Sales Smackdown with Neil Hefty

west coast careers interviews portlands sales leaders

This month we sat down with Neil Hefty, Director of Talent Solutions at ProFocus and asked him about the biggest sales win he’s experienced so far in his career. Here’s his story:

Neil Hefty

Neil Hefty, Director of Talent Solutions at ProFocus

So my biggest win… I’m going to tell a story from my recruiting days.

So when I was still starting to come up through the ranks of recruiting and begin out-earning the base commission for some pretty good money, there was an incident with one of our biggest clients where, through no fault of my own, I had to take the fall.

My punishment was “Okay, never do this again- And if you DO do this again, it’s a real problem. But for now it’s okay, but you can’t work with the account for at least a period of one year, and potentially, indefinitely.”  And this account was by far our biggest account.  It was pretty daunting to not be able to work the account.  But ultimately I was fine with it because it was better than getting fired.

So ultimately, life went on, and in the summer of 2008 the market crashed and everyone was freaking out. And sure enough our biggest client was still the one bringing in most of the good job orders- and they’re still hiring, so now it’s even more brutal that I can’t work the account.

And then the account goes out to a surprise RFP to it’s top 3 vendors, 1 of which was the company I worked for.

This was a unique RFP, in that the client basically said “Hey look, we all know you basically do the same thing.  We get the same people from all of you, and we like to have multiple vendors, and you’re doing a great job, but it’s getting to the point that this project is going to need to hire so fast and furiously and with so much coordinated efforts that we want to choose one primary vendor for it, and then everyone else will be tier 2 vendor.

And so all 2800 recruiters from across the country were submitting potential candidates for this program manager for the RFP.  Whoever placed the candidate would win the RFP, and our client was projecting upwards of 75 placements in the first year alone.  That’s huge, especially in the middle of a big recession.

I was staying away from this because I was kicked off the account.  I wanted to work on it but I didn’t know the repercussions of working on it.

Sure enough, all the vendors submit their 2 best candidates by the deadline.  And they interview all 6 of the candidates from the 3 vendors.  And so at the end of the rounds, the client calls back and in a conference call says “You all missed the mark by far, in all these candidates.  Either you guys have missed something, or were having a bad day, but none of these people fit what we needed.”  And they gave us a little more information.

And so the local president and regional vice president and the president of the entire company are all saying, “Okay drop everything, Code Red, all hands on deck, we need to find this person, we need to send this person to the client” by this day, which was December 23rd.  And there was a big snowstorm on that day.  And everyone was house-ridden, you couldn’t go anywhere, and so all of us were working from home at the time.

And I’m just getting emails, and everyone is saying, “Hey did everyone see this email from the president?  And the CEO?  And the VP?”  The local management was just hounding on everybody “Who you got?  Who you got?”

And I’m just sitting there during this snowstorm.  I have nothing better to do, I’m housebound and I’m casing through old attachments, and then I remember a guy that was moving to Oregon all the way from the East Coast.  This guy was basically moving out to Portland; he was thinking about going back into the workforce again, but maybe not, and so someone in Portland had to meet this guy. He was a high level, ex-KPMG/Goldman Sachs guy.

Basically no one was a taker at the time (this was many months previous) and so I said, “Yeah, I’ll meet the dude.”  I remember meeting him, and just couldn’t quite peg him down.  He was a super sharp guy, super likeable, worked for big companies and ran 4 different programs, and whatever reason, he came to mind.  And I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name.  So I had to search my inbox and try to remember how I even met him.

So I find him, track him down, give him a call, and he’s available.  And then I go and call the Account Manager for the RFP.  And I said, “Hey Baker, I know I’m not supposed to work on this account, but I saw all the emails today, and I think I know who this person is.  I know the candidate who’s going to get this.”

I sent the Account Manager his resume, and he called me back and said, “This is nothing like the job description” and I said, “I know, I know, but from what you guys said and everything, there’s just something about his guy.  I think this is the dude.”

And he said, “I don’t know.  Write me up some bullets on this guy” and he sends him up to the Regional Manager who instantly responds, “What on earth?  I thought he was off this account!”

And I’m putting my stake on this guy and wound up talking to the president of the Western Region of this multi billion dollar company, and he’s says “Why is this the dude that’s going to get the job?  And aren’t you not supposed to be working on this account?”

I had probably about another 5-6 phone calls over this.

And so we wind up submitting this guy and another candidate to the client by the end of the day at 5:00 on the 23rd.  And the client calls us and says they’re going to interview 1 person from each of the vendors.  So we have to choose the one person who’s going to interview.

We decided to stake all of our hopes on this one guy, my candidate.  And he interviewed on Dec 24th at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. I remember getting this call from my local manager, my boss, who says “You’re just like Rocky.  Getting up and getting going.  We just got the offer for your candidate.  Way to go dude!”

Ultimately that placement was responsible for roughly 10 million dollars in revenue.  So ultimately, this one placement held our whole division together through the recession.  Almost all the new placements that occurred in that first year were from that one RFP.

And I’ve stayed in touch with that guy. He’s the one that saved the day on Christmas Eve, 2008.