The Importance of Recruiting Sales Talent

By: John Kaplan on January 16th, 2020

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The Importance of Recruiting Sales Talent

Categories: Sales coaching  |  Talent Management

As many of you know, I am a huge college football fan. I love the National Championship game (and playoffs) regardless of who is playing because there is so much “life” going on during the games.

This week’s game between LSU and Clemson was no disappointment. Many of my friends turned the game off in the third quarter when LSU went up by ten. It is amazing that in the second quarter, LSU was down by ten points and looking like they were going to have a very tough night. I watched every play because I have so much interest and respect for what it takes to play on that national stage.

There were two main themes running through my head while I was watching the game. The first one was that there was incredible talent on the field for both teams. The athleticism and overall speed on the field made the game look more like an NFL game. Many of the players from both teams will move on to the pros. The level of talent on the field was the key to them (1) being able to be in the game at all and (2) walking away with the championship. Both teams had incredible talent that made their success achievable.

The Importance of Talent

One of my favorite bosses used to always say, “Recruit, recruit, recruit”. He would say this phrase in response to any challenge we were facing. When discussing a missed forecast, his response was, “Recruit, recruit, recruit”. When discussing a tough competitive battle in an account, his response was, “Recruit, recruit, recruit”. Like the great old saying, “Pipeline cures all ills”, “Recruiting cures all ills”.

In college sports, they use a numbering system to designate the quality and potential of a recruit. A “5-Star” recruit is basically someone who will come in, play right away and has a high probability of playing in the NFL. These recruits are very coveted players. “5 Stars” are the equivalent of “A players” in the business world. They are few and far between and they’re highly desired by teams. They have their choice on where they want to play.

I was lamenting with a friend of mine a few months ago about my favorite college team. It’s Michigan, if you don’t know. I have been extremely frustrated with my team’s performance over the last several years. I often compare my team with the likes of Alabama, Clemson, LSU and that team in Ohio. (Don’t mess with me, I am very fragile on the subject!). Recently I was speaking with this friend about a dominating performance from a player on a rival team. He said to me, “Well you know, that guy was a 5-star recruit”, as if that was some kind of defense of our program. I lost my mind and shouted, “That is exactly my point!” They are recruiting 5-star athletes.

In great match-ups, we all know that somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. This week, it was LSU’s turn to raise the championship trophy. Although I don’t have any affiliation with either school, I respect both programs and both coaches. Why? Because they win! I also respect how they win, how their leaders lead, and how they recruit.

Recruit, Recruit, Recruit

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney lost this championship game, but it is hard to think of him as a losing coach. First, his team has played in the last four National Championship games and won two of them. The day after the National Championship Game, a poll came out predicting next year’s National Champion. You guessed it. Clemson is the favorite to win the championship next year. One of the biggest reasons for this prediction is this year’s recruiting class. Clemson already has six 5-star recruits committed to join the team for next season! To put this into perspective, Alabama has three, Ohio has three and LSU has two. My favorite team has zero! These teams’ ability to recruit for the future paves their path to success moving forward. It seems so obvious when we talk about it in regards to football, but it is often an area where sales leaders miss the mark and it’s just as important.

I constantly speak to sales leaders about the importance of recruiting. Some of these sales leaders have not recruited in months! They have all types of reasoning. “I have my team set for this year.” “I don’t have headcount.” I am ALWAYS reminded of the Rule of Three!

  • Somebody is going to get promoted (or you are not growing).
  • Somebody is going to get demoted (or you have to top grade your talent).
  • Somebody is going to surprise you.

“Stuff” happens in life that has people moving in all kinds of directions. My point with the Rule of Three is that I ALWAYS had to be recruiting three people to my team, just as my favorite manager always reminded me.

You want another football anecdote to prove my point? Of the four Heisman Trophy finalists this year, three of them were transfers! That’s right. You too can get your own Heisman winner. “Stuff” happens. Somebody is going to surprise you and that "A player" you would kill to have on your own sales team may soon be up for grabs.

As you are working to finalize your action plans for this year, make sure you are focusing on recruiting “5 Stars”. They don’t fall off trees. It takes tremendous effort to recruit them. Be audible-ready with answers to two critical questions. “Why would anybody want to join your company?” and “What is like to be coached by you?”.

If you end up losing one game, you’ll be ready for the next one. Keep your eyes set on the championship.

RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT

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