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Sales Heads usually track a “time-to-fill” metric produce by HR. This usually measures from the date a position/role is opened until the day a position is filled. As this number creeps up, managers feel the heat as they have to drive revenue and bookings from unstaffed territories. Managers become defacto bag carrying reps, even as they search for replacements. Either that or, in an effort to close the business and not corrupt their role as manager, they ask their existing reps to cover additional territory – which causes account control and transition headaches when the new rep is finally hired.

This problem can be avoided by one thing. A virtual bench.

The biggest talent mistake sales heads make is not sourcing candidates until a position is officially ‘open’. So they start off the search effort already behind. Even worse, they perceive the search effort to be the duty of the internal or external recruiters. When, in reality, accountability for new hire reps rests with the hiring sales manager, not HR.

By building a Virtual Bench, a sales head then has on hand, at any given time, at least one qualified ‘A’ Player candidate ready to backfill. This reduces time to fill to a matter of days or weeks at most. And, even better, it avoids all of the dysfunctional consequences of leaving a quota-carrying field sales role unstaffed. A further ancillary benefit of a virtual bench is that it reduces reliance on recruiters, whether outside or inside.

So the conclusion is that market leaders adopt a “buying process view” towards candidate recruitment. The goal is to have candidates become interested in the leadership of the sales manager, the company, and the promise of the role – all well ahead of time. The Virtual Candidate Buying Process can be viewed as the logical outgrowth of this perspective. Though easy-to-grasp in concept, the Virtual Bench can be difficult to implement. That is why only market-leading companies are willing and able to develop this capability. With us in Q1, the time is now to roll out a Virtual Bench to the sales managers and teams.

Once a program is designed and announced, it should be implemented following a best practices approach:

• Sales managers should partner with HR to build a target list of potential backfill candidates for each sales role underneath them

• HR can screen these candidates to ensure they will pass the first look, even when no requisition is open

• Leverage existing customers for their view on who would make a good rep

• Hiring managers tap into their personal networks and the networks of other employees (and reps) for candidates

• Also, enlist Executive Leadership Team, Managers, and existing ‘A’ Players in sourcing Virtual Bench candidates

• The potential future hiring manager then blocks out 10-20% of their available time towards building the virtual bench. This usually results in meals with candidates, interviews, reference calls, and qualification reviews. So the hard work of candidate acquisition and assessment occurs even though no role is open

• Leverage social technologies to keep interest high

• Use an appropriate mix of live communication, emails, and organizational information to keep the candidate engaged to continually assess candidate interest as ‘A’ Players have a lot of opportunity.

Implementing a Virtual Bench strategy takes time and focus. A Virtual Bench is a habitual, non-stop motion.

With the coming crunch of departing reps (those that grab their incentive pay in late January or early first quarter of the new year and resign) and those that are being let go, a Virtual bench is a strategic necessity.

Interested in learning more about how M. Allen can help with the bench, contact us via

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