“I Want to Hire My Competitor’s Top Sales Person …”

When a client who doesn’t know us asks us to help them find a sales person, we’ll ask the client what they think they’re looking for.

Hiring, Sales, Competitor, Competition,

Copyright: ra2studio / 123RF Stock Photo

A typical first response is “I Want to Hire My Competitor’s Top Sales Person.” And it’s often accompanied by, “And I want them to bring me their book of business with them.”

On the surface, this sounds like a perfect formula for creating an outstanding sales team. Find the best available people and bring them on board. Their loyal customers will follow them and revenue will skyrocket. Plus you will have weakened your competitor by taking away a key asset.

However, here is the reality.

If you have really good people working for you, you’ll do anything you can to have them stay with you. Having an employment contract or agreement is one way to document the responsibilities of both employer and employee.

In the case of sales personnel, you want to prevent them from leaving your company and harming your business.

One option is a non-compete clause. This basically says that, when an employee leaves your company, they cannot work for a company that is a competitor of yours. It sounds good in principle but the courts are not upholding these non-compete clauses because they can limit an employee’s ability to find alternate employment.

The preferred option is called a non-solicit clause. This type of clause does not prevent an employee from going to work for one of your competitors but, if he/she does go to a competitor, he/she cannot call on companies that are clients or customers of your company. This type of clause IS enforceable.

To get back to the original response to our question about what a client might be looking for in a sales rep, it IS possible to hire such a person.  However, if they have a non-solicit clause in their employment agreement, you cannot have them call on customers they had at their previous employer, let alone bring along a book of business.

Were you to attempt this, one possible outcome is that your competitor could sue your company. Another possibility is that they could sue your new sales rep and restrict his or her ability to approach customers through an injunction. This could render your new hire essentially ineffective while they’re tied up with lawyers.

Another reality is that customers tend to be loyal to reliable vendors, not the vendor’s sales person.  Companies have moved from having a single person making buying decisions to having procurement teams to reduce the personal influence a sales person can have on a buyer. Unless a vendor puts a totally inept person in charge of an account, the account will stay with the vendor as long as product quality and service are kept at consistently high levels and pricing is competitive. It actually costs companies money to change vendors – to put the business up for bid, to assess bids, to qualify a new vendor, among other factors – so companies avoid making changes unless it makes economic sense to do so.

Here are three things you should be doing.

1. Protect your sales team. Review your employment agreements with all your sales staff and add in a non-solicit clause to each one. This can make your top performers less attractive to your competitors to hire away.

2. Hire strategically. Hiring a top performer from a competitor can and does make a lot of sense in some instances. But you need to bear in mind that you will have to focus them on markets where they won’t have to call on customers from their previous employer – perhaps in a business development role. Or, if they are senior enough, you might consider assigning them to key accounts who are not customers of the competitor you hired them away from.

3. Consider New Talent Pools. While hiring from within your industry can save on training and capitalize on existing contacts, it may not be your best strategy for improving the overall caliber of your sales team. Industry studies suggest that only about 25% of ALL sales people are rated very good to excellent so, is your industry likely to yield the best quality candidates? Often what happens is that marginal performers make the circuit of employers within an industry, never really contributing much to any given employer.

Excellent sales people are excellent sales people because they have the discipline to consistently follow a process.  The process is independent of industry, product or company. Excellent sales people can be taught the technical attributes of a product and the benefits that make each product different from a rival product. Excellent sales people know how to research an industry to find the right companies and contacts.  They don’t rely on a Rolodex alone.

Bringing in an excellent sales person from outside the industry has other benefits. They bring fresh thinking, which could lead to new applications for an existing product, better ways of selling the product.  They’ll ask insightful questions that could help you become aware of attributes that resonate with customers that perhaps your staff had consistently overlooked or undervalued.

So, hiring from a competitor can be a good move.  But don’t expect sales people to have their customers follow them to you.

Keys to Employee Engagement: 8. Mission

We’re in the home stretch now.  We’ve been discussing topics that can not only elevate your company’s image but also help attract great talent.

The eighth question in the Q12 is “Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?”

Missionaries are people who hold such a fundamental belief in a cause they feel compelled to persuade others to support their cause.

Mission, DirectionA belief that your work can benefit others can be a strong driving force behind employee engagement.  Companies who are perceived to serve a good cause also attract good quality candidates.

When we hear the term “mission” in the context of business, “mission statement” is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  While the best mission statements are clear, succinct and powerful, most are long-winded, created by committee and pasteurized to the point they no longer have any relevance.

If you go out on the shop floor and ask employees about their company’s mission statement watch for their reaction.  If they laugh or snicker, it probably means they don’t buy into the mission statement. If their eyes light up and they talk about what they do, they not only have bought into the mission statement, they’re also clearly engaged,

When I worked at Plasmatreat, customers would frequently say, “Ron, you really seem to enjoy your job!” My response was usually that our technology was very effective and made a huge difference in customers’ productivity and product reliability.  In some cases, we made what seemed impossible possible.  Very much like a missionary, I saw my job as getting as many people as possible converted to our technology, and so was very enthusiastic.  My enthusiasm translated into persuasion, which resulted in sales.

Often, some of our business came about through referrals from customers who, themselves, became missionaries for our technology. This became evident to me when I visited a plant that was part of a large multi-plant organization.  I’d sold a system to a sister plant and, when I visited this second plant, I recognized one of the operators from the first plant I’d sold to.  He was there are part of a best-practices exchange and had been telling his colleagues at this second plant about how our technology was making a difference to his home plant. With internal support like that, it’s no wonder I was able to sell our technology to multiple locations.

With a force like that behind you, it’s not hard to get up in the morning every day and to go out and try to find new converts.

Our next post will discuss the ninth question, “Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?”

Keys to Employee Engagement: 3. Opportunity

So far, we’ve learned how to establish a Base Camp for our journey to engagement by ensuring employees have a clear understanding of their job responsibilities and by ensuring they have the resources they need to perform at their best.

The next four questions focus on factors that can really motivate people to perform their best.

The third question in the Q12 is “At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best each day?”

Square PegEvery employee has a unique set of talents and skills they bring to the job.  When the talents and skills a person has are aligned with those most valued in a particular occupation or job role, we would expect the employee to perform well and be happy.

Creative people are stifled when they are placed in roles that have highly regulated procedures to follow.  Likewise, someone like an accountant might feel lost working in a creative role because it lacks the structure they’ve come to be comfortable with.

Sales people are often characterized as being behind on reports, expenses – paperwork in general. Perhaps, in some cases, it’s because they don’t have strong skills in Excel or WORD to do these tasks efficiently. Assuming they’re great sales people, they are most effective and productive when they are in front of customers.  By overloading sales people with burdensome reporting and record-keeping, we are actually preventing or limiting them from doing what they are really good at.

As managers, we need to make the job fit the people occupying the roles so they’re doing what they do best. Ask employees what’s holding them back or making them most frustrated about their jobs and either find a workaround or a way of minimizing the time spent doing tasks they do poorly.

Training people to fit a job role has some limitations. You can train and develop skills but, if the talents required for the role are not there, no amount of training will fix this.  If you have to do too much fitting of the people to the job role, it may be a sign you don’t have people with the right talents or the job is not a fit for the people you have.  Either way, you have to change something.

Our Talent Marketplace is now Live

Last Friday, after much anticipation, our new Talent Marketplace, CANDHR, finally went live.

CANDHR Talent Marketplace

Candidate Profile View

We have been working in partnership with the developers of CANDHR, a new candidate marketing platform for nearly a year, and HIRE GRAY MATTER is the lead recruiter on CANDHR. 

When we founded HIRE GRAY MATTER, we had a vision of a candidate marketing platform whereby employers could search for people with specific skills and experience.  We wanted it to be anonymous, so selection of candidates would be driven more by skills and experience than by age, gender or national origin.  The people from CANDHR provided the technical skills we lacked and now, after much hard work developing and de-bugging, the candidate marketing platform is live.

The platform is still officially in beta mode until we release it to employers.  However, in the meantime, candidates are welcome to join CANDHR and develop their professional profiles to post on the platform. We sent out invitations to join CANDHR last Friday to a select group of professionals, and we are starting to see new users already.

At this point, to join CANDHR, you need an invitation from HIRE GRAY MATTER.  When you activate the invitation, you’ll be asked to enter your name and email address, after which you will receive an email from CANDHR with an activation link that will allow you to complete your profile.

Candidates can have up to 3 resumes on CANDHR – perfect for those who may be switching career paths  or industries or who want to have profiles for both permanent and interim work.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be showing you some of the features of CANDHR and how you can use them to find that next opportunity.

Our goal is to make CANDHR a valuable marketing tool to help job seekers find their next opportunity faster than before. So we also invite CANDHR users to tell us what they’d like to see in the platform or how we can improve the user experience.  The best way to do so is by joining CANDHR, so we invite you to join CANDHR today!