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Human Capital Approach: Developing Candidates or Number Game?

By Percy Chong, 1st October 2015

Is there a more effective approach to building a sales team? Would the trials and tested belief in the “number game”, still holds it place in today’s sales development landscape?

The “number game” for the uninitiated is essentially a recruitment approach (commonly applied by Financial/Insurance Advisory Services, Property & Direct Marketing Consultants etc) where the candidates are put through a cookie cutter process (ie. rudimentary Selection & Training) and churned out like a finished product (ie. Sales Consultant), very much like a factory line. Needless to say, very few candidates will make the cut. “Defective” products (ie. candidates that do not fit the success mold) are extruded from the process and only the candidates that make the grade will be retained. And this process focuses on uncovering diamonds in the rough through natural selection. Very little emphasis is place on the training and development of these candidates. Inherent qualities and innate instinct will be key to their survival and future trail blazing performance.

With virtually all the resources diverted to their recruitment, the focus of this approach is really the unrelenting high volume or “number game”, to dredge out the gems. It does not believe in the development of individuals beyond the basic. This approach is also widely believed to be at the end of its road in most developed markets. Unless there is an endless stream of new hires queuing to join the industry/organisation, this factory line approach is simply not sustainable.

Currently, many recruiters for sales consultants have found it increasingly tough to sustain a high volume of candidates to roll out this recruitment strategy. On top of that, the escalating cost just to acquire a candidate to join the organisation has shot up tremendously. Compounding this challenge, there is no guarantee of any sales success for these expensive recruits.

Diehard supporters to this approach maintains that although sales producer’s identified through this process are far and few between, but once uncovered, their results are often spectacular and well worth their investment.

These diehard supporters further argued the high training cost for developing effective salespersons. Many also questioned the relatively slower return of their investments with this approach. And even more view that it is a wasted resources especially when the candidates they invested heavily in training, may leave one day.

“Why should I invest in training my candidates when they may leave one day?”

“Why should I be training them for my competitors?”

These common responses are likely attributed to the deeply ingrained experience from the factory line approach.

New generation of recruiters or sales leaders need to consider that the training cost for developing candidates are not much higher than those spend on factory line styled recruitment. In fact, the long term cost associated with the candidates’ development is likely to be lower, if we consider the retention cost.

Benefits could also be seen in having a higher number of above average producers, when combined are capable of producing consistent and greater results. And with lesser “divas” (ie. Sales producers) on the team, there is also a reduced business continuity risk, as they have been known to leave for greener pasture. Their nature for performance orientation usually propels them towards seeking greater improvement in both their professional and financial well-being. And they makes them easy candidate for poaching.

It is ASG’s opinion that sales leaders need to move away from the “number game” mindset and into a candidate development strategy.

Most recruitment problems could be addressed by having a robust candidate developmental process in place. Collective strength usually prevails over the individuality. And it will invariably impact the team culture as well. ASG has also observed that such candidates have greater loyalty to the organisation and tend to stay longer and give more back to the team.

On a more altruistic note, the growth of the industry or the professionalism of the sales consultants should not just succumb to the search for sales “divas” or blind profits. Without the right development, the selling profession over time would not be able to advance, and practitioners would receive diminishing recognition then most other professional counterparts; for an equally important role that they play in their organisation and society.

Article contributed by Percy Chong (through Asian Sales Guru)
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