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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

You Can’t Hire a Great Salesperson Right Now

iStock_000016534806_SmallYou can’t hire a great salesperson right now. I know that’s what you want. I hear you saying that’s what you need. But I’m telling you it’s not going to happen. How do I know?

Because if you’re telling me this is your big, urgent need, then you’re also telling me that you don’t know just where you’ll find that person. That makes it clear to me that you don’t have a talent bank. And without a talent bank, the likelihood that you will hire a great salesperson right now is near zero. You might hire a great one, but it will take you much longer than you’d like. Or you could make a hire real soon, but it won’t be a top talent who can grow into a top performer.

The Magic of a Talent Bank

What is a talent bank? It’s a file folder, whether a physical folder in arm’s reach or an electronic folder on your computer or server. It has subfolders, one for each sales candidate you’ve spoken with and have not rejected. In each subfolder are all the documents related to that one person—talent screener notes, other interview notes, samples of their work, career history, links to their online presence, anything else you may have collected.

These candidates are all different, because people are different. They’re not just different in terms of the type and amount of experience they bring (though that may be important); more significantly, they’re different in their configuration of talents, and so each one represents a slightly (or greatly) different potential contribution to your sales organization. Some are better suited to opening new accounts while others are better at maintaining and growing existing clients. Some are fabulous problem solvers while others build high levels of trust quickly. Some are ideal for an inside sales role while others are most effective face to face. I could go on, but you get the point. 

When your talent bank is stuffed with candidates, all of whom are qualified for a specific role on your sales team, it becomes an extraordinary resource. It’s your own private stash of highly talented sales pros, a list you can turn to when you need to hire a great salesperson right now. With a talent bank—and only with a talent bank—it truly is possible to make great and right now happen together.

A talent bank requires not only a concerted effort to build, but an ongoing commitment to maintaining it. For how long is a candidate in your file really viable? Will they still be looking for a job six months hence when you decide to re-contact them? Will they still care about you and your company, or will they have given up on you? Will they have moved on, mentally or physically? Of course, you won’t know the answers to those questions if the candidate is nothing more than a set of documents in a subfolder.

How to Maintain Your Talent Bank

To maintain a talent bank, to keep the candidates real, you need to stay in touch with them. They need to know they’re in your talent bank, and you need to know where their head is at, and whether or not they regard themselves as still being in your talent bank. How do you stay engaged? Here are some ways:

  • Send them articles and blog posts from time to time, with a personal note (“When I saw this, I thought of you” or “I thought you might be interested in this because…”).
  • Give a call once every 90 days to see how they’re doing.
  • Meet for coffee or lunch every 90 days or so to show your ongoing interest.
  • Position yourself as a mentor. You can do this simply by expressing interest in their career and asking the right kind of questions.
  • Stay “linked” with them online and engage with them regarding any content or comment they share online.

Inevitably, both you and they will become either more or less interested in each other as time goes on. And the better you know them, the wiser you’ll be about when to bring them on board and what role to cast them into. This is how the best sales managers hire great salespeople right now. In other words, the right now part only looked to outsiders like it happened right now; in reality, it probably started 6, 12, or 18 months ago.

I’ll share one more benefit of having a talent bank: It automatically encourages you to move on underperformers who are taking up space in your sales organization. The biggest reason managers don’t sack those slackers is “Well, she’s better than having no one in that chair.” Imagine how much stronger you will be if your response to that consistent underperformer is “I know exactly who I can slide into that chair.” A talent bank raises your standards—and your performance.

Perhaps you know the saying, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” It applies perfectly to having a talent bank. If you want a great salesperson right now, you need to have started, not 20 years, but probably 20 months ago. If you didn’t, then start now! It will pay dividends for the rest of your management career.

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