With the economy getting back on track, now is the time for you to be thinking about creating a recruitment strategy. For a lot of resellers, however, finding great sales talent is much easier said than done. Many VARs are experiencing limited in-house recruiting resources, lower sales and revenue due to the difficulty in filling key sales positions, increasing turnover and unpredictable hiring cycles. There is good news on the horizon for those of you ready to grow your sales team. We turn to our vendor partners to get their thoughts, advice, and tips on how to attract and retain the best possible candidates.
What to Do
One key strategy for building a stronger candidate pool is to rely on existing employee referrals, suggests Laura Blackmer, Intermec’s Senior Director, Channel Sales. “Your own employees can often provide leads and recommendations for very qualified candidates. If your company does not already have a reward system, whereby existing employees are rewarded for making professional referrals, you could be missing out on a key recruitment opportunity,” Blackmer says.
Similarly, Matt Andrews, Regional Channel Manager, West Area at Motorola Solutions, encourages VARS to leverage their current employees, partners, and customer networks to find referrals. “People who interview well don’t always turn into good workers. You can learn a lot about their work habits from others,” says Andrews.
Another key strategy for attracting and retaining the best possible candidates is to build a solid bench from which to promote. “The key here is to hire junior-level employees and train and mold them into your best employees. Employing this strategy can also save considerably on payroll expenses, as junior employees will often have lower salary expectations,” continues Blackmer (Intermec).
“Always have a bench,” suggests Andrews (Motorola Solutions). “One of my biggest goals as a manager is to always have talent in the pipeline that I might want to hire if my team needs to grow or I need to backfill,” says Andrews. This means actively interviewing, even when you don’t have a current opening. Investing the time and energy to build a solid bench can pay off big when looking for qualified candidates who are capable of standing up and assuming higher level responsibilities. Interviewing when you don’t have a current opening can also help sharpen your interview skills. “Like any other skill or athletic sport,” says Andrews, “you can’t be a good interviewer without practicing. Don’t only start the screening process when you have an opening,” Andrews advises. Make a habit of continually talking to potential employees. It will keep your skills sharp and your pipeline full.
Don’t be afraid to promote talented people from within. “Understanding the professional aspirations of the people you already employ will definitely help you know who is a target for promotion and consequently retention,” asserts Andrews (Motorola Solutions). “They already understand how to work within your company culture and usually have a good grasp of the company’s unique value to customers,” says Andrews. Onboarding, training, and compensation are usually not as expensive as bringing someone in from the outside.
If your company or organization is well known in the community, this will help in recruiting and attracting new candidates into your candidate pool. For example, if your company is well known in the community for its charitable contributions, this could attract new candidates to your job pool.
What Not to Do
Hiring a candidate away from a competitor with the thought that the candidate will bring a book of existing business with them is a common mistake that resellers make, according to Laura Blackmer (Intermec). In reality, this may not always work in the employer’s favor. “To be successful within a framework like this, a VAR must be certain they can offer the same pricing and services as their competitor, otherwise they risk hurting a customer relationship,” says Blackmer.
In a rush to ramp up your sales force, you might be tempted to fill your opening with someone who isn’t quite the best fit. Matt Andrews (Motorola Solutions) advises against this. “Only hire the right person,” he says. “Someone who is subpar will cost you more money in the long run than having an unfilled opening in your company,” continues Andrews. They’ll absorb your time as well as the time of other employees around them. Another thing to keep in mind is that previous experience doesn’t guarantee future success. Especially in the world of technology, things are changing very fast. “Experience and a Rolodex are great assets, but your new hire needs to be willing to learn new offerings and how your company goes to market,” says Andrews.
Another key mistake that VARs make is overlooking qualified candidates outside their particular industry. “Remember, industry and product knowledge can be taught, passion and energy cannot,” advises Blacker (Intermec). “In other words, if a candidate is hungry and motivated, they will be a success no matter what industry they are working in,” says Blackmer. This passion and energy comes from within highly qualified and successful candidates.
Make the Call
Most interviewers don’t call references because you assume they will only say good things. “This really isn’t the case,” argues Andrews (Motorola Solutions). “People like to tell the truth. Asking a couple of probing questions will usually uncover a person’s true performance,” continues Andrews. Have a script with four or five open-ended questions prepared to get the conversation started. Always call the references and the last place of employment.
Make the Investment
Investing the time and budget in building a solid onboarding process for new hires will simultaneously decrease employee ramp time and increase long-term employee satisfaction.
Laura Blackmer (Intermec) suggests that VARs have a documented onboarding process and invest in external or internal resources to build this capability. “Don’t just look internally for the necessary resources. By going external for this service, you also add an additional perspective to your company’s training resources,” says Blackmer. This can be very healthy for an organization.
Another consideration in the onboarding process is job shadowing. Ask your best and brightest employees to let new, less-tenured employees job shadow them to learn company policies, procedures and best practices. Blackmer encourages VARs to treat employee training as on ongoing process improvement to their business.
For What It’s Worth
“One of the most helpful lessons I have learned is that the best and fastest-growing VARs value sales people with long tenure, but they also require them to constantly improve and learn new skills,” shares Andrews (Motorola Solutions). Nobody looks to hire an average sales person. However, not taking action on current sales people who have become average or subpar over time will stifle growth and prevent you from nurturing a culture of growth and innovation.
Give them a career path and opportunities to better their skills, but if they refuse, replace them. To recruit successfully, VARs need to be proactive and adaptable to emerging work trends.