- You expect your salespeople to consistently prospect
- You need to have your lure in the water
- You need to snap hundreds of photos to get the ONE
- If you want to get better at a skill, you must practice thousands of times
What does this have to do with improved candidate selection?
Rule #1 Always be prospecting
As in the movie Glengarry Glen Close, when Alex Baldwin tells his salespeople to always be closing, I’m telling you to always be prospecting. 100% of the time over the last 25 years, when I ask sales managers, sales executives, and presidents if their prospecting was more proactive or reactive, they say reactive. That is a problem because you are now acting out of desperation. When you become desperate, you feel pressure to find someone to fill the chair because your mindset is that you cannot let that chair go empty. Someone in the chair is better than no one in the chair. Do not believe that lie.
The problem is, when you are reactive, it can also mean that you are being held hostage by someone. Let us assume that the recent open chair is a result of a termination you had to make. Chances are it was a decision that you made months ago but could not pull the trigger sooner because that employee:
- Had tenure
- Managed a single large account
- Had a significant book of business or portfolio
- Wasn't costing you anything
I want to challenge you on this. If you budgeted to hire two but could only grow headcount by one, who would be gone tomorrow? Then why are you waiting? You're waiting because you don’t have a pipeline of potential salespeople.
Rule #2 Own lead generation
I am not going to suggest that you stop using recruiting or placement firms. What I am suggesting is to stop using them as the reason you are not seeing enough candidates.
What do you do when your salespeople blame their lack of sales on the competition, the economy, or the mindset of your company? I am hoping you ask them: “If you didn't use that as an excuse, what would you be doing differently?" You must have that same attitude about filling your candidate pipeline.
If you own it, then you will fix it. Also, you can't blame HR or the hiring managers. You hired them; they have a responsibility to make sure the job is getting done consistently both in activity for candidate lead generation and execution of your recruiting process.
Rule #3 Inspect what you expect
If you expect salespeople to report on sales activity, pipeline opportunities, and client retention meetings, then you and the executive team must submit to inspection on candidate lead generation, and execution of the recruiting/hiring process.
- If you have a team of 5 people assigned to get introductions, network within associations, talk to former/current employees or connect with product partners, you need to inspect monthly their activity compared to the goal.
- If your hiring procedures identify that assessing is the first step in the recruiting process, then you need to inspect that it's being done. No one should go rogue on this just because it is a candidate they know, and or the local president knows all the players in their market.
- If you use a scoring process that objectively evaluates candidates every step of the way, then everyone that touches the process must follow and use the same process.
Failure to have a documented hiring process like the one we use, the Sales Talent and Acquisition Routine, will lead to inconsistent steps and processes. That will eventually result in the variability of performance from your new hires.