When recruiting salespeople, the goal is always to find those that are the most talented and qualified — the best of the best, the cream of the crop. Often that means choosing between the pool of candidates that apply for a job posting. But other times, the true rockstars are already employed by the competition and aren’t even looking for a job.
This raises an interesting question. Should you recruit salespeople from competitors?
Let’s find out.
Why Passive Candidates Often Make the Best Salespeople
Passive candidates are individuals who are currently employed but open to new career opportunities if they come along, as long as they meet the right criteria. For example, a passive candidate would potentially entertain an offer if they could earn more money, receive better benefits, have a more flexible schedule, and so on.
These people aren’t always on a recruiter’s radar, but they definitely should be.
“Passive candidates can offer a lot of value to your business, and they shouldn’t be ruled out just because they’re not actively searching for a job,” says Mike Kappel of Forbes. “In fact, they’re often the most valuable type of candidate.”
Just think about it. Who’s likely to be the better salesperson? One who has to apply to dozens of jobs and is low on the totem pole for consideration? Or, one who was headhunted by top companies across your industry and is gainfully employed?
The latter, of course.
Not only would they have the right qualifications, they probably wouldn’t need much training to get up to speed. You’re essentially plugging them into your system, which means you shouldn’t have to do any of the “hand holding” that’s often required with conventional hires.
It should also be noted that younger generations of Millennials and Gen Zers have a significantly higher average churn rate than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, meaning they’re especially ripe for the picking.
So, if the only candidates you’re considering are the ones that are applying with you, you’re likely missing out on A players that could bring immense value to your company.
An Ethical Quandary
With all that said, recruiting salespeople from competitors does have its downsides. Mainly, it creates a moral dilemma where “poaching,” as it’s sometimes called, can bring your brand integrity into question.
If this is a strategy you use time and time again when assembling your sales team, it can potentially give you a bad rap. Those within your industry could potentially view your company as being unscrupulous and underhanded, which isn’t going to do your reputation any favors. And we all know how fast negative publicity can spread in today’s social media age.
You also have to consider the legal implications. “Very few job applicants for key positions show up without any competition restrictions,” explains attorney Oberman Thompson. So, making the wrong move could result in costly litigation and all of the headaches that come along with it.
That’s why you need to “know the issues in advance, and address them — up front,” Thompson adds. One of the first things you should ask a candidate you’re seriously considering is whether or not they’re bound by a non-compete clause. If not, there shouldn’t be any major obstacles in the way, and you can pursue them unencumbered.
Besides that, you could also make the argument that recruiting a salesperson from a competitor while they’re already hired means their loyalty is questionable. “Common sense will tell an employer that if a sales representative is willing to break an agreement with a past employer, it is more than likely that the employee will repeat their action,” writes Ken Sundheim of Forbes. “This behavior does not exist in a vacuum.”
In turn, they could potentially be snatched away from you by a different competitor whenever the slightest hint of a better offer comes around. In other words, you could “get a taste of your own medicine” in certain situations.
The Pros and Cons of Recruiting Salespeople from Competitors
At this point, you should have a pretty good overview of this tactic as a recruiting move. But to ensure that you see the full picture, here’s a list of the pros and cons.
Salespeople who are already hired are often highly skilled and talented
They usually don’t require as much training as salespeople you hire through a traditional job ad
These candidates may have valuable connections you can leverage to find even more top talent
If done inappropriately, it can potentially hurt your reputation
In many cases, there are legal issues you have to deal with
If handled incorrectly, it can potentially lead to lawsuits
Salespeople who are recruited this way may be more likely to “jump ship” later on if wooed by another competitor
A Recruiting Strategy to at Least Consider
Trying to recruit salespeople from competitors is something that runs through most organization’s minds at some point. After all, it’s hard to do better than a key competitor’s best rep. There are solid arguments both for and against this strategy. But at the end of the day, it’s clear that it definitely can work as long as you do things the right way and don’t overstep your boundaries.
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