Sales have a talent problem. There is a shortage of skilled entry-level sales professionals across the country. Yet, every year, companies spend exorbitant amounts on recruiting, hiring, and training, while still struggling with high turnover rates.
To remedy this issue, we need to rethink and better coordinate our recruiting practices and the distribution of entry-level sales tasks.
One novel way to do this is to build a Sales Farm System.
Problems with Current Sales Recruiting Strategies
Thousands of companies recruit from colleges and universities the same way year after year.
Company recruiters head to campuses across the county to attend career fairs, speak in classrooms, and sponsor events for the off chance to meet the next great sales professional to hire.
Companies rationalize this process because it’s always been done this way, and the sheer number of interviews and meetings should provide them with a great hiring class. However, this yearly investment in hope, promise, and potential rarely lives up to expectations.
Entry-level sales professionals burnout and turnover continue to increase, plague our sales teams, and decrease revenue-generating activities.
Human Resources Professionals and Career Counselors are the ones who created the current college recruitment system, but since they aren’t salespeople, they don’t always know how to identify sales experts.
We follow their guidelines to assess sales talent — resumés and great interviews — but these are not predictors of sales production. This process overvalues subjective measurements, such as pieces of paper and showmanship, and undervalues objective analysis — showcasing the skills needed to be successful in sales.
Great, and even serviceable, sales professionals have the soft skills necessary to learn, grow, and thrive. They show up on time (meaning early), they do what they say they are going to do, and they bring their best self each day. These qualities provide the foundation for sales success. But these skills don’t show up easily with the traditional system.
To gain greater clarity and ensure that recruiting adds the most value, we need to re-imagine how we evaluate and hire talent.
It’s time to build sales-focused farm systems, which can offset the high costs of recruiting revenue-generating roles.
What Is a Sales Farm System
In baseball, even the most talented draftees rarely go straight to the majors. The draft evaluates the potential, not a player’s actual ability to play at a high level. The farm system mitigates risk and offers better ROI on talent to objectively measure a player’s production, attitude, and temperament.
Sales teams are no different. Hiring managers and team leaders know all too well how big an investment a new salesperson is. And they also know how disastrous it can be if that new hire ends up being a bust.
For sales teams, the farm system can help identify, develop, and prepare college students for the big leagues in sales.
This novel approach to an outsourced sales team works by recruiting and developing elite talent from universities to perform entry-level sales tasks year-round.
What a Sales Farm System Is Not
Many companies might equate a Sales Farm System with a traditional internship program. And while there are many advantages to offering internships, a three-month trial is not enough time to assess a sales professional’s true ability and whether they’re worth investing in.
Most minor leaguers take a few seasons to develop. Making decisions based on three months can leave you with an imperfect picture of their abilities. It can lead you to pass on the valuable talent that hasn’t developed yet, or invest in talent that may not truly be worth it.
A Sales Farm System helps you recruit and onboard top talent while simultaneously offering valuable, revenue-generating production year-round.
How to Build a Sales Farm System
To build a farm team, it is essential to build an entry-level sales campaign that provides long-term value. This includes B2B lead research, setting appointments and meetings, and/or booking demos of the company’s products and services.
The goal is to fill the calendars of Account Executives, test new product/service lines, and engage in messaging and outreach techniques that can be adopted by the company’s internal team.
Depending on a company’s needs, the farm team would consist of part-time college students who have either completed a company’s summer internship program or would be recruited specifically for the farm system.
The farm team promotes company loyalty and offers a highly valuable lead-generating service to grow a company’s revenue.
This experience enhances students’ understanding of the company’s values, products, and services while teaching them much needed communication skills.
Once a college student is fully engaged in a company’s campaign, they quickly develop their skills and knowledge.
The successful students who get promoted from the farm system to a full-time position with the company will perform at a higher level, having already immersed themselves in the company’s campaign for one to two years.
If you don’t want to invest in creating a farm system yourself, there are also companies that focus on building these teams in an outsourced environment.
With inroads to multiple university communities, they have diverse recruiting channels that find the best candidates earlier in the process.
Don’t Settle for Status Quo
The pandemic upended the way companies recruit students and recent graduates. Rather than returning to the traditional sales recruiting strategy — traveling to campuses across the country — take this opportunity to experiment with a new approach that will limit spending on recruiting, develop a fertile recruiting ground for top talent, and drive revenue for your company.
Recruiting college graduates is a necessity in today’s employment market. They are eager to learn, quick to adapt, and open to criticism. Although a college student will gain valuable knowledge with their university degree, it is not a predictor of sales success.
Rather than dumping endless resources into the traditional entry-level sales recruitment channels, there is an alternative — invest in a sales farm system on university campuses to build an outsourced sales team.