Holden Electrical Supplies Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, manufactured a wide line of electrical equipment used in both home and industry. The sales force called on both electrical wholesalers and industrial buyers with the greater part of their efforts concentrated on industry buyers. The industrial products required considerable technical expertise upon the part of salespeople. Sales offices situated in twenty cities spread over the country had two hundred sales personnel operating out of them. In the past eight years sales volume increased by more than 50 percent, to a level of nearly $150 million. The fast rise in sales volume and the accompanying plant expansion created a problem in that more sales personnel were needed to keep up with the new accounts and to make sure the additional plant capacity was used profitably.
In addition, Holden’s sales recruiting problem was compounded by a noticeable decline in the number of college seniors wanting a selling career. Holden recruiters had observed this at colleges and universities where they went searching for prospective salespeople. Another indication of the increased difficulty in attracting good young people into selling was aggressive recruiting by more and more companies. These factors combined to make the personnel recruiting problem serious for Holden; consequently, management ordered an evaluation of recruiting methods.
Virtually all Holden salespeople were recruited from twenty-five engineering colleges by district sales managers. Typically, Holden recruiters screened two hundred college seniors to hire ten qualified sales engineers. It was estimated to cost Holden $600 to recruit a candidate. Management believed the college recruiting program was deficient in light of the high cost and the fact that only 5 percent of the candidates interviewed accepted employment with Holden.
Evaluation of the college recruiting program began with the College Recruiting Division of the company asking district sales managers for their appraisals. Some district managers felt that Holden should discontinue college recruiting for various reasons, including the time required for recruiting, the intense competition, and the candidates’ lack of experience. Other district managers, however, felt the program should continue with a few modifications, such as recruiting college juniors for summer employment more or less on a trial basis, concentrating on fewer schools, and getting on friendly terms with placement directors and professors.
Holden’s general sales manager favored abandoning the college recruiting program and believed the company should adopt an active recruiting program utilizing other sources. He reasoned that, while engineering graduates had a fine technical background, their lack of maturity, inability to cope with business-type problems, and their lack of experience precluded an effective contribution to the Holden selling operation.
The general sales manager felt that the two hundred sales engineers currently working for Holden were an excellent source of new recruits. They knew the requirements for selling the Holden line and were in continual contact with other salespeople. By enlisting the support of the sales force, the general manager foresaw an end to Holden’s difficulty in obtaining sales engineers.
The president preferred internal recruiting from the nonselling divisions, such as engineering, design, and manufacturing. He claimed that their familiarity with Holden and their proven abilities were important indicators of potential success as sales engineers.
A complete analysis of Holden’s entire personnel recruiting program was in order, and, regardless of the approach finally decided upon, it was paramount that the company have a continuous program to attract satisfactory people to the sales organization.
Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.