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Interview With A Top Sales Recruiting Executive

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I recently interviewed Kathleen Steffey, CEO of Naviga Solutions, one of the top sales placement firms in the US.  Naviga is good, so if one of our clients is looking for a sales placement firm, we typically connect them with Kathleen.

I had a great interview with Kathleen about the state of sales talent acquisition today.  Below are the insights she shared with me.

Will: Talent acquisition, particularly in sales, is one of the top 3 biggest challenges our clients tell us they have.  Why do you think so many sales organizations struggle with attracting and retaining top talent?

Kathleen: We find that our clients typically lack sufficient internal resources to really help them hire top people.  And, if they are equipped, they don’t have:

  • An individual person (or people) who have full accountability for recruitment and hiring.
  • Sufficient time to devote to recruiting.
  • The required knowledge for sourcing, interviewing, screening, selecting and onboarding.
  • The ability to develop and execute a best practice recruitment plan.

If they do have internal resources, they need to be properly trained and allocated such that they will have mastery over the areas I just mentioned.  Personnel associated with recruitment and selection need to be dedicated solely to the role.  This isn't a job for an Admin or side project you work on in your spare time.  Attracting and finding top talent is a full-time job.  In short, any company serious about attracting top talent must have a dedicated, professional and trained person with the responsibility and authority to source, screen and select new hires.

Will: So many of our clients are challenged by where to find talent in the first place.  What insights can you share with our readers about where talent can be found?

Kathleen: Talent can be found anywhere and everywhere if you’re looking for it.

In today’s talent market, the Internet is probably the absolute best way to tap into the talent pool.  The truth, though, is that there is no one “magic bullet.”  Talent sourcing really needs to be treated much like prospecting in the world of sales.  The most successful recruiters are focused on having as many resources for talent as they can.

Some solid strategies include:

  • Internet marketing – driving both passive and active job-seekers to your website and keep your “Careers” page updated.
  • Internal referrals – incenting current employees to refer candidates for open positions.
  • Maintaining a database of candidates and notifying them of new openings – this is likely more viable in recruiting firms and larger corporate environments.
  • Keeping your eyes open outside of the work environment – some of the best talent can be spotted in your day-to-day activities as a buyer/customer of other organizations.
  • Job ads (online and offline) – LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. are great resources for talent.

Believing that online job ads are no longer viable is totally incorrect.  The real key here is that the most successful talent acquisition plan involves multiple strategies applied across multiple media.

Will: So.  We’ve touched a bit on identifying and attracting top talent.  What about retaining them?

Kathleen: Salesperson attrition is among the top reasons our clients engage us.  If they’ve managed to attract, select and hire top talent, that’s great.  The next challenge is retaining it.  The truth is, strong talent requires ongoing management and attention. They expect solid orientation and leadership.  They want to be a part of something.  They want to earn the type of money they’re seeking.  There are so many others that I can’t list them all.

Typical reasons salespeople leave include:

  • They weren’t onboarded correctly
  • Weak management
  • They don’t fit the organizational culture
  • They’re job-hoppers to begin with
  • The company failed to use a best-in-class hiring process
  • They were hired based only on personality… the company didn’t use some sort of assessment tool to measure fit

Will: What is it about Naviga’s approach to sales placement methodology that is different than your competitors?

Kathleen: At Naviga, part of what differentiates us from our competition is our scale and our narrow focus.  We recruit all across North America and focus specifically on recruiting sales and marketing positions.  Having such a narrow focus allows us to really devote our time and effort to all things sales and marketing.

We also have a rigorous 10 step method for finding top talent.  This method not only helps us develop partnerships with our clients, but also holds us accountable to specific deadlines and interview dates.

On the front end, our process begins with a calibration call between the client, the account manager and the recruiter working the position. During the calibration call, an intensive candidate discovery process begins where the client discusses their ideal candidate.  After that, a schedule and an initial interview date are set.

Only the top 4 candidates get a chance to interview with the client.  Over the years, we've learned that submitting 4 candidates eliminates potential “fall-off” from candidates.  When we submit 4 candidates, 1 out of the 4 gets hired.

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Kathleen Steffey is the CEO and Founder of Naviga Business Services, a specialized recruiting agency dedicated to finding top sales and marketing talent across North America.  She builds close relationships with her customers and assures success by enforcing a strong philosophy behind the recruitment process.  Kathleen runs her company on the premise of understanding her customers' business and the details surrounding their sales and marketing operation.  “We learn about our customers, we stay focused on what's important and we execute.”

If you'd like to learn more about Naviga, you can check them out here: http://www.navigaservices.com/recruitment-services.php

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