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Sales Recruiting: The Dreaded Merry Go Round

4 Aug, 2005 By: Howard Meltzer imageSource

Sales Recruiting: The Dreaded Merry Go Round

Turnover in the sales
department is the most pervasive, frustrating, expensive, time-consuming,
momentum killing problem faced by office systems dealers today. No organization
is immune, yet there isn’t any one solution that will manage, much less solve
the problem.

Although there is no magic potion that will rid the industry of this problem, we
have found that the best way to confront the problem with our clients is to go
back to the basics, take a long hard look at what they are and are not doing,
then formulate a consistent and manageable plan that will get it under control.


Turnover in the sales organization is more than just frustrating, it is also
incredibly expensive. Every time a sales rep resigns or is terminated, your
company has flushed anywhere from $20,000-$50,000 down the drain. You spend
money on:

• Head hunters

• Newspaper advertising

• “Monster Board” type advertising

• Drug testing

• Management time and sales productivity

• Salary, benefits and guarantees

• Lost revenue from an empty territory

These are the measurable costs. Equally painful are the subtle and immeasurable
costs from wasted training efforts, field coaching, team morale, and a general
sense of management failure. It is a fact of life in our business, but not very

The single most important way to reduce sales turnover begins with a plan for
recruiting, training, motivation, and a commitment from management. It simply
will not be successful if applied as a trouble shooting reaction to a problem.
It must be a proactive and consistent effort.


Far too many of our clients form a habit of recruiting only when there is a
vacancy. That habit is reactive and based on a false sense of security. Whenever
recruiting becomes a secondary priority, it will invariably jump up and bite you
when you least expect it.

No one likes to do it, but proactive, full-time recruiting is absolutely
essential to implementing a successful plan. One way to keep the process active
and at the top of your mind is to link recruiting to either managerial
compensation or as part of a bonus program. It’s that important. Unfortunately,
there are no shortcuts. You must use every weapon in your arsenal.


Traditionally, the industry has viewed newspaper recruiting ads as generating
too little bang for the buck to be cost effective. But if they are carefully
crafted and run at the right time of year, newspapers can produce very solid

For example, in late December or early January people tend to review their
careers and think about looking for better opportunities. Newspapers are the
first place they look. You can take advantage of this quirk by working with the
newspaper to place four or five display ads that focus on career opportunities.
Typically, newspapers will work with you to develop the ad and place it
prominently when you guarantee multiple placements.

The same logic holds true if you run in the June time frame. If someone is
having a bad year for whatever reason, June seems to be the magical time to see
what’s out there and, once again, they turn to the newspaper to check out the

Finally, newspapers will sometimes work with you on a trade deal. For example,
if they happen to need a fax or copy machine, they may be willing to swap ads
for one of your machines based on a value trade.


Most dealers have tried placing ads on the monster.com website with mixed
results. We have found that when it doesn’t work, there are three common

1. The ad is poorly written. It simply doesn’t position the company or the

opportunity well enough to create interest from qualified candidates.

2. No one is responsible to monitor the board daily to pick up the prospects.
They sit there for days or weeks with no action and become useless.

3. The ad is not updated or refreshed every week. If it sits there for weeks,
the ad becomes stale and overlooked.

Monster, Career Builder and other job websites can be effective if they are
well-written and managed correctly. There is also a broad selection of local and
regional boards available that should be tried.

Head Hunters

Selecting an agency that specializes in sales recruiting should be considered
first. In some markets, that is simply not possible, so you have to dig a little
deeper. Either way, you will need to meet with each potential agency candidate
to determine which one offers a combination of the best program, experience in
your industry and training regime for its recruiters.

Once you have made a selection, the next critical step is to provide the entire
staff with a comprehensive overview of your company that focuses on positioning,
history of success and career opportunities.

To make your recruiter work the most effectively, you need to invest the time to
develop a relationship that makes your company a top priority. This is a human
nature issue. Recruiters tend to offer their best candidates to those clients
they are the most comfortable with. Spend the time to make that happen.

Finally, recruiters generally work on a fixed fee basis. To ensure that you get
the first shot at the best prospects you should consider offering them a bonus
for every successful hire. This is not an unusual technique, particularly in a
very competitive market.

Other Alternatives

Most markets contain organizations that sponsor job fairs. We certainly don’t
view this as a primary recruiting tool, but it should not be ignored without
first investigating their profile of job seekers.

Many of our clients have been successful recruiting from local college campuses.
To make the effort payoff, however, the administrator of their job placement
services must be cultivated much like a commercial recruiter.

Surprisingly, athletes do well in our industry. They tend to be overachievers,
respond to training and are very goal oriented. Once you develop a campus
relationship, it is quite easy to get introductions to their coaches. Identify
candidates that fit your profile and then schedule interviews.

One of our favorite sources for candidates is the local Enterprise Car Rental
office. Enterprise runs an extremely comprehensive training program that
develops a never ending supply of clones. They are all well-spoken,
hard-working, professional, and are expected to work 60 hour weeks.

They last two to three years before burning out and realizing that their career
path is not as promising as projected. Check out your local Enterprise office
and take a look at them in action. Their business cards are generally available
at the counter for follow up. Finally, they are a closely-knit group. If one
doesn’t show interest, you can bet that he/she knows others that will.

There is no reason for you to ignore a wealth of referral opportunities right
under your nose – your employees. If you don’t already have one, set up a
referral bonus program for all employees that will net them $500-$1,000 for
recommending a sales candidate that you hire and who stays with you 90 days. It
is very simple to set up and administer, and once you have made a few well
publicized payoffs, you may be surprised at the response.


Every sales manager has a set of criteria used to measure candidates for a sales
position. Some are formal check-offs, but many are based on experience and gut

There seems to be one fairly common, subconscious and negative denominator that
factors into our hiring decision: we prefer a male in his mid to late 20s who
will cold call. Think about it. If that thought carries too much weight in the
hiring decision, you have automatically ruled out the female half of our
candidate population for openers, applied too much weight to cold calling and
penalized qualified candidates because of age. What a waste.

There is a natural and traditional tendency to hire reps from our competitors.
It is simply too tempting when a generally successful competitive rep calls to
bend your ear about his dissatisfaction with his current company and wants to
work for you.

All too often the candidate simply does not live up to his/her reputation and it
is a short relationship. The general cause seems to be that his/her previous
problems follow them. You may want to pass on these wonderful opportunities.

There is another common misconception: if you can find an experienced rep from a
large company like IKON or Xerox, your problems are solved. The reality is that
these candidates have a very difficult time adjusting to a dealer environment
and generally move on in a short period of time.

One of our pet peeves is an industry tendency to dismiss older, experienced
candidates. If they have been successful in another industry like the
pharmaceutical market and have been laid off, you may be looking at a winner.

First, it is much easier to train a professional sales rep in our industry than
the reverse. Second, they will need money and be motivated to succeed as quickly
as possible. Finally, they will probably be more responsible in their habits and
work ethic, although may not be good at cold calling.

Finally, we strongly recommend that when recruiting you apply the Jenny Craig
formula: “a little bit of everything.”

Visit www.imagesourcemag.com to read about retaining your salespeople.

Howard Meltzer is the Managing Partner of Pro/Point Management Services, Inc.
which provides goal oriented sales management consultation and on-site sales
training to office equipment dealers nationally. For detailed information on the
company’s programs and methods, contact them at 904-285-8542 or e-mail at sales@propointservices.com


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