Talent Management

Why is it Difficult to Find Outstanding Sales Professionals?

In my last blog post on hiring sales professionals, I introduced the concept of why it is difficult to hire great sales professionals and we drilled into defining success as the starting point of best practices in hiring.

In this blog post, let’s talk about why it’s so difficult to find great sales professionals.

You’re Doomed To Fail Before You Start

The vast majority of companies search for candidates in traditional approaches that might include a little bit of light networking to find out who knows someone looking for a job, attending local job fairs, and running an advertisement on a job board, such as Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com.

Most of the time these traditional methods bring the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pool to your doorstep. If all you’re seeing is the bottom 1/3, then you’re doomed to fail before you start. It doesn’t matter how great the job is, how wonderful your company is, how much of a leader you are – You’re Doomed to Fail Before You Start the Hiring Process.

You get 300 responses to your networking, job fair, on-line ad — 298 of which you can’t figure out what keyword did the candidate click on that brought them to the conclusion they should apply to your job. Two in the group were excellent. Unfortunately, they were so good – they went on and off the market in the blink of an eye. Now you’re left with all the rejects, retreads, poor performers, toxic and dysfunctional (perhaps semi-psychotic), dregs, and bottom of the barrel candidates.

Then we choose from this group.

One of my clients the other day called this approach to finding candidates “picking from best of the worst”. Another one of my clients recently coined the phrase “picking from the cream of the crap”.

Does this sound dysfunctional? Why then do most companies use this approach to finding candidates?

I was speaking with a Vistage Member toward the end of last week who told me he ran advertisements on a couple of job boards. He got hundreds of responses. He personally interviewed over 50 candidates. Over the course of 3 months, he hired 3 candidates for his sales team. One is very good and the other two he is considering firing. His track record is somewhat shy of 50% and he’s already invested over 80 hours of his personal time in the process.

Is there any other process in your company where that investment of time yields a result of less than 50% accuracy? Probably NOT! Why then do we accept this random variability as OKAY when it comes to hiring?

Vistage Speaker Presentation Responses

The responses I hear in my Vistage Talk “You’re NOT the Person I Hired” include:

* We don’t know any better
* No one has shown us a more effective process
* That’s the way we’ve always done it
* Isn’t that what HR is supposed to do?
* Sometimes we hire good people this way

At the beginning of my speaker presentation, I’ll cycle one by one around the room asking the members to share their greatest frustration in hiring. Finding candidates always comes up as one of the top 3 for the past decade. It doesn’t seem to matter if the economy is going straight up, straight down, or sideways – it’s always tough to find top talent, especially in hiring sales professionals. I just did a program a week ago in Vancouver and 7 out of 15 members raised their hands that they were struggling to find candidates. Some of the members had been looking for 2 months, 4 months, and over 6 months to find someone to fill a critical role.

What a minute – are we not in one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression? Millions of candidates are aggressively looking for a job. Shouldn’t we be able to grab one of those candidates? NO – ABSOLUTELY NOT! You’re not trying to put bodies in chairs – you’re trying to hire an outstanding sales professional who can achieve your desired expectations and do so within the context of your company culture and values. The problem is that most of the methods traditionally used to find candidates bring warm bodies to your doorstep, not high performers.

Sometimes, you get lucky. You find a great candidate at a job fair, in your second networking call, off an advertisement. LUCK IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE HIRING STRATEGY. I would like to suggest that you can make finding top-notch candidates a process so that you can consistently bring great people to the table instead of depending on luck.

What’s Next – Improving Sale Hiring Step-by-Step

In my next few blog posts, I’ll break down in more depth “Why it’s so difficult to find Outstanding Sales Professionals”. We’ll talk about how hiring is a lot like recruiting for a public high school sports team, the 4 pools of candidates and which one should be your sweet spot, why using a job description masquerading as a job advertisement doesn’t work, and a few simple and inexpensive best practices to dramatically improve the quality and quantity of candidates into the top of your sales candidate funnel.

Between now and my next blog post on Vistage Buzz, I’d love to hear in the comments section what your greatest frustrations are when it comes to finding outstanding sales professionals.

Category: Talent Management

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Barry Deutsch About the Author: Barry Deutsch

Barry Deutsch has been a popular Vistage Speaker for over a decade in the areas of hiring and retention. In recognition of the value of his presentations, Vistage has given him the prestigious IMPACT Speaker of the Year Award. He is a co-aut…

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