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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Focused on Talent: Selection with Emily Estey and Tirzah Thornburg

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In this episode, we’re continuing our season-long deep dive into the latest Talent Magazine from The Center for Sales Strategy.

And today, Emily Estey and Tirzah Thornburg are here to help break down the latest facts and trends when it comes to selection.

Together, Emily and Tirzah bring so many great points to the table, such as:

  • Why it pays to do the stressing BEFORE the hire, not after
  • How talent banks are a great tool for hiring both internally AND externally
  • And, finally, why holding out for talent, even when the candidate pool is tight, is always the right decision.

Listen To The Podcast

Do the Stressing BEFORE the Hire

“So, what are some of the biggest trends when it comes to selection?” Matt asks. “Are there any major areas of focus that you're passionate about, Tirzah?”

“Well, because the economy is super unstable right now,” Tirzah says. “Companies are looking hard at their bottom lines. So, finding the right person and putting them in the right seat is really important right now.

“If someone's talented, but they're put in the wrong position, and they're not happy, and they quit, then everybody suffers. It's going to negatively impact the team, the company, and everybody. Nobody has the time or the resources to make a bad hire.

“So, it's really, really important to put the work in before you're hiring, find the right candidate, make sure they have the right talent, the right skills that are going to help them succeed in that position. And then give them the training, give them the onboarding that they need to be successful. It’s really important to put all of that training, and that onboarding thought into focus right now, as opposed to doing it after you hire this person.

“It used to be that somebody would just be handed a phone book and was told, ‘Here, do your cold calling from the phone book,’ or managers that I've had express that, ‘Hey, you know what? Just jump in. They know what they're doing. They can just jump in.’ Those days really are gone.

“I mean, honestly, you have to think about how you're going to onboard. You have to have training, even for somebody who's been in the industry for 30 years. They need to know how you do things. They need to know what's important to your company. So really putting that effort in beforehand.

“And, for me, I'm just really passionate about helping managers find the right person and put them in the right seat.

“Yeah,” Matt says. “I think selection has always been really important. But I think what you're saying, and I know I'm seeing this too, there's sometimes a big gap between the experience level of the people doing the hiring and the people being hired.

“The people doing the hiring remember, ‘Well when I got started, this is what it was like!’

And the people getting selected are like, ‘Well, that's really nice, but I have a lot of options to choose from, and a lot of these other companies are offering really good onboarding and really good training and really good everything!’

Emily says, “We've been hired by companies because some of the people that they were interviewing were like, ‘well, tell me about your onboarding plan? What's your training plan?’

“And they were like, ‘You know, I don't have one.’

“I mean, literally, that's part of how we've been brought on board before.

“I don't know if this is a trend or not, but I'm super passionate about having any sort of job analysis and specification sheet. You have to be buttoned up and know exactly what you're looking for, because when that bright and shiny person comes along, you're just blinded by it. I see that happen.

“You have to know exactly what you want and then make sure that you hire for exactly what you want, not for what you think you love.”

Utilizing Talent Banks – How Are You Contributing to the Growth of Your Team?

“So, Emily,” Matt says. “In this year's Talent Magazine you wrote a case study discussing how, oftentimes, utilizing a talent bank not only can help when selecting external candidates, but also internal candidates or internal people.

“Could you give some of your thoughts on that and maybe offer up a few tips around how companies can best utilize that kind of approach?”

Emily says, “Well, first, my thought is that I don't think companies do use talent banks enough.

“Usually, there are very few leadership positions, and there's a lot of sales positions, in our case. So, I think sometimes it's not even on leaders’ radar because they're like, ‘Oh, there's a whole succession thing that's going to happen here.’

“In this case that I wrote about, there was a salesperson who got promoted to be a manager, and, again, internally, that doesn't happen that often because we don't have the positions available.

“But I think the most important thing is that you have to keep your eyes open. Because if you're not developing a leader for your organization, you might be developing a leader for somewhere else down the road. Be mindful of those people who are going above and beyond, who are jumping at more opportunities to take on more, and consider your role as being a developer of people.

“That's really what we want to be thinking about. How are you contributing to the growth of your team?

“You're going to see some internal candidates pop up from that. And I think it's really awesome when you have a known person.

“We also have to remember that not all salespeople are great managers, right? Just because they've been there the longest doesn't mean they should be the manager.

“But there are those special people who can be both great salespeople and great managers, and it's important to just really keep your eyes open and give those people opportunities.”

“Yeah, well said,” Matt says. “And I really like the way you spent a few seconds talking about the fact that we're people developers, first and foremost. That's what we should be doing.

“And you're right, sometimes we don't have the opportunity in our own company to give a position to someone, but that doesn't mean that person still shouldn't get that position. I know this sounds like, for people listening probably, that we are saying you should like make people leave our company, but sometimes they do, and that's okay.

“Yeah,” Emily says. “[And think about] if you're that person that develops people and they go someplace else. How do they feel about you for the rest of their life? They're going to spread that reputation all over the place.”

“Exactly, good things happen when you do the right thing,” Matt says.

Hire Contract Workers in the Same Way that You Would Hire Full-Time Employees

“We've heard a lot about the gig economy over the last couple of years,” Matt says. “It has brought about new challenges in terms of selecting and evaluating freelancers and contract workers. Are there any unique considerations that companies should have in mind when hiring?”

“I have an interesting view on that just because I was a contractor,” Tirzah says. “I did that for a couple of years and then the right position came up and I've been there ever since. Honestly, talents are still important.

“When you're trying to find the right contractor, they need to match the talents that you're looking for, because you're potentially hiring for somebody that you then might hire full time later on.

“So, you don't just want to hire thinking, ‘yeah, they'll be here for a little while, and then we don't have to worry about them.’

“And the other thing is you also want to think about your team's culture. Yes, maybe they're a temp worker or maybe they won't be in the office all the time, but nonetheless, a single person who doesn't fit can really wreck your team if you hire badly.

You want to make sure your contractors are aligned with the culture you've built. Are they going to be honest? Are they going to fit in well with your team, even if they're not working with the team full-time?

“Maybe take the temperature of your team. Make sure that your full-time workers are not worried that they're going to be replaced by contractors, because that's the other big concern right now is, ‘is my job in jeopardy because they're hiring part-time people and they're hiring contractors? Are they going to, you know, lose me?’

“People are worried about the economy. You want to make sure that the team knows how [and why you’re hiring a contractor].

“I love all that,” Emily says. “The only thing I would say is, I think demonstrations of work are important. Like, is there a portfolio? If you're hiring somebody for freelance video or freelance editing or whatever, we need to know that they can do that job, because we don't have the opportunity to train those.

“That's part of the reason why you hire contractors. So, I think demonstrations of work are the only thing I'd add to what Tirzah said.”

“Yeah, and I just want to double-click on something you said about the culture, Tirzah,” Matt says.

“Companies should have core values. I know we have core values: quality, integrity and responsiveness.

“And whether you're a contractor, a freelancer, full-time employee, a part-time employee, our core values don't change. It's still quality, integrity and responsiveness. So, if someone comes on for us as a contractor, that doesn't mean that they don't have to participate in those values as well.”

How to Overcome the 90-Day Quitting Trend

“Tirzah, you had an article in the Talent Magazine where you talked about the 90-day quitting trend and how to overcome it,” Matt says. What a provocative headline that is. I know everyone's like, ‘what does she mean?’

“So, why is it that many new employees walk away around the three-month mark, and how can companies best ensure that they aren't fueling this trend?”

“When I was doing research for this article,” Tirzah says. “I ran into a really scary statistic. Back in 2019, about 1 in 5 people quit their job first 90 days.

“But that was a trend that they noticed back then. In 2022, it's up to almost 1 in 3.

“That is kind of terrifying because, suddenly, you're hiring somebody, you're putting this effort into training them, and a lot of managers do a really great job, they're really good at onboarding, they're really good at training. The person stays for approximately 90 to 120 days and then quits.

“The main reason in sales that we've seen for this is, quite frankly, prospecting and cold calling. They hate it.

“They think, ‘Oh, it's going to be easy. How hard can it be?’ Then they actually get into it. They're like, ‘Wow, this is hard; I don't like it.’ So, they quit.

“But this is not just limited to new sellers. It is experienced sellers too, people who have been in the industry for 20, 30 years.

“A lot of experienced sellers quit their old jobs because their manager said, ‘Hey, guess what? You have to cold call now,’ and they go to a new job thinking, ‘Well, this is going be better,’ and it's not. And so they're quitting too.

“So, the best thing that you can do is make sure that that cold calling expectation is really clear. Quite honestly, if it's not blatantly clear to your new hire, you haven't done your job.

“Here are a couple of things that you can do. Define what the role is going require. What talents does this person need? What experience do they need? What are your ‘must haves?’

“I talk to a lot of managers who get blinded by the shine. Somebody has an awesome personality, we love them, but they ignore the fact that this person does not have their new business development talents.

"Before I meet the person, before I even look at their assessment, what are my must-have talents? What can I not live without? Then you can create your job posting, and you want to make sure you're fishing with the right bait.

"’I'm looking for a hunter, and so therefore, this is the language that I'm going to use to make sure that person is excited.’ They're competitive; they're a hard worker. You want to make sure that job posting is fitted for the right type of candidate.

“Also, your interim referrals. Reach out to the person who has that experience. Who is that hunter, or who is that person who's great at developing relationships? Who do you know? Is there somebody in your professional network?

“It’s really important to make sure that you're looking for the right candidates and then that you give them that assessment so that you know if they've got those talents or not.

"I tell managers all the time, just listen to your instincts. A person might say all the right things, but if you've got a certain sense or are a little nervous? Listen to that instinct.

“Are they saying the right things but maybe not demonstrating it? Try and get feedback before you hire. What do their talents look like?

And then, again, it's really important to make sure, first of all, that the cold calling, the prospecting expectations are crystal clear. Also, can you have them demonstrate that? I'm a huge fan of having them bring in a prospect list. ‘Hey, here's a hundred people that I can call on in my first couple weeks on the job.’

“Great, let's look at that. ‘Hey, some of them are, you know, being called on by other people, some of them do not meet the qualifications that we need, etc.’ They're going to see that list dwindle and that's going to be a real life.

Suddenly, it’s like, ‘Hey, it's not as easy as I thought it was.’

“That's real life. This is what it's going to be like. There are a lot of different ways that you can kind of ‘audition’ that job. But definitely, do that so that they understand what cold calling is going to be like in real life, so that they don't get the job, you put that training in, and then they quit at 90 or 120 days.”

Embrace Employee Referrals

“Our research would say employee referrals are the most effective way to find quality candidates,” Matt says “Emily, in your experience, how can organizations optimize their employee referral program to help them make those smart hires and to get more in the pipeline?

“Well, first of all,” Emily says. “I have to say that how I got my job at CSS was from an employee referral.

“And I have to say this; employees will refer candidates to a company they love working for, first and foremost. So, if your culture isn't in check, you probably need to look at that. If you are asking for employee referrals and you're getting a lot of like blank stares, then that's probably your first sign that maybe the culture needs a little reshaping.

“Beyond that, you're probably going to have a smaller group of people who will really do this for you. It's probably not going to be everybody. I mean, we know some people are just better at recruiting than others, right? We know that it's a talent that we look at.

“So, I think one of the best things to do is maybe you have a referral team, maybe you get those people together, and they try to either compete with each other for the most referrals or they, as a group, are the referral team, and they're always actively looking for people out there. You could always give them an incentive, pay, a referral bonus, etc.

“The other [benefit of that is], if you have a referral team, your team gets the opportunity to hire people that they want to work with.”

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