So you want to hire a new sales rep? Sales reps are the hardest positions to fill in the staffing industry. I equate it to picking a quarterback in the NFL draft – no matter how much research, screening, and measuring you do, you really don’t know how that person is going to perform until you bring them on board and give them a shot.
However, there are a few key things that you can do to pick the best candidate and minimize your chances of the dreaded “draft bust”.
1) Decide what you really want the sales rep to do – Many times a sales rep fails because what the company thought they wanted them to do and what they actually ended up having them do turn out to be different. Determining what types of prospects and activities the rep will focus on has a huge impact on what type of person you will recruit. If you want someone to focus on small, retail business, than you are going to need someone that is willing to pound the phones all day. If you are looking for a large account sales executive, then you will need someone with experience in solutions selling, long sales cycles, and a more systematic approach. You are also talking about two very different comp plans, sales metrics, and quotas.
2) Create an ideal candidate profile – Sure you have a job description, but do you really know what you want in a candidate? Job descriptions tend to be 75% this is what you’ll be doing and 25% these are the general skills you need. They typically focus on quantifiable requirements (as they should), and less on what the intangibles are that successful sales reps possess. They also don’t rank characteristics by importance. An ideal candidate profile, on the other hand, focuses on the 6-8 key characteristics that the perfect candidate will possess, and ranks them based on must-haves versus nice-to-haves. This becomes the criteria you use to search for candidates, and the benchmark that all candidates are measured by.
3) Staffing industry experience or not? – One of the biggest questions I get is “should I hire someone from the staffing industry?” There are several points to consider when answering this question. Are you patient enough to thoroughly train someone from outside the industry, and understand that they will most likely not ramp up as quickly as someone with industry experience? How enforceable are non-competes in your market, and do your competitors have a tendency to come after them? Are you willing to sacrifice a larger candidate pool for staffing experience? And do you want to rely on your competitors to select and train your next sales rep? While there are certainly advantages to hiring someone already familiar with the industry, you are also severely limiting your options and essentially hoping that your competitors are great at identifying sales talent.
4) Decide where you are going to find them – If your idea of a sales rep search is posting an ad on Craigslist, then your odds of finding that rock star sales rep are about the same as the Raiders drafting a future pro bowl quarterback. You need to take a multi-pronged, targeted approach to your search. Think about where your best candidates are going to be:
Linked In – Do advanced searches based on your ideal candidate profile. Then look at their number of connections, how complete their profile is, and what groups they belong to. If they aren’t doing these things now, they likely aren’t going to start doing them when they work for you
Niche Job Boards – Sites like Openreq are a great place to find staffing professionals, and others that may have an interest in entering our industry
Your network – Reach out to your own network and let them know what you are looking for. Many of the best candidates I’ve sourced over the years have been referrals, or were already in my network
Networking events and associations – Go to the events that you would expect your sales reps to attend, then look for the sales reps that are already attending them. For example if you target HR, go to HR association events and look for sales reps outside of staffing that have the same prospects.
Selecting your next sales rep is a major decision that can have a tremendous impact on your business. Its important before you even start the search to decide what you really want your next sales rep to be and do. By giving serious thought to the ideal candidate, you significantly increase the odds of success for the rep and you.