"Talent Acquisition Department is Killing Our Sales!"
04/16/23 Edition Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

I am a frustrated head of sales at a manufacturer. I’m located in Georgia, but I could easily be in Michigan, North Carolina, California or anywhere for that matter where products are manufactured. The regional managers that report to me tell me that they have way too many field sales openings right now. I can see for myself that this is true. I can also tell you that there is a cost in sales dollars to my company, and that affects my income and my regional manager’s incomes. No bodies on the street = no sales.

My company has a large Talent Acquisition department, aka “in-house recruiters.” Having this department is a luxury and is great. It is perfect for finding people that work in the factory, in operations, marketing, finance or admin at HQ… even in field sales offices for roles like showroom managers and administrative people. Like I said, for the most part it is an asset and saves us tons in recruiting fees. However, our internal recruiters are not so great at recruiting top notch field salespeople.

That’s because good salespeople are typically not looking for a job, and as far as I can see, our internal recruiters tend to passively recruit. In other words, they attract candidates who are unemployed or in jeopardy because of sales at their current job.

The first thing they do is jump on a software program available to HR people called #LinkedInRecruiter. They scour the employed people who “confidentially” put on their profile that they are ‘open to work.’ This information is only available to people who purchase this LinkedIn software and is helpful in identifying people who are looking… which is great for many positions – but not for field salespeople, in my opinion. Successful sales reps are busy working on projects and closing deals, not updating their LinkedIn profiles. Sorry.

The talent acquisition department also proactively posts jobs on LinkedIn that are up for months - which, of course, makes it look like no one wants to work here. Which isn’t true because this is a great place to work!

Bottom line is hires are happening way too slowly and are costing our company and my sales team revenue. We are losing sales opportunities with customers because I do not have salespeople, or at least the right ones, in front of the customer, which costs everyone involved. Our leadership doesn’t seem to notice, or admit, what’s going on.
I would like our internal recruiters to literally cold call our competitors to find the best people who are not looking and persuade them to join our company. After all, that’s what a recruiter is supposed to do. It’s the start of the second quarter, and we still have way too many openings to fill. How do I get better people on board without alienating my talent acquisition department?

Talent acquisition falls directly under human resources, of course, so all of my regional managers are very intimidated about challenging them; they feel it will affect their HR file, when of course it will not. I’ve discussed this with our Senior VP of HR, and she was very defensive of her fiefdom, she wants to keep this department big because the bigger the department the bigger her job. What’s the answer?

Help Wanted
Dear Help Wanted,

You may be surprised in my answer, but I believe it’s very important for companies large and small to have internal talent acquisition departments. It’s important that, as a company grows, and plans to grow revenue, that it is creating an extensive database of potential candidates for when someone quits suddenly – not just whenever you have an opening. And that goes for any type of position; factory workers, administrative, operations, finance and yes – even salespeople.

There’s not a sales manager in the industry; floor covering, lighting, tile and stone, or residential and contract furniture who is not complaining that it’s costing them income by not having enough skilled salespeople in the field. The complaints range from the positions not being filled fast enough to the people being brought in for interviews being irrelevant or, just, people who they don’t want to hire. Which, it should be noted, that just because someone is “open to looking” or unemployed does not make them a bad candidate. Your assumption is wrong there. And let’s face it, there needs to be a balance, because if you as a manager are spending too much time recruiting, that’s less time spent seeing clients and managing your sales team.

At The Viscusi Group and at many executive search firms like us, we like talent acquisition departments because we’re often called in by them to complement their efforts. When The Viscusi Group is hired by an internal recruiting department, we offer a highly discounted flat fee for field salespeople because the assignments are usually bought in bulk, and we partner with that internal department by making the proactive calls they’re often not trained to make. Also – outside recruiters like us are not afraid to cold call employed candidates from our client’s competitors, and smart candidates know to return our phone calls. Just as often we’re able to deal with an all-too-common counteroffer in a way that an internal recruiting department may not be able to. So, talent acquisition departments love to work with us. And again, just to point out a second time, just because someone may be open to a new opportunity does not make them a bad candidate. Be a better manager than that!

Because remember, you can’t blame all your hiring problems today on your internal talent acquisition department because this is the most difficult hiring market with the least amount of unemployed people that I can remember personally from the entirety of my career!

Here’s another point – you have a role in this too. Everyone is having a hard time getting their hires completed. Your managers need to be in touch with their local marketplace and share it with Human Resources. And they can’t be afraid to perhaps cold call somebody great that works for a competitor themselves! Then, maybe schedule a lunch with that competitive salesperson to test the waters and see if they would be interested in an interview. As you pointed out, the better the salespeople, the more money everybody makes. It’s a win-win situation.

Finally, don’t assume that just because your company has a talent acquisition department that they’re not open to using outside recruiters. It’s up to you and your regional managers to advocate to human resources that you feel they need to supplement themselves with an aggressive outside resource. Chances are they will respond in a positive way and bring on board an outside recruiter. They will not feel threatened; they will be happy that you spoke up. HR people sometimes don’t recognize the problem unless you explain to them that it exists, and chances are they have a budget for an outside recruiter. After all, our recruiting fee is minimal compared to the profits produced by a first-rate salesperson.


#Humanscale #Interface #MillerKnoll #RH #RestorationHardware #LinkedIn #Salesperson #Unemployed