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Five Steps to Building a Sales Talent Pipeline

October 12, 2020

By: Wendy Sheaffer

Not everyone loves hiring. Does anyone love hiring? Does anyone like hiring? Some parts of it can be fun: the excitement of bringing in new people and new ideas, imagining the possibilities, the hilarious typos on the resumes. But it can be a slog. Especially right now, many job postings will lead to a flood of resumes and applications. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. According to Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, having too many options makes us humans pretty unhappy. We suffer from fear of missing out and agonize over the best choice. Of course, having too many choices as a hiring manager means a LOT more work. You want to do it because you want to find the best person for your sales team, but you also have other things to do. 

What if you didn’t have to start from zero every time you hire? What if -- instead of dealing with job postings, sifting through the virtual stacks of resumes, making the calls, and struggling with the anxiety – you just picked up the phone and made a call to the right person, and a couple of weeks later, they just started? 

There is a way. Creating a talent pipeline can save yourself a lot of work, uncertainty, and, yes, even unhappiness!

What is this magical time saver? 

According to HR (Human Resources) Technologist, A talent pipeline is defined as a ready pool of potential candidates who are qualified and prepared to step up and fill relevant key roles within the organization as soon as they fall vacant.” 

In other words, you have a waiting and willing list of people you can call on as soon as you have an opening. Ideally, they would be clamoring to join your team, they will have been moderately vetted in advance, and they have the skills, experience, or attitude (or all three!) you want.

Here are 5 steps to building your very own talent pipeline.

  1. Identify your needs. There are always surprises in staffing – someone moves to a new field, a spouse is transferred, a production manager decides to start his own artisanal sourdough bread company, the usual – but not all job vacancies are unexpected. You can take stock now of where the positions are going to be in the future. These might include: 
    • In areas where you are planning to expand (new initiatives, departments, or branches). 
    • Replacements for excellent contributors who are on a divergent educational path. You love them, they do excellent work, but they’re in the final year of their degree in Almond Husbandry. 
    • Positions where there is a lot of lateral and upward movement. These are the roles that prepare your employees to move up in the company. 
    • In areas where you are always willing to hire the right person (commission sales is usually at the top of this list for many companies), even if you’re fully staffed. You can make room for someone who is going to take your sales revenue to the next level. 
  2. Prepare to sell the benefits of working for your company. You know it’s a great place to work, but what is your plan for letting other people know? This should go beyond a dry list of HR benefits. What are the benefits of working there? Why would you recommend it? Consider creating a marketing packet for attracting talent the same way you would attract sales prospects. 
  3. Scope out your people. 
    • Start in your own in your backyard. You probably have a few stellar employees in mind for your sales team. These people are gold because you know their work ethics, skill levels, and reputations. Of course, moving someone over to sales will leave an opening elsewhere, but it is easier and less risky to fill an entry-level position than a high-level one. 
    • Talk to the people you trust most. Maybe you don’t have a great fit within your current ranks, but what about the people they know? Referrals from your best employees are as good as selecting the employees themselves. 
    • Scope out external business contacts. Chances are you’ve built relationships with bright, motivated people outside the company, contacts from vendors or services you use, for example. It can’t hurt to feel around and see if they are interested in a change. 
    • LinkedIn, Indeed, and social networking. LinkedIn is always a great place to start because of its well-defined keywords and the ability to review people’s resumes and histories. Indeed.com also allows you to search resumes, although you will have to buy a subscription. Also, check out industry-specific social networks, such as GitHub (for software) and Moz (marketing) or industry subreddits, to find people who really know their stuff. 
    • Local business networks. Virtual and (eventually) in-person networking events offer a great opportunity to meet reputable people in your area seeking new opportunities. 
  4. Make sure they are a good match. You may like everything about the person, but they must be more than likable; they must be well suited to the job. Remember, a great salesperson is not necessarily going to be a great accountant (and vice-versa). 
  5. Make and maintain a connection. Reach out and find out if there is interest. Be open and honest about the timeline. Remember, this is not a solid offer of a position; it offers a mutual future opportunity. Find out the best way to reach this person and keep in touch. Provide updates as the possibility of a role comes nearer. 

There are steps you can take to start building your talent pipeline right now. The sooner, the better. Because let’s be honest, a lot of people have baked a lot of sourdough bread these past few months. There are going to be some award winners out there.

Wendy Sheaffer

Chief Product Officer at The Omnia Group, an employee assessment firm providing the power of behavioral insight to help organizations make successful hires and develop exceptional employees. Wendy joined Omnia as an analyst in 1998 and is a subject matter expert in using Omnia’s 8 columns as a tool to make more-informed hiring and development decisions and effectively engage staff. She works directly with clients and Omnia staff to provide a deeper understanding of how to use personality data to meet business goals. Wendy provides strategic direction on client requests, projects and product training sessions. For more information, email info@omniagroup.com or call 800.525.7117.

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