1-on-1: Recruit and Retain the Best People

Q: How do I recruit and retain top sales and marketing people?

John Assaraf: By far the best way to recruit the best sales and marketing people is to make them a part of the company by offering great incentives, including a small ownership in the company or better-than-average bonuses for exceeding goals. The other rule I have is that I hire people who are seasoned and who have already reached a level of success and income that they cannot afford to not make. That will keep them hungry. These two roles are oxygen for a company, and not areas where you want to skimp. Hire the very best you can afford even if you have to extend yourself beyond your comfort zone. Great sales and marketing people will never cost you a dime.

Nancy Michaels: This is a tough one, because it's difficult to find someone who will be as passionate about your product or service as you are. But there's only one of you to go around and it's not often possible to run your business and do all of the sales and marketing associated with it. Is there someone's business that you constantly see mentioned in the press? Is their product or service getting a lot of buzz at industry trade shows and the local business events that you attend? If so, start asking people who these business owners are working with to help spread the word about their businesses. Hiring people who come highly recommended by people you view as successful and reliable sources of information is a great place to start. Ask them important questions about the way they work, how they demonstrate results and where they see your product or service getting more exposure that would increase sales for your company. Do they have existing connections with entities you'd like more exposure to? Give them about three months-sales and marketing takes time-before you make a final decision to keep them on in the capacity of your sales or marketing team.

Mark LeBlanc: Finding the right marketing and sales people should be an ongoing process and not just when you have a position to fill. Of course, the traditional way of advertising seems to have gone out of style, but creating a network of contacts that can keep their eyes and ears open for potential candidates will never go out of style.

Look into the crystal ball and create the profile of your ideal candidate. Identify the person by skill sets, as well as the intangibles or attitudes, values and behaviors you desire in someone on your team. Then make personal contact with your key contacts in your industry, as well as your community. Let them know exactly who you are looking for and what you expect in the person. The more clarity you have, the easier it will be for someone to refer or connect a prospect for you.

For these types of positions, a tiered compensation plan can always work to motivate and keep them in place for the long term. But most good to great sales people will tell you about experiences they have had in reaching levels of success and then having a previous owner or sales manager change the rules on them in midstream. Once this happens, it usually marks the beginning of the end.

Another option is to consider working with an independent recruiter or recruiting firm. While their fees can seem high, they can be a great investment and will increase the likelihood of a positive match.

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