At Black Diamond Networks, we believe that our employees are what make us the experts in technical staffing. Unfortunately, many soon-to-be college graduates don't immediately consider a career in sales in recruiting because they're unfamiliar with what the day-to-day life of a salesperson entails or how a recruiting company operates. Zach Ahlgrim sat down with Black Diamond Networks Director of Talent Acquisition, Joe Bradley, to clear the air surrounding a career in sales and recruiting and what new college graduates can expect from working at BDN.
Joe Bradley: Well, it definitely evolves over time, but when you’re first coming in it’ll be a heavy amount of database building. Initially, it’s a lot of cold calling, but you get a ton of support from both the Learning and Development Team and your manager. We promote almost exclusively from within, so the nice thing about that is that your manager, at some point, was in the exact same position where they had a database of zero, built it from scratch, and now they’re successful and leading others. So, that’s really your first three months in the BDN boot camp program.
Now, the job also starts to evolve over time. It’ll always revolve around the telephone, but eventually, it becomes much more about the strategy. If you’re an account executive, you’ve got clients that you’re working with, so you might have specific job listings that you’re managing that process for. If you’re a recruiter, you’re a couple of months into it and you’ve got a solid pipeline of candidates, so now you’re discussing specific jobs with them. So, that’s really the evolution.
JB: Well there are definitely opportunities. When you look at some of the top Fortune 500 companies, often times, CEOs and upper management emerge from sales because these are individuals who know the business, know how to communicate, and know how to put deals together. For people with that right mindset and the ability to build business relationships from scratch, it’s a great career path. For many companies, sales has proven to be a great proving ground for upper management potential.
At BDN, we take it to the next level because we want to grow as a company. We’ve got people who have been here for 10, even 15 plus years, so we want people to be able to come in, embrace our sales and training model with the goal of eventually “growing up” into bigger roles with Black Diamond Networks.
JB: We believe our mantra is true; make money, have fun, give back. The things that really set us apart from the competition are that we, first and foremost, have the best commission plan available. I talk to people who work with our competitors all the time, and we do a side-by-side analysis of what they’re making at their current firm and compare that to what they could be making with the same numbers here at Black Diamond, and to date, we’re undefeated.
If people are interested in making money or paying off those student loans faster, Black Diamond Networks gives them that opportunity. We have a good amount of our population who are easily exceeding six figures every year, but we believe that money is of absolutely no value if you’re completely overworked, stressed, and burning out. We give you the tools, we invest heavily in training, and the owners get it — they understand a career in sales can be stressful, so work-life balance and culture are of utmost importance as well. That means we have at least one event as a company every quarter. We also have regular team-building activities and opportunities that reward our hard work and step away a little bit. We’re not the type of company where there’s no flexibility, that’s really the environment we have here. And we stay humble through giving back to the community through donating to charitable causes and offering our time to the organizations who need it.
JB: Yea, I think that a lot of times people look at it as the old school, Glen Ross, environment. You know, “coffee is for closers”, where everyone is cutthroat or out to get one another, but I think the biggest thing is that speaking from experience, our environment is one where we want people to be successful. We want people to come in and we want people to enjoy coming to work every day. It comes back really to what we’ve tried to architect as an organization. We’re not going to force people to be here at 7 a.m. and watch training videos in the morning. We’re the type of company where competency is rewarded with flexibility. I would say that’s the biggest thing. There’s no one standing over you and micromanaging, that’s really not the gig here.
JB: Drive, motivation, and resiliency; those are really the keys. That’s really what we’re looking for in potential employees. We’re on campuses all over the place and really it’s hard to conceptualize someone, so we’re really trying to project what they’ll be like in our environment. Really, we’re just looking for those intangibles. People who have that competitive drive, spirit, and self-confidence to be successful. When I say resiliency, that’s important as well because, in any sales position, you’re going to deal with rejection. How you deal with that rejection, move on, and are just as energetic for that next call is really what we look for. Student-athletes tend to do well in our environment because they have the ability to manage their time effectively, know they need to put in work above and beyond what they’re doing on the playing field, and having that resiliency as well.
JB: It’s a three-tier program and, for us, it’s built around building the fundamentals of the job itself. The first sport that comes to mind is Hockey. When you take a young child that’s just learning the game, you put them on the ice, you let them know that they’re going to fall, and you teach them how to get back up until they’re eventually ready to incorporate the actual aspects of the game. Bootcamp is all about learning the right fundamentals of the job, which is not just making calls, but making successful calls. We coach people through that.
We have it set up as a classroom environment where our director of learning and development has put it together so that all of our new hires who start together are on that same call. We do everything via Skype, so it’s an opportunity for everyone to share best practices about what’s working for them. Everyone is really working together to learn together. Now, if you stepped on one of our sales floors you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s in training and who is not because everyone is working within their teams, making calls, and driving deals. It’s also paid training, so new hires are eligible to earn commission on deals they make while in boot camp. It’s a daily opportunity to talk about numbers, share best practices, and to make sure everyone is establishing the same fundamentals. In addition, your manager is almost like a player-coach. All of our managers also work in production roles, giving new hires the opportunity to hear his/her calls and hear how they’re overcoming objections on a daily basis. When new hires graduate from boot camp, they’re ready to come in and execute.
JB: Absolutely. Yes, we do tend to talk to a lot of business majors, but that being said it really comes down to communication skills and a desire to succeed. We had a health science major start with us recently and she just had the interest in sales and she was able to take that degree and leverage that as a part of our Life Sciences and Technology team. New hires for us really come in all shapes and sizes. It’s a diverse environment. We have people from all different backgrounds, majors, and walks of life. We encourage and students, regardless of their major, to come to talk to us, share their interest in sales, and see if there might be a potential fit.
JB: That’s natural. I think that speaking for myself and my team, we’re pretty laid back. Remember, every company is at that career fair because they want to talk to students, that’s our number one goal. People might not have the confidence to walk up and strike up a conversation, and that’s totally fair, and that might tell you that sales isn’t the right career for you. But, for anyone who even has an inkling of pursuing sales, it’s really just a matter of talking to us. Be confident in your abilities and be self-aware about what you might be interested in doing. Explore a bunch of opportunities and see what you might like.