Situation: The company has been running very lean for the last few years, with very good people. New opportunities are opening up, and we need to staff up to execute. How do we get the best talent while minimize hiring costs?
Job Posting Boards: You can often find specialized talent on industry specific job boards such as Dice.com, SimplyHired.com, Cybercoders.com, TheLadders.com or similar non-traditional job boards.
Online Interest Groups: There are a wide range of industry and product specific user groups through Google Groups, LinkedIn Groups, and so on. Connecting with relevant groups will not only position your company as a key firm within the segment, but also make you THE place for career progression.
Go Social: Leverage the power or social media to publicize your available positions. Facebook advertisements, LinkedIn job postings and similar sites can build targeted interest in your company, and available positions.
Go Viral: Even if you don’t personally like Twitter or Facebook, these sites can create viral awareness of your company and technology. Tweeting that you are hiring now, with a 140 character job profile.
Be Cool: Create exciting new ways to add in the cool factor. Skilled talent likes to work with fun, exciting, successful companies. Capture photos of company events and add them to a Picasa or Flickr gallery. Positive blog posts build good vibes around your company, your technology and your products.
Ground & Pound: There are many groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss skills, functional interest, best practices, business opportunities or to just mix and mingle. Sites like Meetup.com to find local groups that match the talent you’re seeking. You will often find candidates, people that can pass the opportunity along, or even someone willing to provide an awesome referral.
Attack: Be pre-emptive in your focus. Select a few top-notch recruiters who specialize in your technology, market and/or geography. These professionals already know the talent pool, may accelerate the process, and ultimately provide higher quality candidates.
These are a few thought-starters. What has worked for you to find good candidates at minimal cost?
Situation: The medical device industry faces uncertainty due to potential changes in reimbursement, increased regulation accompanying health care reform, longer FDA approval timelines and the economy. How does this impact strategy for an early stage medical device company?
First and foremost it puts a premium on focus. We compete in a market dominated by large incumbents. When introducing new products in the past we would have blanketed the market to maximize early market share. Now we are being much more selective in terms of where we compete and putting more effort into targeted geographies.
This focus is accompanied by more caution and control of spending. We will only hire a new sales rep, for example, if we are assured that there is a significant customer base in the market that rep will serve.
Similarly, we are being much more cautious in our capital equipment decisions, and if an employee leaves we do not automatically replace that individual.
In terms of price planning, where in the past we would have counted on annual price increases, we now plan for the potential of prices decreasing over time to reflect new pressure on reimbursement and cost containment. As another example, in 2012 there will be a new tax on medical device companies. We assume that this will reduce our margins where in the past we might have passed it on to the buyer. Reduced margins will also impact our new product investment strategy.
The big change in long-range planning is that we are focused on slow, sustainable growth – maintaining both gross and net margins and profitability. This is a major change from five years ago when our focus was on maximizing rapid market penetration for new products. We want to be self-sufficient financially and thus avoid having to rely upon future fund-raising rounds.
Situation: The Company has a geographical sales and service organization. Much of the sales effort comes from the consulting reputation of the managing director of each geographical unit, but he directors’ core values usually favor consulting over meeting sales plans. How do we get these directors to meet sales goals?
Advice from the CEOs:
Experience turning around a consulting organization with no sales culture:
Ours was a 5-year process. It starts with a leader who sells successfully and teaches by example.
As we made the transition, we selected new hires for sales skills to compliment their consulting skills. This facilitated our transition to a strong sales culture.
You need to commit to build a sales culture.
Moving to an account manager team versus an engineering/professional team was a big shift. It takes time and patience.
Hire effective sales people to jump-start the process. Most of the successful seller/doers will be new hires.
Revise your reward and recognition structure around your objectives.
Make rainmakers your best paid people. This will bring others out of the woodwork.
Bias sales compensation for doer/sellers toward variable compensation. Allow successful individuals to make over $200K per year.
Consider a 3-year phase-in by not increasing base pay through raises. More than make up the difference in available variable pay. Directors will now have more incentive to hit their sales numbers.
This is a difficult change in both sales leadership and culture. You may have to make significant leadership changes.
Situation: The Company wants to expand its sales force by adding “diamonds in the rough” – hungry individuals motivated by a high commission/low salary opportunity with high total compensation potential. How can they find these individuals?
Advice from the CEOs:
Hire “out of school” and use a good sales assessment tool to evaluate which candidates have the right attitude and skill set to succeed. Create a career path through a lower paid inside sales position to eventual higher paid outside sales position while the individual gets up to speed understanding your technology and as they develop sales skills. This helps to generate revenue to cover costs while developing new sales candidates.
Accept that you will likely experience turnover hiring candidates out of school. High commission sales forces in other industries deal with 85% turnover over 3 years to find “keepers.” This may be a significantly higher level of turn-over than you are used to in other positions.
Look to sales job fairs and Craig’s List for candidates.
Give your current sales people a bonus for referring friends or acquaintances who will stay with you for 6 or 12 months. Pay out theses bonuses over times.
Find a good sales recruiter to find experienced high-producers in industries with a similar product sale.
The appeal to these individuals is a high earnings opportunity combined with the chance to sell a sexy product.
Because these people will already be high earners, you may have to create a draw system so that they do not have to make too great an earnings sacrifice by switching to your Company.
Situation: The Company created five customer-centered divisions headed by Business Development Managers (BDMs) who oversee project management as well as business development in their markets. A year after implementation, the BDMs are more focused on managing their teams than on developing new business. How can we enhance focus on business development?
Advice from the CEOs:
Your BDMs are technicians; business development (BD) isn’t their strength.
People gravitate toward important/urgent activities in their comfort zone.
Supplement your staff with people who have a proven talent for business development.
You may not need 5 people – 2 or 3 may be sufficient to support the BDMs.
What if our customers demand technical expertise in business development personnel?
Make category expertise a requirement when hiring, in addition to experience in BD.
There are specific traits that characterize successful BD personnel. Specify these traits in your hiring process and verify these abilities in candidates both by testing for these traits and through reference checks. The Sandler Organization has good tests for BD talent.
The BDMs are responsible for coordinating bidding and pricing. Should this responsibility be handed over to the new BD personnel?
Not completely. You have two options.
Require BD personnel to coordinate with the BDMs when it comes to pricing and project delivery, and/or
If you determine that the BD personnel need to be able to negotiate pricing on their own, tie their commission compensation 100% to margin on projects bid.