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How to Not Lose the Best Candidates

When recruiting, some employers have the approach they should sit back and let candidates' sell to them'. In addition, many employers feel that candidates are only looking at their own opportunities; this is rarely the case, and the top salespeople have many options available to them. 

Top sales talent are scrutinising the detail of every opportunity and weighing up your role against a tranche of others. Unless you sell the role, the company, and the opportunity moving forward, you will simply lose the best candidates.

Talking very generally, there are two types of candidates:

i) The Active Candidate – this is someone who finds themselves out of work, under threat of redundancy or has made a conscious decision to move on and is applying to adverts, registering with agencies and job boards and networking their contacts to uncover opportunities. 

ii) The Passive Candidate. In broad terms, this is everyone who is not an 'active candidate. In 'old school' recruitment terms, they used to be described as 'candidates who are in the market but not on the market', i.e. they are not proactively looking, but if tempted with the right opportunity, they could consider moving on. These are the kind of sales professionals that potentially is hugely successful in their current role but, for whatever reason, if approached correctly, could be tempted to attend interviews. Typically, these candidates are 'head hunted', or proactively approached, either directly or through a specialist recruiter.

Whether active or passive, it is just as imperative that you sell throughout the first interview to engage the top sales professionals into your recruitment process.

Here're some basic ideas to help sell effectively to candidates:

1) Set the environment. Ensure that every part of the office that your candidate encounters is tidy and positive. No one likes the wallpaper peeling off or the notes from the last sales meeting on the whiteboard detailing how below target everyone is! Walk through the reception to the interview room and, as much as possible, make sure that it is a positive experience.

2) Brief reception. Let the receptionist know that you are interviewing, and they can welcome them into the business when they arrive. Ensure that they relax the candidates by providing company literature whilst they're waiting, offering them a drink, letting them know where the loo is, etc.

3) Read the CV Beforehand. No one likes walking into an interview to find the interviewer knows absolutely nothing about them. Read the CV – highlight gaps, highlight things to probe, identify areas that you potentially have in common. I find it helps to look at their 'hobbies and interests' and ask a few questions about these.

4) Set out Your Stall: Invite the candidate to sit down, offer them a drink, invite them to remove their jacket if they want to, etc. Give them a few moments to settle in, make themselves comfortable and prepare their materials – pad, pen, tablet, etc.

5) Prepare your Smalltalk. The first 5 minutes should be the 'chemistry' and the chit-chat to settle the interview. As an ex-colleague once described it, the time when human beings act like dogs in a park and sniff each other for a few minutes to work out whether it's friend or foe!

6) Set an Agenda. The interview will last approximately x minutes, and we'll talk about the company and role before progressing into the main interview. Invite questions throughout and make it a two-way meeting (no one enjoys an outdated 'I ask the questions, you answer' type interview).

7) Begin with a Settling Question: "So, what do you know about our company and the role so far?" This allows the candidate to talk and gives you a gauge of how much depth to go into and how much research the candidate has undertaken, i.e. are they really interested? For more information on settling down nervous candidates, click here.

8) Prepare the Sizzle. Prior to the interview, and, ideally, together with colleagues, think of ten reasons why someone would want to join your business. Why did you join the company, and why do you remain in the business? What is the Culture or the Vibe? What is the future looking like? Where could this role progress? In 2 years, what could this role look like? Awards, major clients, testimonials, press coverage, etc.

9) Selling Your Company and Role:

a) It's Not All About Money. In our latest Sales Survey, the main things that sales candidates are looking for are: the opportunity to progress and develop (27%), Better products and services to sell (16%), More money (13%) and Stability (12%)

b) People buy People. Talk about the culture, team building events, social events, etc.

c) The Vision of the Future. Be able to enthuse about the path you are following and the opportunities this will create in the coming years.

d) Talk About Your Management Style. One of the main reasons why sales professionals look to move is because they are not being recognised for their performance. Talk about annual reviews, how you manage and measure, how you mentor others and the skills they can increase and attain by joining your team.

e) Training. Salespeople join companies where they can see that time, money, and resources will be invested in them.

f) The Real Deal. Talk about the overall package. You may not be offering the same basic salary as another opportunity, but the included gym membership, free eye tests and 26-day holiday could make the difference.

g) Give Feedback and Constructive Criticism. Good salespeople will ask questions such as 'Do you have any reservations' at the end of the meeting. Be honest, tell them about the gaps and concerns, where they could have prepared and performed better. You don't have to give them a decision at the first interview as to whether it will move forward, but candidates buy into integrity and openness.

10) Revert When Promised: At the end of the meeting, state the following stages and when decisions will be made to move forward. Stick to them. I've had employers tell candidates that they'll hear within 48 hours and then not revert to myself four or five days after that. I've also had great candidates tell them where they can 'stick their job' because of the delay! Sales professionals like decisive sales managers!

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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