The allure to poach a strong performer from your competitor is obvious. You inherit an existing network of clients from a candidate who needs minimal training, and who will likely produce a return on investment very quickly. It might leave your competitor’s business a little vulnerable for a short period of time, but such is the nature of great talent – in business and in sport.

The industrial space in Sales, especially in the Melbourne market, is heavily relationship driven. So, approaching a candidate at a competitor’s company is a common request from my clients.

Whether or not it is the best approach needs some context. It will be different for each company and situation.

When you break it down, the decision will come down to two key factors: What are you willing to offer the candidate and what are their motivators?

Being a sports nut, I’m a sucker for a good sporting analogy and I see many similarities in the Sales and sporting landscapes.

Let’s look at the biggest star currently in the AFL, Dustin Martin. Last season North Melbourne tried to poach him with a huge offer; reported to be $10.5M over seven years. Richmond couldn’t pay him that, their offer was up to $2M less over that period.

Dusty decided to stay.

You can see North Melbourne’s motivation for throwing that type of money at him. They are a great club but have underperformed and were in need of a marquee signing. Unfortunately, the only way they could trump Richmond was with more money; however, this simply isn’t what motivates Martin. The opportunity to be a Tiger For Life and the future prospects that will arise for him as a result of his integrity and loyalty are unassailable.

If your business is North Melbourne and you need to poach a star performer from a competitor, which happens to be a very reputable business, then you are going to need more than a larger paycheck to ensure someone joins your business with the right motivations.

Another good example is Gary Ablett’s decision to leave Geelong for the Gold Coast.

He was at the top of his game when he decided to join the new Gold Coast franchise for the 2011 season on a five-year deal reportedly worth $9M. He had recently won two premierships and a Brownlow Medal at Geelong and his status as one of the best players in the league was unquestioned.

I’m sure the money played a part in his decision as it does for many people in their career choices. However, at the time Ablett said he needed a new challenge and the people closest to him understand he performs best when challenged. It certainly was a challenge being the leader of a new franchise full of young talent and high expectations, and that is why the fit for Ablett made sense.

His motivation was to help the underdog and influence the careers of his young teammates. He hasn’t won a premiership with Gold Coast but, as he heads back to Geelong for personal reasons, he has undoubtedly left the club in a better position.

If you are looking for a Gary Ablett to join your Sales team and their motivation is to challenge themselves whilst taking on more responsibility then you have a great recipe for long-term success. The money factor will wear off eventually, but a conviction to your purpose never does.

I could probably throw in many other examples of sportspeople that have switched clubs purely for money or have changed for change’s sake only to find they went to a club that doesn’t suit their personality or style of play. The same is true for Sales people. So, before you become mesmerised by a competitor’s Sales candidate, ensure that the motivating factors for both of you are setting you up for success rather than a quick win and a long-term loss.

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