If you look at any leader with a high-performing team, be it a college football team, an orchestra, or a sales organization, it is likely that they prioritize recruiting.
During a meeting with a client, I had impressed the CEO enough that he tried to recruit me. I wasn't looking for a new sales role, so I told him the truth: that after he signed my contract, I would essentially be working for him and his company. If a leader knows how to recruit top sales talent, this situation isn’t unusual. When they need to make a new hire, most sales leaders settle for running an advertisement, limiting their search to people actively looking for a new job. This approach eliminates passive candidates who may be open to selling something else for someone else but haven’t decided they definitely want a new role.
The reason leaders recruit top sales talent is that it eliminates time. When the salesperson in front of them has demonstrated the character traits and skills to create and win deals, leaders try to recruit the salesperson, knowing they are effective.
If you don't already have a list of salespeople you are interested in hiring, you are less likely to recruit top sales talent. Here are two strategies that will let you start building your list with little time or effort.
Take Cold Calls
There is a certain variety of sales leader who seeks attention on LinkedIn by publishing posts stating that they don’t take cold calls. Recently, one such leader confessed that his team makes cold calls. The message this sends to his team must create cognitive dissonance, but this leader’s policy has a far deeper negative impact on the sales organization. Leaders who refuse sales calls will be unable to build a pipeline of potential top talent.
Taking a cold call doesn’t mean you need to agree to a meeting or buy anything. But you can listen to the salesperson’s pitch and engage in a conversation to assess whether they might be someone you would like on your team.
You can't recruit top talent when you don't already know anyone who fits the job description. You also can't assess a person's skills or approach without experiencing it for yourself. At this point, you may ask the salesperson to connect with you on LinkedIn, so you can easily get in touch if you need their help or need to add a high performer to your own team. While there are always good salespeople looking for new roles, you are better off building a pipeline of people you want on your team.
Build a Recruiting Pipeline of Top Talent
Your LinkedIn is probably like mine. Each day, salespeople look at your industry and send you connection requests so they can access your InMail. Others spend their InMail to engage you with poor approaches that start by pitching their company, products, and services. You will not wish these people were on your team.
I am rather picky about who I connect with because I don't want to have a network of 50,000 people who believe I am their target. I'd like to have some part of my network comprise people who might need my help in the future, but there are other people I want to know because I may need their help.
As a sales leader who is going to need top talent, you want to take a careful look at the individual asking to connect or pitching you for a meeting. It may be worthwhile to have a conversation with a person who isn't selling something you are interested in buying if their profile suggests they have experience that would easily transfer to what you sell. By engaging with salespeople, you can build a pipeline of top talent you can recruit.
If you never speak to salespeople, you will never know the ones you might want for your team. Worse is that they won't know you either. And if they don't know you, they won't contact you when they decide to make a change. Use LinkedIn to build a recruiting pipeline by assuming you will need top talent, and making a list of salespeople you can reach out to if you need to replace or add a salesperson. Maybe take a few calls from salespeople who seem effective in their current role.
Hiring Versus Recruiting Top Talent
The difference between hiring top talent and recruiting top talent is that human resources are responsible for hiring, and the sales leader is responsible for recruiting. Recruiting suggests you are building the team you want and need, carefully choosing the people you will provide to your prospective and existing clients.
On July 14, 2021, The Wall Street Journal published a front-page article titled "The Pay Is High and Jobs Are Plentiful, But Few Want to Go into Sales." When the article was published, there were 700,000 open sales jobs in the United States, according to Zip Recruiter. It may be far more difficult to build the team you want unless young people consider selling. This makes recruiting all the more important because sales organizations are going to be competing with one another for limited talent.
The best way to recruit top sales talent is to experience how they sell, and connect with them, so you know one another before you need top talent.