Category Archives: – Sales Recruitment:Some Thoughts-Part 3

Sales Recruitment: Some Thoughts – Part 3

Merry go Round-B&W and Lilac

While we can never stop people looking for pastures new, employers should be doing all they can to minimise the likelihood of itchy feet among their staff. Predictably, better pay and bonus schemes are the causes most often cited by sales people for leaving but the reasons for staying never seem to get much exposure. I wonder why. Because bad news make better headlines, perhaps? Teams which, by and large, get on well with one another, who respect their line-manager and fellow colleagues are not as rare as after-work pub gossip would have us believe. Not surprisingly, in my largely peripatetic role I get to see and experience work environments which range from the genuinely positive to the downright negative, and it doesn’t take an in-depth academic study to recognise the ones where people are more likely to stay in their job for its own enjoyment, sense of purpose and the contribution it makes.

In-depth studies, however, do blame a variety of reasons why employees quit their job on employers. Aspects of the work environment, its culture, and how an employee perceives his/her job and its potential opportunities are commonly observed factors that the employer has failed to maximise or address.

Where studies have made recommendations, the majority advise organisations to tap into what their employees are thinking. Now, nobody is asking bosses to become mind readers – or to be best friends with their staff. But if management are to get the best out of their people, communication channels need to exist and to be open, clear, and two-way. But this also means that staff should take the initiative too. It’s a well-worn joke among HR managers that in any ‘exit interview’ departing employees will commonly moan “No one motivated me… No one gave me any responsibility… No one asked me to apply for the promotion… No one ever…” The list runs on and on. Of course, a good HR will gently point out, er, excuse me, but didn’t you – ie the employee – ever think to talk to your manager…?

Of course by this stage it’s too late. Any respect one side may have had for the other will by now have evaporated. Even if there is a new job to go to, at such times employees tend to feel aggrieved and/or disillusioned, while the employer simply wants them out as quickly as possible. What a pity when I think of the huge amounts of goodwill and enthusiasm both parties once had when the job offer was made and accepted.

Not for the first time or the last time either.

Because all this is another aspect of what I call The Recruitment Merry-go-Round; the one which keeps HR, recruitment consultants and headhunters in clover. (I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about free passengers.) Only for the employer it never really ends all that merrily, does it? However large or small the organisation, recruitment costs are a drain on the bottom line. Every business should make every effort to learn something from such experiences and slow down the ride.



Sales Recruitment: Some Thoughts – Part 2

Merry go Round-B&W and Blue

It’s widely accepted that recruitment is as time-consuming as it is costly, to say nothing of the ‘rock the boat’ implications once when someone has handed in their notice. Whether because of dismissal or resignation (don’t forget it’s illegal to revive a post you have already formally deemed ‘redundant’) the office rumour machine will have gone into overdrive often before you’ve realised you may need to assign someone temporarily to manage any accounts which look vulnerable.

There can be other consequences, too.

Owing to the essential responsibility of the job, a salesperson who’s given notice and still kicking around the building, will often have a greater negative impact on their team than an employee in a different role. Acting alone, sales reps on resignation period have been known to copy client records (and email them to their personal account), make moves to take valuable customers with them, mishandle clients by having lost the commitment to customer service or make approaches to other team members to join them in the wonderful career move they’ll be making. It really is not nice to have to make this list, but it’s not uncommon, and in the unlikely case that anyone reading this has never had such experiences, well lucky you, is all I can say; but that’s the reality. Forewarned is forearmed.

Regarding the wider team, sales departments thrive best as positive, upbeat environments. The imminent departure of one of their own can, rightly or wrongly, remind a team of a better life (and pay) outside. It may also depress morale, affect productivity and create general unsettlement; every single one a motivation zapper and not conducive to making sales. This is why I usually advise employers to just pay off the rep, take the hit, reassure the rest of the team that it’s business as usual and get on with finding the best replacement possible. Understandably, given the economic conditions of recent years this can be hard to accept, but the price of a de-motivated sales force in a still-difficult climate is likely to be far higher.



Sales Recruitment: Some Thoughts – Part 1

Merry go Round-B&W and Yellow

If you’ve employed sales staff for any length of time, you will have learnt to expect some degree of churn in your team(s). Whether it’s because of poor performance, burn out, or the lure of a better bonus scheme, you will understand that it’s not in the nature of many reps (especially young ones) to stay put for very long. Anyone who has experienced the time-consuming and costly hassle of dealing with agencies, posting ads on job sites, sifting through CVs and interviewing, must surely have thought to themselves at some stage “I hope I don’t have to do this again for a long time.”

In a previous life I had a good run in permanent employment at several well-organised and profitable companies, at which a director’s signature was always needed for the weekly stationery order. So far, so corporate. However, not one ever put any restriction on recruitment spend: the assumed message being do whatever it takes to get prospects and customers serviced properly again and sales had better meet projections. The stationery v. recruitment paradox is not uncommon in the business world, and I still muse on the fact that a pack of 3M’s finest yellow stickies could be subject to stricter control than a series of ads in sits vac or agency fees – which in some months ran into thousands.

But this is the point. In most cases, there is financial pressure to fill a vacancy as quickly as possible. Predictably, suppliers are exploiting a need based on urgency – hence their astronomic charges (although the internet has driven down advertising rates) – which buyers will rarely query at the time. The recruitment industry (valued last year at £26.5 billion* – yes you read that correctly) thrives on the pressure to return staff levels to full strength.

Recruiting to fill any vacancy is, at best, about being in control and striking lucky; at worst seeing it as a task to be over and done with and making hasty decisions under pressure. Potentially more disastrous, is falling into the common trap of conceding that ‘bums on seats’ will do – followed by a dollop of bad luck.

In the end, recruitment mistakes will always take time and money to fix, sometimes long after the manager responsible has left – or been promoted. As I often have to remind business owners: “Recruit in haste, repent at leisure”.

* Source: Recruitment & Employment Confederation, 2012-13