Understanding what salespeople want from a job is critical to successful recruiting. The three most important attractions of a selling job and the commitment to earn them are:
- Independence requiring self-discipline
- Opportunity requiring risk
- Security requiring loyalty
- However, the importance of these attractions is very different with each of the four types of salespeople.
Recruiting Closing Salespeople
Closing salespeople are usually high energy, fast pacers, who leave a sales job only because incentives or commissions are capped, or because the company itself is in decline.
We suggest recruiting only experienced salespeople from companies (competitors or not) who pay most or all of their compensation on commission or bonus. Good closers usually have to be found by personal contact. Very few successful closing salespeople are looking for a job. Risks don’t bother them if a great opportunity comes along. In fact, security is almost irrelevant. But some degree of independence is critical; they seldom work well as a part of a team.
Recruiting Consultative Salespeople
Consultative sellers also want opportunity and are willing to accept both “the risk of failure” and “the risk of rejection” in order to have a shot at that opportunity. Often the most desired opportunity is advancement into management. Security, however, is more important than independence; they’ll be both loyal and team players if it advances their career.
Consultative sales jobs can draw directly from school graduates if extensive classroom and on the job training and mentorships are provided. Individuals with less than top grades are often the best candidates, since they studied “practically” (i.e., enough to reach a goal–graduation). They spent a good deal of their time learning social skills (excellent for selling) at the expense of academic pursuits (not always so excellent for selling). They are usually very image and prestige conscious (though often reticent to admit it) and seek an employer that has a prestigious professional image, like the IBM look.
Recruiting Relationship Salespeople
Relationship sellers want independence–the freedom to be their own boss. They will exercise discipline and take responsibility for themselves. They become resistant if management gets too much in their way, or if management tries to change the rules and control their selling environment too much. They’ll be loyal if not manipulated unfairly, but will be team players only in verbal confirmation (after which they’ll do it their own way, anyway).
Relationship salespeople are basically small entrepreneurs. Most of them get into sales accidentally. They could just as easily have started in some other business. A key is locating people who started, or tried to start, their own business, or who worked in situations where there was relative autonomy. They typically can be found with competitors, distributors, and working for customers. They are usually politically “right” or conservative in orientation and participate in or are interested in sports because these are competitive activities.
Recruiting Display Salespeople
Display salespeople and order takers want security and routine and are willing to give loyalty in return. Many retail salespeople are used as clerks, not offered security, and thus aren’t very loyal. Hobbyists, however, who become retail specialists in their hobby area typically develop a high degree of loyalty to both their sales area and products, as well as to their customers (e.g., fashion buffs who sell clothes or electronic enthusiasts who work in electronics outlets).
To understand effective display salespeople better, we need to recognize the combination of “some” ambition to keep busy and be involved with the work ethic, along with a stronger interest in non-work activity, such as maintaining home obligations or other non-career-related aspects of life. These people can have an interest in success, but they don’t want to narrowly direct their attention toward a career.
Security-oriented people usually select jobs that require little decision making, are convenient to home, and are well structured. They often have strong commitments to hobbies and moderate to high community interests. Recruiters can find them in non-sales jobs like clerical and office work, paraprofessional health service jobs, and low-skill service jobs. They can be reached by ads in the home section of the newspaper, through community affairs contacts, etc.
The Tough Recruiting Questions: How Much to Spend? How Much Experience? When to Recruit From Competitors?
Spend as much as you would expect it would cost to cover the actual replacement cost of a top salesperson leaving. That figure includes the cost of lost sales, start-up time, etc.
If you have the time to develop a good recruiting program, you will be able to focus in and increase your recruits’ average level of performance dramatically. If you don’t have the time, consider using good recruiters and give them a clear picture of the kind of salesperson you need.
Experience is critical in relationship and consultative sales. It usually takes at least three years for a motivated recruit to become the best. If you can afford that development time, you may be able to pick candidates fresh out of school. If you can’t, choose experienced people.
Consultative selling is both the hardest and easiest to do. It is difficult because it depends upon a technical base which comes naturally only to academic people, and easy because it relies on a well-developed selling system (advertising support material, etc.) that has been carefully planned and implemented. In general, you will find it easier to train the technical skills than to train the selling skills, but the difference is slight. If you don’t have extensive classroom and on-the-job sales mentor training programs available, pick an experienced pro.
Recruiting from competitors offers a two-edged sword. On the one hand, such candidates may already have many of the necessary skills. On the other hand, if salespeople will leave a competitor, they may well leave you also. The key issue is whose fault was the transition. Strong “superstars” who left a company because their careers or commissions were capped are a good source. Otherwise, be wary of competitors whose poor-to-average salespeople may simply be looking for an opportunity that is going to be easier for them, rather than an opportunity that is going to have greater potential.
Also, be aware that many competitors’ jobs vary just enough from your own that negative transfer of skills becomes a problem (e.g., people who had their leads generated for them now have difficulty generating leads of their own).
Successful Recruiting: Three Steps
Good recruiting isn’t a matter of chance in the long run.
- analyzing what you need,
- identifying who likes to do that well, and
- offering them the “reward” they really want, you’ll set a company “image” that will recruit for you! Now you can pick from some of the best recruits available … and they contact you!