Business Hour

Ribble Valley entrepreneur Tom Keighley has launched an innovative, data-driven sales recruitment business that uses social media to find the best candidates, writes Jan Woolley

Young entrepreneur Tom Keighley has spent all of his working life in dynamic sales environments. He began his career in Manchester working for large companies selling everything from training packages in leadership to managing a team of 50 sales people in a UK-wide business – all before he had reached the age of 30.

When he took over sales for a national IT service provider in 2019, his career was flying, but the pandemic struck: “It was a sink or swim moment,” he recalls. “A lot of organisations had on-premise infrastructures, which didn’t allow them to work from home. The company I was with developed a private cloud infrastructure to facilitate working from home and, as you can imagine, it helped lots of companies deal with the pandemic and business boomed!

“We helped lots of private and public organisations and I was in charge of a team of account directors supporting companies with the major transition of working from home.”

Tom, who is from Whalley, was subsequently head hunted by another company where he was appointed sales and commercial director, but adds: “We were on the right trajectory so I should have felt great, but I didn’t really feel anything. So, I got thinking. I kept waking up in the middle of the night, thinking of setting up my own company and making notes of my ideas on my phone. I knew sales inside out – but I had always struggled to find good sales people.”

Tom named his new business Pursuit: “You pursue a job and clients are always in pursuit of good sales candidates and I came up with an Instagram tag line, ‘start the pursuit’. So, Pursuit was born with the aim of becoming the leading specialist sales recruiter in the market.

“There is always a reason why you don’t get the right candidate across all job markets, but particularly in sales in the 18 to 30 demographic and that’s because they no longer look at job boards – they are too involved in Tik Tok and Snapchat.”

Tom also learnt that 60 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds will trust an online influencer more than their friends – there was a trend beginning to form and an idea began to take shape.

“I thought, how can we penetrate that?” says Tom, who came up with a ‘social first’ business recruitment model using social media to target a defined demographic in a specific location for certain job roles.

Using a small team of influencers, Pursuit launched a test video showing what life could be like working in sales. Within two hours of the video going live on social media, Pursuit had 102 applications from Manchester alone.

“I thought, ‘We’re onto something here’. It had a massive reach,” adds Tom, who is constantly challenging the popular view of sales.

“People think of a dodgy car salesman, they don’t think that a sales career is for really educated, diligent people. When you’re at school a career in sales never gets suggested.

“If you’re in technology sales you have to be really smart as it’s always evolving. From my personal career journey, I have helped big companies sell technology that saves people’s lives. So why is there such a stigma around a career in sales? It’s one of the highest paid sectors.”

In order to give sales candidates equal opportunities, instead of submitting a CV Tom devised a personality and psychometric test that gives applicants data-led scores in key areas, plus cultural profiling to deliver Pursuit Prodigy candidates.

Tom’s innovative idea caught the attention of a number of investors keen to get on board, but there was one in particular that he was interested in – James Caan CBE from TV’s Dragon’s Den.

“He has made his money from recruitment, so I went down to London and pitched my idea to him. He thought it was a totally different approach and thought we could really make a difference within the sales recruitment industry.

“We signed a deal that unlocked finance for Pursuit and we now have an office in Manchester plus all the technology and licences we need – we are up and running, it’s all systems go.

“James has been amazing. He is always at the end of the phone to give advice and support.”

Speaking about his involvement, James Caan says: “It’s a different and exciting business model to what we have seen in the past and I can’t wait to drive Pursuit with Tom.”

With Pursuit effectively shying away from the traditional recruitment market, using social media and data-led methodology to tap into ‘Gen Z’ candidates, the number of quality sales candidates is increasing, leading to better retention rates for clients.

Tom concludes: “Pursuit has four basic values – we are change-makers, we believe in social mobility, we are results-driven and we are honest and kind. These are at the forefront of our mission which is to transform the way people think about sales by making it the number one career choice for young people with aspirations.”

startthepursuit.com

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