Throughout my travels - and this applies more to the U.S. than New Zealand, Europe and Canada - the toughest job for a sales manager today is finding qualified sales reps. In that statement, however, lies the problem, as "finding" poses a critical challenge. Finding qualified candidates is not the problem; they're all over the place - in restaurants, jewelry stores, malls, the telecommunications industry, and so forth.The problem is most of the good ones already have a job.
This may come across as critical of radio, but I see very few sales managers who actually lay the pipe in recruiting; and once they find qualified reps, they still fall short. Why? Because, if they're competing agasint pharmaceutical sales or hotel sales, radio sales managers are ill-equipped to compete unless they have live bait on a lure: an endless guarantee of money.
There are many ways to find these candidates, of course; the most important is constant recruitment. Here is one strategy that has worked for LPG managers. It's called "Open House," and its purpose is to draw potential sales reps to you (the sales manager) in numbers so you can sift through the responses and set up appointments on a non-traditional day. Here's how it works:
- The sales manager runs a 60-second spot on the radio station (you can also run an ad in the newspaper to support the radio ad, but run this ad outside the classified section), telling candidates to e-mail or fax their resumes' to you for an appointment on a Saturday morning at the radio station. Run the Open House spot two weeks before the Saturday event.
- The sales manager goes through the resumes' and calls back interesting candidates, setting up Saturday appointments in 15-minute increments, 9 a.m. through noon.The purpose of the Saturday interview is that some candidates don't want to, or can't, leave work during the week. Also, the good ones with a conscience don't want to cheat their current employer by looking for a new job on their current employer's clock.
- Schedule your senior reps to be on hand; they'll be the first to interview your candidates at the "Open House." If the senior reps like certain candidates and think they will fit into the team, the sales manager sits down with each of them for 10 or 15 minutes. At this point, the sales manager sets up a formal interview the following week to interview the candidate in depth.
Here is a sample copy of the Open House spot:
Hi, this is John Doe, general sales manager with WXXX in Houston. On Saturday, October 9th, the WXXX sales staff is having an open house for prospective new sales account managers who want to expand current success in radio sales or people who are looking for a change in career that will give them the opportunity to serve the businesses of Houston in a marketing capacity - and, of course, make the kind of money that will fulfill your monetary dreams.
Over the next week, I will be setting up appointments for Saturday, October 4th, between 9 a.m. and noon.All you have to do is e-mail or fax your resume' to me today, and I'll call you to set up a time. My e-mail address is John@WXXX.com; or fax me at 281-496-4128.
There are a limited number of available appointments for Saturday. You will have the opportunity to tour the offices of WXXX to see where your new career will start and to meet other successful WXXX account managers. It is imperative that you call me today, because I will not be able to take walkups, so it's important that you e-mail or fax your resume' today.
We don't want the prospects to call the sales manager, because a hundred calls would tie up the sales manager (you) for a week. With the Open House, the sales manager gets a chance to sift through resumes' and decide which ones to call back.
In one market, the general sales manager, who was rebuilding her sales staff, held three Open Houses during the month and interviewed 66 potential candidates. She narrowed the 66 to 11 viable candidates, did profile assessments, checked references and hired four outstanding sales reps.As with sales, recruitment is also a numbers game. In addition, stations that take great pride in their facilities have a chance to showcase the premises, creating a great first impression.