Just walked in from my early morning walk on the beach. Good weather and bad, summer and winter, whenever, I have the luxury of not going into the office first thing, I walk the mile long, perfectly crescent-curved beach just outside our door. With the constant sound and smell of the ocean all night, there’s a consistent tug in my head every morning to explore what the ocean delivered. Sometimes tons of seaweed, sometime lost seal pups like this guy earlier this month, and most often just the richness of the ocean.
While Jan, my wife, sea glass jewelry designer and watercolor artist, searches for the perfect pieces of sea glass, I set out on the much more plebian task of picking up trash washed in on the night tide. I guess that I could euphemistically call it “flotsam & jetsam”, but I never can remember which is which, and, in reality, it’s just plain trash. When Dustin Hoffman, in The Graduate was told that all he needed to remember was the word “plastic” to ensure his success, I think that same word as I walk along, three foot gripper tongs in hand, picking up 20 pounds of daily plastic either as abandoned beach toys or washed up debris from the lobster boats. Anyways, it’s good for the ocean and my head. Plus, it provides me the opportunity to get out early in the morning with an unstructured, quiet hour to think through various business issues.
This morning’s thoughts focused on the consistent problems that one of our customers has had in hiring salespeople. Looking back on almost two years of hiring failures, the lesson learned process that we just went through with them identified that first they had been hiring without a formal profile of the skills, the experience levels and the attributes that they needed. That’s been problem #1, but the equally troublesome problem has been that they wanted to be inclusive in the hiring process, so they would have new candidates interviewed by way too many people. Two problems resulted. The first is that they lost a number of really good candidates simply because the process was too long and too inclusive. Secondly, the current salespeople wanted to have “people like them” join the sales team; therefore, when they hired, they never raised the bar higher than their current skills levels.
In searching for the perfect salesperson (and, “yes”, they are out there), our experience is that there’s a much better way…
1. Formal hiring profiles always work
Not a job description, which is outward facing, a job profile is an internal bullet list screening document simply detailing, down to the lowest common denominator, the specific sales skills, experience curves and attributes that you need not for today, but two to three years into the future.
2. Get professional help
Maybe, by luck, you’ll meet your perfect salesperson in the checkout line tonight, but most probably this is not going to happen, plus I never believe in luck with something as critical as hiring salespeople.
I extensively use Linked In several times each day, and I’ve certainly found very good salespeople and even “the perfect CEO” through LI, but it does require skill and a large investment in time. Considering the fact that I’m making a significant investment in any new hire, to improve my success rate, I lean heavily on recruiters and executive search firms. I’ve been at this game for a long time, and I’ve experienced the best and the not-so-best. If you want a reference or two, just email me, and I’ll happily share the people that I consider to be the very best in New England.
3. Recruit all the time
Professional coaches are out all the time researching the best players. The recruiting pressure on the very best high school kids and college students is intense and highly competitive. As professional managers, we should be doing the same thing. We should always be searching for the perfect salesperson. Having breakfasts, learning who’s who, exchanging ideas and maintaining connections with the very best so that when we do need someone, we have a deep bench of future draft choices already lined up.
Once again, fundamentals win all the time in successfully managing sales especially when we’re searching for the perfect salesperson.
In terms of the fundamentals and the not-so-fundamental, more innovative tactics, you might want to think about attending our October 2nd-4th Sales Management Boot Camp. We're about 75% sold out. Just email me, and I'll set up a 10 minute call to walk you through the details.
Good Selling Today!