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



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