I feel it again. There is a constant hum in the office, people on the phones, talking to candidates, talking to companies…making it happen. I open my calendar and notice that it is blocked, hour to hour. Unlike a few months ago, my talks are with candidates, talking about companies who REALLY want to hire. As a Sales Exclusive Executive Search firm, the buzz we hear is a good indicator that the market might be rebounding. At the very least, the buzz is encouraging.
It was only a few months ago that many of these same companies that I hear are hiring now, laid off huge percentages of their sales force. It got me thinking, what about all those people…would managers hire back Sales Reps that they recently let go???
I interviewed and polled several Sales Managers and Leaders across the country. Overwhelmingly, the responses all said…. "It depends".
Was the selection made based on performance?
The largest un-known variable that my question did not define was; how successful was the Sales Representative? Based on my poll there were many organizations that were cutting only the lowest performers on their teams, however layoffs many times impact good performer based on the musical chairs that take place during cutbacks. There are the occasions that mediocre performers keep their jobs due to their specific accounts/territory they are managing. Across the board, Sales Leaders and Managers all felt if the person was a proven performer they would absolutely welcome them back to the team.
Would the Sales Representative want to go back to a company that let him/her go?
The thoughts of an experienced Channel Sales Representative were consistent to many in our group when he stated, "I cannot see going back to a company that violated a trust; will I get laid off again?" Again…this is very much a situational hypothetical… If I was let go, I would want to be sure I understood exactly why the decision was made….why me?
In a conversation with Gene Fay – Vice President of Worldwide Sales for Vkernel in Portsmouth, NH, he mentioned, "I did let go of an inside sales person recently that I would love to hire back. I was forced to pick the bottom of a lineup that was very strong. My question is, would she come back and what would be the ramifications of having her back? I feel strongly that if you treat your reps as humans on the way out, tell them the reasons, be a strong reference, then hopefully you can maintain the trust."
Would the Sales Representative rejoin the team as a positive contributor?
Sales is challenging in any economy, when times are bad, times are real bad and the last thing a company needs is a cancer on the team. When bringing back a sale rep, a Manager would have to be clear that the person they were bringing back had no ill feelings. Gene Fay goes on to state, "Although I understand the process of being let go is shocking for the individual, if they were able to move through the process, positively, then I believe it is possible."
Over the years, I've found one thing consistent in the backgrounds of successful people. They have surrounded themselves and followed people in which they trust. Trust is defined as "a firm reliance on the integrity, ability or character of a person or a thing." Personally, I feel if this has been broken, there is no way of regaining in and turning a distrusting sales person into a performer. No way.
There are some incredible A-Players out there that have been laid off. There are also several B and C players that were carried by good times. When the market took a turn for the worse, so did their numbers and they found themselves being let go.
Proceed with caution. There are clearly several factors to consider when making a decision to both re-join a company that let you go and whether or not to bring back a Rep you had to downsize.
What have been some of your experiences?