Coca-Cola: 30 Seconds in an Elevator

The Coca-Cola Company’s Valerie Kennerson says the war for talent is nothing more than a constant because “there has been and always will be far fewer A players than the demand needs.”

As the Director of Global Strategic Sourcing and Selection, Kennerson urges all recruiters to get to know their company’s current A players and then get to know the people they know.

In fact, she claims these tactics do not need to include buying A players a fancy lunch or scheduling a meeting ahead of time.

“It’s about taking that opportunity in the moment. If you see them in the elevator, you have to be on; seize the moment. You always have to be prepared with that 30-second elevator speech,” she says.

It is a matter of building that relationship, she explains, while learning what those A players — from the legal department to the supply-chain department — are doing for the company and the unique challenges they face.

“It’s a high-touch, human-nature issue: if someone asks you questions that show you are sincerely interested in what you are doing, they will respond. There is no magic trick that will do this for you,” she says.

Focus Your Priorities

“The reality is there are a few who are going to be your big movers. In Coke, for example, right now it is understanding that the area of non-carbonated beverages is going to be a very critical space. So we need to gain market share and establish more in those areas. We need to determine who the A players are in the organization, as well as which A players they know outside of the organization.”

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Such moves may help recruiters draw conclusions or find out where to ask more relevant questions. “I love technology; I embrace it. But having a CRM…that is not going to be the answer,” Kennerson says.

The solution, she points out, is keeping current with critical areas for talent growth in your organization.

“One thing I try to do, which is so easy, is to listen to analyst Webcasts or any official state of the business. I go and listen, then come up with at least one question to ask one individual about something discussed in the meeting,” she says. “It works, and it’s easy. It’s not like you need to be an expert in the area. I am not an expert in the area of non-carbonated beverages!”

“Whether it’s sending an email, popping into their office, or approaching them right after a presentation, be sure to introduce yourself, explain what you do, ask your question, and tell them why you’re asking that question,” she adds.

Look for more candid, in-depth conversation with Valerie Kennerson in the February issue of the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.


1 Comment on “Coca-Cola: 30 Seconds in an Elevator

  1. So you’ve just given your 30 second speech….bingo….but then the door opens and the frame of your audience’s focus changes to “the next episode”.

    Dead air. We’ve all been there, no?

    What I have learned to do, not only to move out of the elevator in matching stride with my audience (maybe there are 2 of them on their way somewhere), but to keep their attention on me involves perfecting the reflex needed to end the speech well.

    I believe my 30 second speech will WOW them if, and only if, I ask an engaging question at the end. That question includes the two key words “you” and ““.

    They love the sound of their own name and they love being recognized as an authority.

    After hearing about the company priority on increased market share of the gasless beverage bonanza going on out there, I would ask….

    “Donna, how do you think this development is going to affect your unit in the next 90 days?”

    Door opens. Donna tells me what she really thinks….because she really wants to ventilate her own ideas and assess the possibiities in a low risk environment(and because I was interested enough in her to ask…something that Donna may not experience with regularity at work)…and I can spend a few extra minutes walking with Donna without seeming like a stalker…..and I have been associated with the experience of “Wow….no one has ever asked me *that* question before.”

    It works for me. What do you do?

    Anthony Chavez
    National Sales Director
    The Job Board,
    “Global Logistics and Supply Chain
    Strategies” Magazine
    by Keller International Publishing
    (est. 1882)

    “History doesn’t repeat itself.
    It ryhmes.” -Samuel Clemens

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