A reader writes, "My company hired a sales representative for a territory far from headquarters. Shortly thereafter, I started to get the uneasy feeling she had two jobs. Sometimes, she missed our weekly staff conference calls. Other times, she was unreachable during certain hours of the day, or days of the week. She was achieving her sales goals, but not by much.
"A few weeks ago, she resigned. I would like to hire a rep for that territory again. How do I protect against an employee holding a second job?"
Reps like this are salaried employees with your company. They should be singularly focused on your customers as well as developing extensive product knowledge over time.
Technology allows most every company to place reps in territories all over the world. With this ability comes risk, such as not knowing where they are, or what they're doing with all of their time. Sometimes, these reps have another job.
David Sawyer, an expert with over 35 years in the private security industry and President of Safer Places, Inc., a background screening firm, offers the following advice:
Act preemptively. Your employment contract should clearly prohibit sales representatives from working a second job in sales.
Require a background check as part of the hiring process. The release form most new hires sign gives permission for this check as long as they remain an employee. (This varies state-by-state.)
Ask your background screening company to run a credit report. Often, employers are listed near the top of this document.
Many background screening firms outsource their employment verification to companies such as The Work Number (www.theworknumber.com). A search of this database may show title and dates of employment. If the dates are current, you'll know they have a second job.
This agency is an excellent source for verifying salary and employers. However, they require a special release form to be signed for each search. Include this in your initial background check. Then, consider making it a policy to run an annual background check and include the IRS search every year.
"I list this last," says David, "as it is the most expensive option. Investigators charge by the hour. If you're acting on a hunch, it could take quite a while keeping your employee under surveillance before you'll become satisfied that your hunch may be unfounded."
Clients with remote sales forces often worry about the sales reps having two jobs. I suggest adding specifics to the employment contract including:
- Starting / ending times of the workday
- Availability to be reached during the workday
- Dates / times of staff meetings
- Dates / times of quarterly or annual offsite sales meetings
- Lead times for taking vacation / personal days
Most remote reps have considerable respect for their employers and work hard at their jobs. Only a small number "work the system." Don't let those few inhibit you from hiring a remote rep. Just make sure you have the safety net in place to help if you suspect the rep isn't on the up and up.