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Always Be Recruiting!

by David Brock on July 19th, 2010

Dave Kurlan wrote an outstanding post:  Bench Strength – The Key To Replacing Salespeople.  He mentioned that managers must always be recruiting.  It’s such a simple concept, but I am constantly amazed at how few managers–at all levels do this.

Here’s how the cycle goes.  We have a bad performer in place, we worry about firing the person, because it leaves an open territory….too often we think coverage is more important than quality.  Maybe the manager might start looking casually for someone, but the normal day to day events slow the process down, consequently nothing is done for too long.

Or it may go like this:  One day, our star performer walks in and resigns.  We panic–she’s going to leave a huge gap in our organization.  We immediately look to back-fill the position.  In our haste to fill the position, we may reduce our standards recruiting the wrong person.  The death spiral accelerates…..

Recruiting high quality people–even in this candidate rich job market takes time.  In my world, B2B, finding top notch sales people takes at least 90 days, often longer.  Add to that the onboarding time and you have a cycle of as much as 18 months before a person gets fully productive.  Great managers significantly reduce that time by always having candidates to back fill jobs in their back pockets (and by having great on boarding programs—but I’ll write about that later.)

Organizations like GE and IBM have long been famous for the succession planning.  For every role–at least in the executive and senior management levels, they have identified candidates that can potentially fill the each job.  In every managerial or executive role I have held, I maintained a list of people that could back fill me (as well as succession plans for all the managers reporting to me).  With each of those people, I had a development plan in place—I wanted to prepare them to be able to step into the new role when and if the time came.  That development plan included not only coaching, but developmental experiences (e.g. special projects), training and other activities.  Every manager must have a succession plan in place–not only for managers, but for everyone in the organization—“who will I bring in if I need to replace a sales person?”

Managers must always be recruiting–even if they don’t have the headcount or a “req.”  By recruiting, I don’t mean a formal posting of a job or engaging a head hunter.  The manager should always be networking, looking for great talent.  At conferences, in meetings, maybe through tools like LinkedIn.  A manager should always have at least half a dozen people they would like to hire, if the occasion presents itself.  This doesn’t mean offering them a job, it just means getting to know them well, understanding what their strengths and weaknesses are, exploring their own aspirations, exploring how well they might fit into your organization.  When the time comes (it is never if), you will be able to pick up the phone and call one of these people.  Some may be happy in their current roles and not willing to move, but several may be interested in a new opportunity.  You get a great replacement, months sooner than you normally would.

Great managers have succession plans in place for every role in their organization.  Great managers are always recruiting.  If you lost one of your key people today, can you pick up the phone and call half a dozen potential replacements tomorrow?  If you can’t, you need to start recruiting.

From → Leadership

  1. Thanks for piggy backing, Dave.

    Another important point is that sometimes, we can do more with less. Sometimes, rather than replacing a non-performer, we can simply spend more time with responsive, effective reps and give the leads to them instead of wasting them on the weak reps. This nearly always leads to more with less. Of course, if your sales force deployment is built around a single rep in a territory, this might not be possible. But when it is, try it, you’ll like it!

    • Dave–funny timing. I literally hung the phone up about 5 minutes ago. I was talking to a VP of sales about this very issue, redirecting some of the opportunities to stronger sales people, giving the lower performer some space to improve their performance (with the right coaching/etc.). In some cases the person may be so overloaded they don’t have the chance to improve. There is no point in just piling it on—and losing even more business.

      Thanks for the great post that spawned this discussion. Regards, Dave

  2. For any organization the one most important resource is our people.
    Skimping on this and hiring people that aren’t good enough for the role is therefore not an option, you would never go into the marketplace with a product that only works 50% of the time, we can’t afford to do that with our staff either.

    What is difficult is when someone unexpected quits and you have to quickly fill the role. Like you said, it is important to be prepared for any event and have people in place that can either take over the responsibility or who can just shoulder it while a recruitment process for a new candidate is taking place.

    And just as one rotten egg ruins the basked the same goes for salesmen, just like you said Dave (in the comment) sometimes you can do more with less salesmen, as long as all of them are of high quality.

    • Daniel, thanks for the comment. Hiring the wrong people always has a devestating impact on the organization. Even if you have an open territory, you can never succumb to “just filling it.” If you have people who aren’t performing you need to address their performance–first through coaching, training and development, but if that fails, termination. Hopefully, you have an “A” player to quikcly backfill. Thanks for joining the discussion. Regards, Dave

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