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Our Talent Acquisition Department is Hindering Sales!

Dear Stephen,

I am the head of sales at a manufacturing company, located in Georgia, although the issues I face could apply anywhere products are manufactured. My regional managers report an excessive number of vacancies in field sales. This shortage is visibly affecting our sales figures and consequently, the income of both my regional managers and myself. Simply put, no salespeople on the ground means no sales.

Our company boasts a sizable Talent Acquisition department filled with in-house recruiters. While this department is generally an asset—saving us substantial amounts in recruiting fees and effectively staffing roles in operations, marketing, finance, and administration—it falls short when it comes to recruiting top-tier field salespeople.

The problem lies in their approach. Good salespeople are rarely job seekers, yet our recruiters rely mostly on passive recruiting methods. They use tools like LinkedIn Recruiter to target employed individuals who discreetly indicate they are "open to work." While useful for many roles, this strategy fails to attract the high-performing sales reps who are typically engaged in closing deals rather than updating their LinkedIn profiles.

Furthermore, our company's prolonged job postings on LinkedIn unintentionally signal that these roles are undesirable. As a result, hiring processes are slow, costing our company significant revenue and causing us to miss out on sales opportunities. Unfortunately, our leadership seems oblivious to or in denial about this issue.

I propose that our recruiters proactively cold call candidates from our competitors. This aggressive approach is essential for acquiring the high-caliber personnel we need. We are now in the second quarter and still face many unfilled positions. How can I push for this change without alienating our Talent Acquisition department?

Talent acquisition is managed under Human Resources, and many of my regional managers are hesitant to challenge them, fearing repercussions that won’t actually occur. I've discussed this with our Senior VP of HR, who defensively maintains the size of her department, equating its size to the significance of her role. What solutions can you suggest?


Help Wanted


Dear Help Wanted,

You might be surprised by my response, but internal talent acquisition departments are crucial for companies of any size. They not only fill current vacancies but also build a comprehensive candidate database for unforeseen needs. This is true for all positions, including sales roles.

No sales manager, whether they are in industries such as floor covering, lighting, or furniture, is unfamiliar with the challenges of insufficient field sales staff. However, excessive focus on recruitment can detract from managing your team and meeting clients.

At The Viscusi Group, we value the role of internal recruiters and often complement their efforts. We are brought in to make proactive outreach that internal teams might lack the training for. Furthermore, we handle negotiations that might stump an internal team, such as managing counteroffers.

Remember, the difficulty in hiring isn’t solely the fault of your recruiters; it reflects a broader market challenge. It’s also important for your managers to understand their local markets and communicate their insights to HR. Perhaps they could even initiate contact with potential candidates themselves.

Lastly, don’t assume that your talent acquisition team isn’t using external recruiters. Advocate for a partnership with external specialists if needed. HR is likely to respond positively if you clearly communicate the need, and they often have budgets allocated for this purpose.