Finders Keepers: Attracting and Retaining Top Sales Professionals

Finders Keepers: Attracting and Retaining Top Sales Professionals

by Russell J. Riendeau

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Are You Chasing a Purple Squirrel? (purple squirrel n: an ideal job candidate who, in reality, does not exist)
Too often, managers waste time chasing a purple squirrel. A sales candidate may be skilled at selling, but can he or she relate to your industry sales cycle, costing systems, delivery schedules, and manufacturing processes? Recruiting talent is the number one issue facing companies today. How do you attract and retain elite talent in today's tight labor market? How do you evaluate motivation and ability to sell competitively in your industry? These are just some of the questions Russell Riendeau addresses in Finders Keepers. Other questions addressed include: Is your organization attractive to the best sales and management personnel? Is there a magic commission formula that will keep talent on your team? What can you do about expensive turnover in your sales force? Why is it important to brag about sales reps who have left your organization? Why should you find your replacement?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781938803321
Publisher: Addicus Books
Publication date: 09/01/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 117
File size: 828 KB

About the Author

Russell J. Riendeau has been an executive search professional since 1985. He is the author of Thinking on Your Seat, is a guide for those wishing to enter the field of executive recruitment. Riendeau’s ideas and writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Sales & Marketing Management. He lives in Barrington, Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

Finders Keepers

Attracting and Retaining Top Sales Professionals

By Russell J. Riendeau

Addicus Books, Inc.

Copyright © 2001 Russell J. Riendeau
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-938803-32-1


Section I

Attracting Top Talent: The Coolest Magnet Wins

People come and go so quickly here ... — Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

Sell the thunder. They'll buy the rain.

Potential is what individuals look for in a new job.

I recently reviewed the past 100 placements my search firm made and found, amazingly enough, that more than 40 percent of these positions did not exist thirty-six months ago! Can you sell the opportunity to potential hires that they can define and create a new job for themselves? Even design a new commission plan to reward dynamic sales growth? Does your culture promote this entrepreneurial spirit? Selling thunder is easy: it's loud, demands attention, and has energy. But after you've heard it a few times you get used to it. But a steady, nurturing rain of support, freedom, and reward is what will attract the elite to your doorstep and keep them contributing to your profits and their portfolios.

"... I love you, Danny, but I can't marry you ... It's the pigs." from Waking Ned Devine

Check with a consultant to confirm your compensation plan ranks in your industry's 80th percentile. If not, change it.

In the quirky and hilarious film Waking Ned Devine, a small farming town in Ireland schemes to snooker the county out of the lottery winnings of a dead man. One of the stories in the film is the love between a pig farmer and a lady in town. She loves him but can't bring herself to marry him and live with the smell of a pig farm. Only when he gets the lottery dough and bids the farm adieu does she agree to marry him. Moral of the story: Why put your energy into convincing potential employees to join your firm when you don't pay a competitive wage?

Up the ante. Attract the better talent with better pay — not a lot more, but slightly more than the rest — just below the No. 1 in your marketplace. See what happens. You'll reduce turnover (which will offset the cost increases of better pay plans), enhance morale, attract better talent, and rid yourself of making excuses. It also makes a bold statement to your customers that you want and expect the best. They won't object as much either when you raise your prices if you're doing a great job!

Hear ye, hear ye! A radical proclamation

Announce and publish your policies, philosophy of business practice, and hiring process to the world.

Write a mission statement with an attitude, then post it everywhere — from the lobby to the company newsletter to the back of pay stubs. Let potential employees know what your company is really about — its philosophy and business practices. Rarely do you see this courageous approach to attracting new talent. All too often companies spend big bucks telling what they can do for the customer — the thousands of employees ready to help them, the 500 service centers armed with personnel. This is all well and good, but it doesn't say anything about the philosophy of customer service issues, freedom to make decisions, flexible pay options for sales and service people. There is nary a word about what good things will happen when an employee works hard and smart, and what will happen if he or she doesn't.

Be different! Let employees know how their hard work will be rewarded. And announce up front and out loud that employees will be fired if they don't do their work. A few of the newer, innovative technology firms have caught the wave and are benefitting from this candid and radically refreshing approach to hiring. Be radical! Tell it like it is!

Don't negotiate with a plumber on Christmas Eve.

Good talent is hard to find, and it ain't cheap.

A general manager told me a story about the time his wife attempted an Oriental noodle recipe on Christmas Eve for their guests. At her request, he tasted it. She wanted feedback, so he offered his assessment: "Yuck!" She immediately dumped the entire contents into the sink, taxing the poor garbage disposal and creating a seriously clogged pipe.

Close to 8:00 P.M. he finally found a plumber. "Gonna cost you double, you know!" the voice challenged. "Tell you what I'll do," said the general manager, "I'll pay you two and a half times your fee if you're here in thirty minutes!" The plumber came and fixed the drain. Money well spent.

Being cheap is a habit and one that won't serve you well if you're going after top talent. The American way of negotiation is: make an offer, other party counters, first party counters the counter, they agree to split the difference, and the deal is done. Attracting great people with this approach won't work. Why? Because the top performers in every market know this game. They play it every day with their customers. They're good at it and don't have to play with you. Make a solid offer and be prepared to pay a premium for the best. If you need a person to start yesterday, now is not the time to try to save money. Your customers are feeling the lack of attention, and it will be hard to replace them. Remember the lesson my general manager friend learned: the plumber doesn't have to come out to fix your drain on Christmas Eve — you've got to convince him he can't afford not to come.

"... and, this coffin makes a neat go-cart chassis if you decide not to use it below grade!"

Be creative in selling the benefits of working for your organization!

If you have a product a potential employee might think of as boring, sell the excitement of its application and who its customers are. Demonstrate to potential hires how your product contributes to the health of people, the impact on an industry, the new technology it holds, the future of the marketplace, the commission plan they will enjoy, the lack of strong competition in the arena, and so on. Show candidates there is more to the sale than what they think. Everybody needs to feel strongly about the product or service he or she sells, so help the individual to see the possibilities previously overlooked.

It's not always about the money.

People change jobs for reasons beyond the almighty and alluring buck.

Y'our ability to attract top talent depends on your company's ability to be competitive in many arenas. In a survey a few years ago, a major corporation found that money was one of the top ten reasons people took jobs, but it wasn't number one. Other factors ahead of it included advancement potential, personal satisfaction, recognition (a feeling of worth and contribution), surroundings, professionalism, management style of their boss, commute time, and above-average pay for the work assignment. Money alone will not attract top talent. Ask candidates what factors will influence their decision to take or reject a job offer from you.

"Xanadu is over there, madam."

Being candid with potential hires will go farther in securing them for your organization.

Most people realize no company is perfect. All businesses, unlike the mythical, magical place called Xanadu, must deal with public and private issues

Each one has a unique cluster of issues, agendas, and pressures to face in an ever-changing market. Be candid with candidates. Explain in positive language what problems your company faces, what you're doing about them right now, and what you're planning to do in the future. Show them how they can contribute to the company to make it better. Show them where the ideas are coming from. And let them know they'll be asked for their suggestions if they become part of the team. Ask potential hires to offer a suggestion for improving the company's performance based on their observations.

If your firm has had bad press lately, discuss it openly and candidly. Defend, but don't sell. Explain the issue as it relates to the industry as a whole. A client of mine, an environmental cleanup company, was great at attracting talent from its larger competitors. Why? Because they promoted the fact that the industry had big problems as a whole, but by working for a smaller firm one could make a greater impact on fixing the problem. They emphasized the difficulties large, slow-moving corporations can have with an overly cautious board of directors too scared to make the wrong moves. And they did attract top-flight talent that did make a difference!

Brag about people who have left your company.

Admit it? YES!

Bragging about individuals who have left can demonstrate just how well you train people to be superstars. It shows up front that you hire the best talent possible. Letting candidates see that they may learn a lot more than they expected is essential to retaining top talent and being able to continually challenge them in their respective roles. This honest approach gives you the opportunity to show a mentoring attitude, helping them recognize that if they want to advance, they must help find their replacement and mentor that person. In reality, people don't like to change jobs. We all like to be part of a successful team or family. Find ways to show that people can grow, prosper, be challenged, and be recognized within your company. And if they outgrow their jobs, they know they'll be very marketable in the business world having worked for you. Who knows, they may leave, open a business, and hire you as CEO and partner!

Walk a mile in their shoes.

Engage human resources personnel to work closely with management in hiring sales professionals. Get them out into the field.

Arrange for your HR staff to spend some time in the field. As they learn what sales professionals are responsible for and with whom they deal every day, they will be better able to spot a qualified candidate in the sea of resumes and Internet bios. It will also give them freedom to consider alternative backgrounds. I know, as a professional recruiter, if I can spend some time with salespeople or managers from various departments, my success ratio goes way up when I'm looking for the right person for the job. More and more managers are mandating that recruiters spend time with more people in the company to provide a better picture of the culture and pace of the company.

May I take your order, please?

Written job descriptions are always required.

All too often hiring managers seek out a new person for a job without spending even thirty minutes composing a thoughtful job description. Writing down specific elements of the job — duties, activities, and goals — is the clearest method to determine whether the job sounds desirable, competitive in the marketplace, and attractive to persons who have met the criteria.

The job descriptions should include not only the duties and responsibilities found in the corporate manual, but also additional information to help potential employees decide whether the job will be a comfortable fit. Describe typical customers and their expectations, the kinds of negotiations the person will engage in, the culture of a typical client. Let the candidate know what traits are essential to being happy and successful in this role. Does the job require travel? Where are the customers now? Are they staying put? Will additional geography be added to the territory? What kind of reporting is required and how often? How detailed must it be? What does the training program outline look like? Does it include a history of the company? Pictures of the products made or services rendered? Is there formal classroom learning or baptism by fire? Is the company philosophy spelled out in simple words?

As you develop this additional information, ask yourself if you would come to work here if you heard what the candidate will be hearing. Be honest with yourself.

Don't be afraid to give a copy of this information to candidates during the interview and ask them to think it over and call you back in a day or so. Let them sleep on it, as you will about them fitting into the organization. This kind of forthright approach is disarming and respected by people who have been promised so much from firms, only to be burned.

Rapid reconnaissance to sharpen the image of your company

Three enlightening questions to ask every employee in the next week to validate your recruitment strategy:

* What attracted you to this organization?

* What keeps you here?

* What concerns you enough to consider leaving?

Ask these three questions through a confidential, no-names-anywhere questionnaire. Put this questionnaire into every paycheck envelope with a note from you stating why you're asking. To better the firm, naturally. Pure and simple.

Rapid reconnaissance, an expression coined by researchers means "to gather data quickly to assist in making changes in a policy, method, or position." The media uses this tactic with opinion polls on busy street corners, web site log-ons, and telephone polls. The data is quick, candid, and at times very ambiguous. However, it can provide insight and accurate feedback concerning hunches and observations. These three questions will elicit varying responses; some will baffle you, others will surprise you, and the rest will teach you. This immediate feedback will help direct how your firm presents itself to the candidate in interviews, advertisements, and web site design. Gather your staff with these comment cards and sort out the real issues from the inconveniences. And don't take any too lightly.

Encouraging them to find another job? Well, sorta.

Parallel careers are here to stay. Embrace the benefits.

People who are energized enough to have a small business or a hobby turning a profit are typically bright, motivated people. The engineer who consults on the side, the plant manager who restores and sells antique cars, the marketing manager who builds doll furniture — all have talents they want to expand and share. To discourage a person from this will do more harm than good, and the individual may leave for a more understanding employer elsewhere. (The exception is the employee having an obvious conflict of interest or so much time away from the job that it becomes an issue.) Be open to unique ways people try to get ahead, plan for retirement, pay for nice vacations, and create niches in the business community. Maybe some of those ideas can filter into your organization.

Running help wanted ads with pizzazz!

Stuffy, boring ads draw stuffy, boring people.

Even with the growth of Internet job boards, professional recruiters, industry newsletters, and journals, the newspaper is still a quick, cheap, and effective way to spread the word that you have a job opening. The way to attract the talented sales and management persons reading the paper is through more creative ads. Rather than post the job's basic requirements in "blah" language, capture the reader's attention with questions like: Can you show me documented proof you're in the top 10 percent of the salespeople in your company? What awards have you won? What did you invent, write, create, fix, learn, discover, design, paint, sell, buy, or save that demonstrates you are better at the job than all the rest? What skills do you have that few others possess? What can you teach? Try these questions next time you need someone special. If the applicants can't provide documentation in the first sixty seconds of the interview, it's over — and they know it. They read the ad.


Section II

Who to Hire: Chasing the Purple Squirrel

There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability. — Robert Half

Chasing the purple squirrel

A good salesperson can sell anything ... is a myth.

When a new player in the copier industry ventured into the American market in the early 1980s they lured — with big signing bonuses and fat commission promises — the salespeople from established players like Xerox and IBM. It worked. The salespeople jumped ship for the new kid on the block, yet they failed miserably. Reason? The company discovered that the sales professionals selling a brand name product sold differently than those selling a "non-brand name" product. (Brand name products are those that are considered "household names." They have long histories of dependability, celebrity endorsements, and fancy advertising. Non-brand name products are sold around the concept "it's time for a change." These products offer new features, introductory pricing, and are often pitched as a backup to your existing product.) But, once management realized the old adage, "a good salesperson can sell anything" is a myth, they refocused recruitment efforts to secure successful sales professionals from non-brand name companies. Result: sales rocketed and that company is still in business today.


Excerpted from Finders Keepers by Russell J. Riendeau. Copyright © 2001 Russell J. Riendeau. Excerpted by permission of Addicus Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Section I Attracting Top Talent: The Coolest Magnet Wins,
Section II Who to Hire: Chasing the Purple Squirrel,
Section III How to Hire: Soup, Salad, and Tons of Questions,
Section IV Managing & Retaining Sales Elite: Easy for You to Stay!,
Section V Staying Sharp,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews