Good question! It seems that
everyone has a favorite response. Some people only use recruiters, and others
swear by networking. But classified ads continue to be the most common choice.
Almost everyone who hires salespeople will, at some time, search for prospects
via the "help wanted" section.
In order to improve your changes of finding a good salesperson through the use
of classified ads, it's important to use them well. Here's how.
Step One. Precisely describe your program.
Your program is the total
package you are offering to your potential salesperson. It includes a detailed
description of the territory, your expectations for performance, a task-defining
job description, your compensation plan, training program, and description of
available selling tools. Add an honest evaluation of the market and your competition,
and a straight forward description of the salesperson's long term opportunities
with your firm.
Step Two: Clearly describe
This may sound like a lot of work, and it is. However, it's been my observation
that many (if not most) sales hires fail because of a lack of clear focus on
the part of management. Since you (management) are unclear about exactly what
you expect out of a salesperson, your communication in the interview process
leaves a lot of details unresolved. The recruit substitutes his own set of expectations
and develops his own assumptions.
Then, your unarticulated expectations conflict with his/hers, and the hire is
a failure with both sides pointing fingers at the other. It's what I call the
FUZZY PRINCIPLE. The FUZZY PRINCIPLE is the primary reason for failed sales
hires. It states that management is often fuzzy in knowing what it is looking
for and offering. This fuzziness of thought leads to unclear communications.
And unclear communication leads to poor decisions. Poor decisions lead to inappropriate
hires. And inappropriate hires lead to failed situations.
The cure for THE FUZZY PRINCIPLE is hard work -- a lot of disciplined attention
to details. Spend the extra time early in the hiring process to clearly and
precisely articulate, in writing, your program and profile, and that alone will
increase your percentages of acquiring a winning performer.
Once you've described your
program, the next step is to describe your ideal salesperson. Think in terms
of that person's demographics, psychographics, experience and character traits,
and write a word picture of your ideal recruit.
Step Three: Soberly evaluate
the strengths and weakness of your program, and describe the target groups to
whom you think your program will appeal.
Keep in mind that you may never hire someone who is a perfect match to your
ideal profile. However, if you don't have the ideal clearly in mind, you'll
have nothing to which to compare your recruits. And, if you're fuzzy in your
conception of who you're looking for, the chances are greatly increased that
you'll be impressed by the first person who has some experience in your industry,
looks nice and seems pleasant.
Demographics refers to outwardly describable characteristics such as age, sex,
education, social-economic level, etc. And, while you may not discriminate based
on those, you can certainly develop a word picture of the person from whom your
customers would be most likely to buy.
Psychographics describes the person's relational and behavior style.
Character traits are those qualities of character that the recruit has developed:
Things like persistence, high energy level, integrity, etc. I believe these
qualities are far more important than any product knowledge, specific skills
or experience. I counsel my clients to hire someone based on who he is, not
what he knows.
Now that you've done the necessary homework, it's time to craft the ad itself.
The single most important concept to work with is this: Think of your classified
ad as a direct-response ad. Since you're going to attempt to cause the right
people (prospective sales people) to take some action, (respond to your ad)
you must follow the principles of direct response advertising.
In marketing terms, decide
"Who is our market?"
Step Four. Write the ad.
Potential salespeople don't all look the same. They have a wide variety of backgrounds,
experience levels, expectations and ambitions -- just like consumers. And, just
like consumers, they should be classified into appropriate sub-groups (target
markets) in order to target the message directly to those people most likely
For example, we can identify groups like entry level sales candidates who have
had retail experience, career changers who have had a long standing interest
in sales but never an opportunity to develop it, experienced sales pros in the
prime of their careers, older men and women who may have been forced out of
a position due to management changes, etc. The lists of the types of groups
of potential salespeople could take pages.
The point is that in order to write a good ad, you first must determine the
specific market to whom you're targeting the ad.
Once you've done that, it's time to develop the details of the ad.
Begin with an attention-attracting
headline that describes your strongest attraction to the target group.
Step Five: Place the ad
Here's an example. One of my clients sold a big-ticket item to homeowners. Based
on our analysis of our program and profile, we determined to target two specific
groups: Experienced one-call closers who were looking for a stable, ethical
company, and career changers who had sales potential but had never had an opportunity
to fully explore their sales ability.
Since we had two markets, we wrote two ads, each appealing to the market we
were trying to attract.
The first headline read: "Experienced Sales Pros Looking for a Home -- Unlimited
The second read "Marketing Representative -- Will Train."
After the headline, the next step is to describe the features and benefits of
your program in short phrases and sentences. Here's an example from the same
"Join 50 year old national company, manage local territory. Unlimited commission,
all fringes, thorough training with an industry leader."
And, the same position targeted to the entry level people:
"Ensure your success at sales by joining our national company. We offer a testing/selection
process to help determine your sales potential, an outstanding training program,
salary, commission, great fringe package, local territory, and growing industry."
Next, describe some qualifiers in order to make the job appear somewhat exclusive
and thus appealing to those people who feel they are right for the position.
Here's that language from the same ad:
"If you're experienced at one-call selling, have a track record of ethical success..."
And, from the other market...
"Must have sales aptitude and be willing and able to learn."
Next, close by offering multiple ways of responding to the ad.
"Call Mr. Smith at........or write to us at........."
Finally, finish with specific identification of the company, listing the company
name, address and phone number. To add credibility, use your company's logo.
That means choosing the
best newspaper(s), and making sure the ad appears in the best place in that
Follow this process and you'll
improve both the quantity and the quality of your responses.
Get copies of the Sunday editions of all those available in your area. Compare
the "Sales HelpWanted" sections of each, and use the paper with the most entries
in that section.
Generally, it's not effective to run your ad every day of the week. The Sunday
edition will be read by most of the people looking for sales positions. However,
many papers have a special that combines Sunday with one or two other days,
and is worth considering.
Next, if you're appealing to experienced salespeople, place your ad in the "Sales
Help Wanted" section. If you have an entry level position, use the "General
Help Wanted" section.