30 Jan The Lifeline to Success: A Continuous Sales Candidate Pipeline
Very few companies have advanced beyond a “small” business without building a sales force to hunt new opportunity. Some companies do really well with the CEO/Partner-only selling model. However, this model cannot be sustained, and critical mass will be reached requiring the implementation of a new growth strategy. To achieve new heights and revenue marks, there has to be a solid sales and marketing strategy to realize the expansion. Organic growth cannot be accomplished without adding hunting and lead generation resources to the mix. One of the single largest challenges our professional service clients face is figuring out how to sustain a consistently top producing sales force through the various stages of growth. Because most companies are focused on the operational and delivery aspects of the business, maintaining a pipeline of sales candidates is a task that requires constant attention and should always be considered a top line objective if your organization plans on maximizing its potential.
We advise all of our clients to keep a streamlined activity on hunting the hunters. It’s inevitable that your sales force will have turnover, or your under-performing sales individuals will need to be moved out. Instead of consistently landing in a reactive mode when it comes to hiring sales staff, there are a few things you can proactively manage that will keep the pipeline of sales professionals fresh.
- Maintain an Active Database. If you are in the professional services industry, you are already tracking candidates and contractors against your client’s demands. Do the same for sales people. When you see or meet someone that you think might be a potential match for your organization, grab their info and tag them in your database accordingly. When it’s time to start the search for top sales professionals, you already have a short list to start with.
- Regularly Speak with your Candidate Pool . You should create and monitor an automated communication process to your contact database. As you build up your list, make sure to talk to them on a frequent basis about what you are thinking, including the great things your organization is up to. Sales people love it when they realize the ease of selling a company and it’s unique value propositions. If they hear it on a consistent basis, they are more likely to be attracted to your brand when they are considering a career move.
- Always ask for Referrals. An age-old avenue for building your network, but always forgotten about is asking for the referral. Any time you reach out to your network, or run across someone who appears to be a top producer, ask them for two names. Maybe the referrals aren’t the diamonds you are looking for, but their contacts may uncover a gem. Again, build up the list through referrals and you will be casting a wider net when it comes time to hire.
- Tell your Brain that you should be Hiring- Always. We see companies scrambling to hire sales people when they are in desperate need to replace a top producer, or recover from a bad hire. It’s a fact that companies will be less picky during these times because the fear of having fewer feet on the street is high. Unfortunately, hiring the “best” sales people is a long process. Tell yourself that you always need to be on the hunt, and view it as a high priority for your business.
- Observe at Events. If you take the time to attend social events and activities where your competition is hanging out, observe the individuals that stand out, or carry themselves in a way that resembles the image you want to portray for your business. Grab a card, ask a name, or just find out who they are. Invite them to lunch and get to know them. Again, build that list. Events are great ways to see the best in action.
- Ask your Clients. You know that your clients hear from every sales person on the planet. Ask them to write down three names/month of people that are leaving them regular voice mails. By obtaining this list, you will receive names of people that are likely new in the business, understand how to hunt, unafraid to make cold calls, are consistent in their pursuit of working with your client, and will give you an opportunity to get them on your side instead of trying to steal your client. Better yet, ask your client which companies they would never work with and ask them for the names of the people from that company that are pursuing your client. Both of these tactics are easy ways to obtain contacts of sales professionals that should be on your radar.
- Market to Them as you Would your Prospects. Your brand identity and swagger is as equally important to prospective sales reps as it is to your client prospects. Both require a level of confidence in your brand. Telling them how great your company is to work for can be a compelling message if your outward facing identity syncs with your claims. Make sure that your hat, tie and shoes are well polished for the sales personnel, and don’t be afraid to utilize some of the same marketing tactics on them as you do your client target market. If you have the marketing infrastructure in place, it can be greatly leveraged against prospective sales reps with a few tweaks.
The key to all of this activity is making sure that the data and contact information on your target candidate pool is accurate and consistently growing. Additionally, there has to be a stream of communication to the candidates, similar to the process you use for attracting new clients. There are significant business implications by either not having the sales professionals that can drive new business, or losing the time associated with trying to replace/find someone to hunt new opportunity.
“If you are not selling, you are dying” is a quote that we firmly believe in. Your sales candidate pipeline is a lifeline to success. Don’t let it die a slow death. If you aren’t currently building your pipeline,
contact us to hear about how we might help.
Kevin O’Brien is a Co-Founder and Partner at echogravity. Kevin’s credentials include being a top recruiter for a international Big 8 consulting firm, top business development rep for a global consulting and staffing firm, and consulting with over 100 companies across North America.