The hidden consequence of our recruiting challenges

It’s the biggest issue we face. The increasingly difficult challenge of attracting great people. It’s top of mind for every sales leader I’ve spoken with this year. Every manager brings it up to me. It’s so important that we’ll take a full day at our January 2020 Boot Camp to help the managers who come walk away with real solutions.

And, it’s worse than you think.

A few months ago, a sales manager laid it out for me in clear terms. She said, “I have AE’s whom you’d consider under-performers, especially in their new business efforts. They need to go, but I can’t find anyone to replace them. Having somebody weak in that slot is way better than having no one at all.” So, she accepts mediocrity.

That, my friends, is such a scary statement it should make you take notice and think about what it really means.

Our business is getting harder. Bringing better sellers onboard is more important than ever, as we adjust and prepare for our new future. As the business gets harder, today’s C player is a D in two years, so it’s likely you’ll have a few more under-performers on your team. At the very time we need to elevate the quality of our teams, some of us are settling for dealing with weak AE’s. That should frighten all of us concerned about the future of our business.

Recruiting is harder, as well. We’re essentially at full employment. Job seekers or job switchers have lots of opportunities. Plus, lots of millennials love our digital products, but are less enamored by the core TV business. It’s a tougher sell than it was 10 years ago, for sure.

So, it’s harder to recruit at a time when our need to get better is more critical.

Consider this: Top-50 markets, especially, are making a transition where every AE is expected to do new business. With transactional and national business being challenged, I believe every station today has to put their new business efforts on steroids. Leaders should think about how they would double their new local direct business in the next few years. The reality of our new business demands this. I believe that every manager reading this—including my corporate friends and revenue development companies like ours—are ALL going to be judged by how effective we are at creating new business.

If that’s your reality, the number one issue is developing the team to get you there. Your team determines your success. Heck, your team will be hugely instrumental in your entire career success. It’s that important. A seller can be successful based on their own effort, but managers can’t do it alone. They have to have a team.

Creating a great team can’t happen by accident. You need a plan. Your plan should have three separate pieces:

1. How are you growing/coaching/training your current AE’s to get better? This is especially important for the folks who today would be considered “just average.” If you do nothing, they’ll be the C headed to D status. So, working with them to help them get the skills and experience they need to be better is critical. Succeed at that and you’ll have less need to recruit in the future.

2. How are you retaining your current stars? One of the things that bothers me the most is the number of great AE’s who are leaving our business. I see it weekly on LinkedIn. We have to create a culture in which stars want to work. And, we must keep them sold on the power of our products and our ability to make a difference for clients. This is the culture piece. If your reaction to more challenging times is to increase the pressure on your sellers, you’re probably going to lose more good people.

3. Recruiting. I think there are way too many sales managers who haven’t adjusted their recruiting approach to these new times. We can’t wait for applicants to come to us. They aren’t doing it. We have to go out and find great people. I refuse to accept that there are no good people out there in our markets. I continue to believe these jobs are about 5x cooler than most things people do for work. Yes, I acknowledge it’s not as easy as it used to be, which means we have to change our plan. However, we can’t accept that there are no good people out there. All that does it set yourself up for a future of mediocrity. And, accepting mediocrity at a time when business is getting harder is a path that is very, very scary.


A full day at our Sales Manager’s High Performance Boot Camp in January 2020 will be focused on getting and keeping the best team. At the end of that day, sales leaders will have a specific plan to attract the best possible sellers to their team. Interested in Boot Camp? Check it out at www.jimdoylebootcamp.com. Early sign-up discounts are now available.