300 Openings? You Don’t Need RPO, You Need To Channel Sparta and King Leonidas!!

Michael Homula Candidate Pool, Driving Productivity, Michael Homula, Recruiting, Sourcing, Working With Recruiters

Editor’s Note – This post is part of a Point/Counterpoint series related to an upcoming article in Workforce Recruiting, exploring when and how an organization that must recruit 250 to 300 independent sales representatives every year to cover high attrition rates should consider outsourcing its recruiting efforts.  We’ll link to that article when it goes online…

300 sales positions to fill this year…no sweat!   Really, why are you freaking out?  Only the weak and timid will run from this challenge.  My esteemed colleague Kris Dunn did a nice job of breaking down this challenge and offering advice on how to attack it. Not bad for an HR guy. Actually, it was really sound advice, and I completely agree with his sales process approach.  Calculating “how much of what of what by when” and managing to it makes sense. When I was the Director of Recruiting at Quicken Loans, we were hiring 150 to 200 sales professionals every 45 days.

That’s right – 200 every 45 days.  It is not for the faint of heart, and managing every aspect of the300 pipeline was critical to meeting the demand.

But really, this is only the very first step in addressing this hiring challenge. To win this battle, you have to realize that you are now at war. A war for talent unlike any other you have ever seen or been a part of before. To win a war, you need to come to the battlefield with all of your weapons, ammunition and innovation at the ready. It simply isn’t good enough to know the math and hire 300 sales professionals just to get requisitions filled.  Nope, the cost of turnover is equally as high as or higher than the cost of the vacancy. Just hiring to the number won’t get it done.

Here’s how the modern day King Leonidas would approach it:

1.  Every candidate counts. Sure, you can’t get too “touchy feely” with everyone, but the rules of engagement don’t change because the numbers are higher. Hanging out in pools of talent is never more important than right now. If it is true that winners hang out with winners, and losers hang out with losers, then it is even more imperative that you exploit your network of high performing talent and get to the best quickly.  Pound your network and squeeze every last drop of talent from it. Offer spiffs and incentives for referring talent that gets hired. Who says paying for talent has to be confined just to search firms or employee referral programs?

2.  Work your vendors. If you are in an organization that has a sizable sales force, such as the one in this example, then you are doing business with vendors who have other prolific sales forces as clients. Work them over for who they know and get the referrals. Offer them spiffs and incentives to give you talent that gets hired. Vendors are invaluable sources of information. Oh, and before the ethics police come knocking on my door, I am not advocating that you hold the vendors hostage until they give up the goods. Just ask the question and incent them to give the referral up. You might be surprised at the wealth of information you get.

3.  Employee referrals reign supreme. Surely you have an EE referral program, but are you truly leveraging it and executing it well?  Now is the time to raise those bonuses, move up the pay out level and personally get referrals from your highest performing sales professionals. Don’t send mass emails to your sales force to get referrals. Call them, go to their desks and meet them on their front porch as they head out in the morning. Email blasts are notoriously ineffective, and face-to-face will get better results in this situation. Great sales people know other great sales people, they know who is beating them to deals and kicking their a** in the marketplace. Those are the very first people to call. It is “hire to hurt” (others, perhaps your competition) at its finest. Hiring the best talent from your competitor not only adds strength to your team, but weakens your opponent in the marketplace. Nice…King Leonidas would be proud!

4.  Go where they are! Sales people notoriously travel in packs. I once led a team of recruiters that had to hire 175 field service engineers (engineers who fixed stuff and then sold more stuff) in 60 days. We found out that a group of them from a competitor used to hang out at this local bar after work. We went there, hung out, bought a few rounds and next thing you know we had 37 candidates for our openings. Tough job, but someone has to do it!  Heck, I would even recommend going right to other sales organizations and meet the sales people as they leave the building. This isn’t tiddlywinks, it’s a war for talent and your company expects you to not just fill these important sales jobs but fill them with people who can perform.

5.  Sales competitions. You have a year to hire 300 people right? So hold a regional sales competition to identify the very best sales professional. Offer a cool prize like a two-year lease on some sweet ride (cheaper than most payouts to contingency or RPO firms) and then put contestants through a sales competition that is judged by members of your sales leadership team. Sort of an Apprentice minus the terrible hair, I suppose.  Not only will you identify the best, you will also find out who the worst are.

6.  Coffee is for closers. Turn up the heat on your recruiting team. Most recruiting teams are notorious for mismanaging time (taking 90 minute lunches, 20 minute trips to Starbucks, and 5 smoke breaks a day) and not focusing on recruiting activities. Breaks, lunch, coffee runs, etc. should be suspended until they hit meaningful goals in their talent pipeline to fill these positions. Look, I am not saying that people shouldn’t eat, but last time I checked, it only takes humans about 15 minutes to feed. Get focused and reserve the long lunches for when you have actually accomplished something. While you are at it, how about setting up some meaningful incentives for your recruiters, Mr. Recruiting Director?  If you want them to behave like sales pros, then you have to incent them the same way. It isn’t a surprise that the very best recruiters avoid corporate recruiting like the plague when the real money is in third party.

What are you afraid of?  Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!