man holding his hands out in fear screamingWhat is the most common challenge I hear from managers? Hands down, it is that they have difficulty finding top sales talent. And, when they do find a qualified candidate, the person often opts for a different opportunity (many times a competitor). Why?

Obviously there can be many factors for why you aren’t attracting top sales talent, but these are the ones I’ve found to often be at the root of the problem:

1. Not looking for talent in the right places (and not looking continually)
2. Using job ads/posts that are poorly written
3. Not addressing top talent’s hot buttons
4. Not setting expectations with the candidate about the hiring process.

The good news is that all four of these problems are easily fixed.  Here are the steps you can take to not only attract sales talent, but get them eager to come aboard:

Not looking for talent in the right places (and not looking continually)
The first rule of successful recruitment is you should always be recruiting and always be interviewing. It serves two purposes: It sharpens your interview skills and increases your networking and scope of influence. Like sales, you should never be without prospects in your funnel. If you don’t currently have an opening then simply tell the prospective candidate the truth and add that you would like to meet to get to know the person better. It’s flattering and I’ve never had a person say “no.”

Are you targeting your job ad in the right places? Analyze where you are looking for talent. Ask yourself how someone might reach you if you were not actively looking for a job, because most talented salespeople are NOT actively looking – they have a job. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have one eye open at all times on potential greener pastures! Think about your industry and what media those salespeople are consuming. It’s likely that placing a job ad on industry-specific websites or publications versus putting an ad on Monster.com makes a lot more sense.

Where are some other places those potential candidates might be? I’ve found that posting to the “Jobs” section of industry related “Groups” on LinkedIn yields much more qualified candidates than generic job boards and websites.  (See “6 Free Ways To Recruit Salespeople On LinkedIn.”) And while you are on LinkedIn, make sure you do a status update about the position and ask your connections to forward it to those they think might be interested. Ask your current top performers to do the same thing. I’ve found that they tend to know other top performers and have very large networks of work acquaintances.

Another obvious social media choice is Facebook. If your company has a Facebook page, do a post about the job opening. People who are your company followers are fans or your company and likely to be interested. It’s possible that your next great hire could be one of those fans. Or, someone who knows them is, and forwards the info to them.

Get creative. Maybe you make a quick video about the job opening and post the video to your website and YouTube. Send the link out as an email blast to your contacts and ask them to forward it to anyone they know who might be interested. Ask your current salespeople, “If I was a company that wanted to hire you, where would be the best place for me to put my job posting to reach you?”

Using job ads/posts that are poorly written
Think of a job post as one big news headline. Meaning, your focus should be how you are going to hook the person into reading it. Unfortunately, most job posts/ads read like a laundry list of desired traits that are more like an online dating site request than an engaging and dynamic job overview. The Harvard Business Review did a great article about this, “Your Job Ads Are Driving Away Talent.”

Too often they start off with a P.R. paragraph about the company…Here’s a recent one I saw (names deleted to protect the inept):

XYZ Holding Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based XYZ Inc. and is comprised of: ABC Company and WYZ Company. We are the fastest-growing widget organization in the United States. Consisting of more than 570 retail stores in 39 states and the District of Columbia through 12 retail store names, we are the industry leaders in each of their respective markets. Find a better career and A Better You! We believe that our Associates are our most valuable resource and are, therefore, the key to our future growth, performance and success. We offer opportunities to grow and develop your career while providing world class customer service for our customers!

Wow – doesn’t that just grab you and reel you in?  Um…no.  It’s all about what the company wants you to know, not what you want to know. The start of the job ad reads like a press release.  The opening paragraph needs to hit that salesperson’s hot buttons. Where are the specifics?  Where is the mention of money, career advancement, challenges, selling tools, growth potential?  Those are the things that grab a top performer’s attention.

A good tip to writing a great first line for a job ad is to ask the candidate a question:

Do you feel you have gone as far as you can with your current company?

 Do you sometimes feel you spend more time selling your ideas internally than you do with your clients?

Do you get the support and the resources you need to be at the top of your game?

Don’t use third person language in the ad. Things like, “The ideal candidate will have…” do not engage the reader. Write the ad as if you were speaking directly to that talented salesperson you want to hire – because if you’re lucky, you are! When you are listing the “Responsibilities,” describe the key aspects of the job, not a list of every possible thing the person might encounter.  When listing the “Requirements” you should only list the things that are deal breakers. For example, does the person really have to have a college degree? Is it a must that the person has experience in your particular industry? Keep in mind that the more things you list here, the more likely someone will ‘self-select out.’

Many people think that if they don’t have a stringent list of requirements they will be inundated with unqualified candidates.  But actually, research shows that isn’t the case. Don’t describe your “ideal” candidate, because that person may not exist and you may be inadvertently turning away great candidates.

Not addressing top talent’s hot buttons
These “hot buttons” are the key things that highly talented salespeople want to know when considering a job.  These are the items that should be included in the job ad as well as in an interview.  What are those “hot buttons?” The company Sales Benchmark Index did research specifically on that question to find out. Below are some of the primary concerns that top performing sales people want to know about when considering a job:

  •  What opportunity (accounts, industry or geography) does the position offer?
  • What is my earning potential?  Now and in the future?
  • What kind of training and professional development will I receive?
  • How will I quickly ramp up during my onboarding period? Is there an adjusted quota or a guarantee?
  • What is the culture like? Is this a winning team? Are the sales people respected?

You won’t be able to address all of these in a job ad, but make sure you are hitting as many as you can in order to increase your chances of catching the eye of the right candidate. And make sure you are covering these items in your interviews with top performers.

Not setting expectations with the candidate about the hiring process
Many times I’ve had managers tell me that when they have found a talented salesperson, they lose him or her because the person gets irritated with the interview process. This might be because it is taking too long or involves too many steps. The solution to this is to clearly outline the process for the candidate from the beginning.

Map out each step and explain the reason for it. It’s like how people feel about airline delays the worst part is not knowing what’s happening. Even if you are aggravated by the delay, you definitely prefer knowing the reason for it versus feeling left in the dark or jerked around and not appreciated. Stay in constant contact with the candidate through email and phone. Don’t let more than two days go by without some kind of contact and/or update. You want this person to feel that they are a top priority for you and your company; after all, he or she might just be your next superstar.



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