The Prerecruiting Reservoir Sources of Sales Force Recruits


Because of uncertainties as to when new sales personnel will be needed, many companies have a pre-recruiting reservoir. This is a file of individuals who might be recruited when the need arises.

The names of individuals added to the reservoir come from diverse sources like resumes submitted online, list of candidates from earlier selec­tion process. Others come from chance remarks made by people with whom the sales executive comes into contact—at professional meetings, in conversations with customers, over cocktails at the club, seat partners on planes, and the like. Still others come from “centers of influence” that have been developed by the sales executive—the center of influence is a person who occupies a position in which he or she meets many individuals who have high potentials as possible sales personnel and who often are seek­ing suitable job opportunities. Examples of centers of influence include the university professor of marketing and sales management, the trade association executive, the placement advisor of a university or community college, and vocational advisors in other educational institutions. Names in the prerecruiting reservoir should be reviewed periodically. Those that become outdated should be culled.


2.1. Recruiting Source Evaluation

One approach to evaluating the sources of recruits is to study those used in the past. Analysis of each source reveals the number of recruits pro­duced, and the ratio of successes to failures. Each source, in other words, is analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. One source may have provided numerous recruits but few successes; a second, fewer recruits but a high proportion of successes.

Consider the analysis in Figure 10.1. The source accounting for the largest number of recruits showed a success ratio only slightly more favorable than the ratio for all sources—but it did account for ten of the thirty-five successes recruited, and, for this reason, management might want to continue using it. Three sources had higher-than-average success ratios, and management should explore ways of increasing the number of recruits from them. Three other sources had very low success ratios, and management should use them sparingly in the future.

A word of caution: These results indicate the experience of only one company and should not be considered typical. Furthermore, the definition of success adopted by a particular management affects the analysis. Here suc­cess was defined as “demonstrated ability to meet or exceed sales quotas in two years out of three.” Other managements might define success differently.

Another word of caution: Reliability of this sort of analysis depends upon the size of the group evaluated. More reliable conclusions can be drawn about the worth of a source producing twenty-two recruits than one producing only three recruits. However, even if only a small number of cases is available, the data may still serve as a helpful, although less reli­able, guide in identifying promising sources of new salespeople.

2.2. Sources within the Company

Company sales personnel. Many individuals apply for sales jobs because they know company sales personnel, and salespeople’s recommendations may constitute an excellent source. Often such applicants already know something about company policies, and the fact that they apply indicates a favorable disposition toward the company. Salespeople have wide circles of acquaintances, since both on and off the job, they continually meet new people and have many friends with similar interests. Many of their contacts have potential as sales personnel—indeed, many now sell for other firms. However, some salespeople are not discriminating in their recommenda­tions, and their recommendations need careful appraisal. Salespeople are a particularly valuable source of recommendations when jobs must be filled in remote territories; sales personnel in the same or adjacent areas may know more about unique territorial requirements and local sources of per­sonnel than home office executives.

Company executives. Recommendations of the sales manager, and other company executives are an important source. Sales executives’ personal contacts may yield top-caliber people because of their understanding of the needed qualifications. Other executives’ recommendations, by contrast, often are based upon personal friendships and represent less objective appraisals. Experience is the way to evaluate each executive’s worth as a source of recruits, and the type of analysis shown in Figure 10.1 adapts easily for this purpose.

Internal transfers. Two additional internal sources are other depart­ments and the non-selling section of the sales department. Employees desir­ing transfers are already familiar with company policies, and the personnel department has considerable detailed information about them. While lit­tle is known about their aptitude for selling, they often possess excellent product knowledge. Aptitude for selling, of course, can be tested formally or by trial assignment to the field. Transfers are good prospects for sales positions whenever product knowledge makes up a substantial portion of sales training, since it may be possible to accelerate field assignments.

2.3. Sources outside the Company

Direct unsolicited applications. All companies receive unsolicited “walk-in” and “online” applications for sales positions. Some sales manag­ers favor immediate hiring of applicants who take the initiative in seeking sales jobs, the reasoning being that this indicates, selling aggressiveness. Others reject all direct applications because they believe the proportion of qualified applicants from this source is low. The most logical policy is to treat volunteer applications the same as solicited applications—applicants not meeting minimum requirements as set forth in job specifications should be eliminated; those meeting these requirements should be pro­cessed together with other applicants. The aim should be to recruit the best qualified applicants regardless of the sources from which they come. Direct unsolicited applications do not provide a steady flow of applicants; the volume fluctuates with changing business conditions.

Placement consultants. Sales managers traditionally regard placement consultants as unpromising sources. Many use consultants only after exhausting other sources. Many believe that good salespeople neither need nor will use a consultant’s services. Experience, unfortunately, tends to rein­force such attitudes, because frequently consultant referrals fail to meet sales job specifications. Sometimes this traces to consultant deficiencies (such as the overzealous desire to receive placement fees), but often the fault is that of prospective employers, who may be using unrealistically high job specifications, may not make the company’s requirements clear, and so on. Experiences with individual consultants need reviewing periodically, using the pattern of analysis illustrated in Figure10.1. Whenever a placement con­sultant is used, it should receive a clear statement of the job’s objectives and a complete rundown of job specifications. The recruiter should meet with a placement consultant to assure that pertinent information is furnished and understood. Consultants need time to learn about an employing firm and its unique requirements—considerable gains accrue from continuing rela­tionships with consultants. Consultants often administer batteries of tests, check references, and perform tasks otherwise done by the employer. Of interest to sales executives is the growing number of consultants that take the initiative in searching out promising job candidates, employed or not, instead of confining themselves to ‘‘volunteer’’ applicants.

Salespeople making calls on the company. The purchasing director is in contact with sales personnel from other companies and is in a position to evaluate their on-the-job performances. The purchasing director meets high-caliber salespeople for whom jobs with the company would be attrac­tive both financially and in other respects. In well-managed companies, the purchasing director, serving as a “center of influence,” contributes names to the pre-recruiting reservoir.

Employees of customers. Some companies regard their customers as a recruiting source. Customers recommend people in their organizations who have reached the maximum potential of their existing jobs. Such transfers may have a favorable effect upon morale in the customer’s organization. A customer’s employees should be recruited only with the prior approval of the customer.

Sales forces of noncompeting companies. Individuals currently employed as salespersons for noncompeting companies are often attractive recruiting prospects. Such people have selling experience, some of it readily transferable, and for those who have worked for companies in related indus­tries, there is the attraction of knowing something about the product line.

Sales forces of competing companies. Because of their experience in selling similar products to similar markets, personnel recruited from com­petitors’ sales forces may require only minimal training. However, com­peting sales forces are costly sources, since generally premium pay must be offered to entice sales personnel to leave their present positions. Some sales executives, as a matter of policy, refrain from hiring competitors’ salespersons—they feel that an individual hired away from one organiza­tion for higher pay or other enticements may be similarly tempted in the future. However, most sales executives will consider individuals who have worked previously for competitors, even though they now are either work­ing somewhere else or are unemployed.

In considering the recruitment of individuals currently employed by competitors, a key question to answer is why does this person want to leave his or her present position? When the new job will not improve the applicant’s pay, status, or future prospects, the desire to change companies may trace to personality conflicts, or instability. But dissatisfaction with a present job may not mean that the fault is the applicant’s. If the applicant has sound reasons for switching companies, there may be an opportunity to obtain a promising person who is ready for productive work.

Educational institutions. Colleges and universities are important sources of sales and management trainees, and competition is keen for their graduates. Often the graduating student is in a position to choose from among several job offers. Companies not maintaining close relations with the colleges are at a dis­advantage, frequently being unable to obtain appointments on overcrowded campus recruiting schedules and finding it difficult to attract students away from companies better known to the college. Even better-known companies face stiff competition in hiring the cream of the graduates. A few companies offer sales training internships to juniors students. Thus, the trainee and the company have an opportunity to evaluate each other, and trainees who prove satisfactory are offered jobs upon graduating.

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.

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