The 2 C's: Curiosity & Comfort
We're very analytical today about how we hire salesreps. Whether the title is CRO, EVP/SVP/VP Sales, AE, or the myriad of other titles that make us feel good, the bottom line in Sales is that we either sell stuff or manage people who sell stuff. As my revered friend and mentor ,Howard Anderson, Professor of Sales at Harvard Business School, reminded me yesterday morning...
"There's only 2 things to know about business. There's Sales...and then there's everything else"
After years of hiring salespeople the wrong way, we had our head of HR, take an analytical look at why our results were, in a word, "mediocre". John took most of a week, reviewed the data over five years and came back with his own metric of MTBL (Mean Time Between Leaves), which showed a 30% annual turnover rate-both planned and not planned. Clearly, there's no way that this represented a sustainable model, so we sat down with John, asking what was happening here, and his response was both very direct and emphatic.
"You're Hiring on Skills & you're Firing on attributes"
And he was absolutely correct. We're quants and process guys, so it was easy to bring discipline to what skills we wanted in building our profile of what we required in an "A" level sales player. BUT, we rarely went beyond "the warm and fuzzy gut feel stuff" of trying to sort out the specifics of what did we really mean when we said we wanted "work ethic", "passion", "commitment", "trust" and 8 other key personal attributes.
A SEA Change
Today, we build a strict profile for any sales or management position we hire with an exacting definition of SEA. What are the Skills, Experiences & Attributes we need for the persona of the job? We then divide those definitions into two categories of "Must Have" and "Nice to Have". Checklists are created for the "Must Haves", and we never, ever accept "Good Enough".
- We test on Skills through multiple interviews where candidates need to make presentations of case studies and provide analytical assessments of sales or management situations and opportunities that we have presented them with.
- We always test on Attributes through the use of SkillSurvey, Caliper, and Predictive Index
The one (recent) time I let myself (stupidly) be talked into not doing an Attribute assessment by the big time recruiting firm considering the seniority in the marketplace of the individual we were recruiting, ended in an expensive and cultural disaster with a firing 18 months later. The first lesson was my failure in being talked out of doing an Attribute assessment since it would have clearly defined a lack of fit into our company. No excuses-my fault. The second was that I should have fired him in six months and not taken 18. The phrase that we now use all the time is... "Hire late and fire early". Here again, I hired on Skills, and Experience and fired on Attributes. Totally, my mistake, and a hard "Lesson Learned".
- We always use SkillSurvey for reference checking
- For senior managers, we typically have four to six interviews with hiring and peer managers and board members including a final small group dinner often with spouses to make sure that the family fit-both ours and theirs-will work, and there won't be any surprises. Yes, I've been surprised more than once during these dinners
Separate discussions around the table at a recent final group dinner with spouses
-The candidate: "We're looking forward to moving" (which was a requirement for the job).
-The spouse: "I'm very happy that we don't have to move for this job"
Game over, offer withdrawn! Without that dinner, there would have been at least one divorce, and probably two.
Yikes, Jack, this sound like a bit of overkill !
Not at all when you consider...
- It takes 3-5 months to identify and recruit an "A" salesperson or senior manager
- It takes another 2-3 months for the initial onboarding
- It takes a total of 12-18 months to move a "good" sales or manager hire up to "full ramp speed"
Fail at any of these critical hiring points, and you immediately drop back to ground zero and start the process all over again easily wasting one full year of sales productivity and, of course not meeting the revenue that had been neatly calculated into that Excel block. The financial metrics are bad enough, but the negative impact on the rest of the team and confused customers and market reputation is worse.
Our 2 New Critical Attributes for 2017
CuriosityBITD, there was a very popular and long running TV series named "Columbo", in which the wizened and disheveled Detective Columbo, played masterfully by Peter Falk, always had "one more question". Invariably, in every complex murder case, he would in the space of just 60 minutes, solve the crime through a series of comfortably asked, but intricately intertwined, questions.
Both a Skill and an Attribute, Curiosity is a "Must Have" in today's highly successfully "A"-level salesperson who must demonstrate it all the way through the Sales Process from Discovery to Close. The skill side of curiosity is the ability to constantly ask and get answers to the questions that will not only lead to closing the deal, but, as importantly, ensure that the sale will create lasting value and therefore reorders for the salesperson.
The 2017 Sales pro should not be selling either products or services!
If the buyer were making decisions based on the features and benefits of our products and services, why would I need an expensive sales rep? That buyer could conduct a much more exacting, much less expensive, much more timely and much more fact-filled process just using digital marketing and persona-targeting. More and more, the old world of having a sales rep show up F2F, or even on a phone call, simply to explain what they have in terms of features is going away even more quickly than the recent announcements of the closings of the brick and mortar stores of Sears, Macy's and The Limited.
The 2017 Sales professional is not selling products or services! They need to be totally focused on the business needs of "the other side of the table", and in that environment, they better be selling VALUE. In order to do this, today's sales rep must be able to honestly create comfortable business discussions focused on both the personal and business objectives of the Buyer. Once a sales rep can get to the table and establish comfort, at least there's the opportunity to begin a sales process focused on the way the Buyer wants to be sold and not on the way a sales rep wants to sell. This is a significant change from the age-old Relationship Sale, and from the 20 year-old Solution Sale and even from the more recent Challenger Sale.
2017 will be a year of significant change.
I was recently interviewed by The Boston Globe as to what the small business community thought of Donald Trump, and my answer was that he would "Hit the Reset Button". On a number of different levels, politically, financially and personally, 2017 represents an opportunity for all of us to do the same in the way we sell and in the way we produce value for our prospects and customers. There's no better time than January and February to make an objective assessment of the way we sell and the processes and the tools that we will be using over the next 11 months.
Here's an idea: Take an earlier-than-usual one hour tomorrow morning, before kids, before skiing, and before before...to think through what you personally need to do to "Hit the Reset Button" and produce your best sales year ever! It's actually a very simple and personal process, and you will find that it's a whole lot easier than keeping that New Year's resolution to join the gym and lose 10 pounds
It's Day1 today, and it's time, especially right now-here in the top half of January-to act on getting above the fray and look out for the entire year in your own planning, whether's it's to create a 36 month strategic plan for the entire business, or simply updated Key Account Plans for your Top 10 Customers / Prospects.
SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO START YOUR 2017 PLANNING PROCESS?
- Read about our simplified Business Planning techniques
- Download our 100 page "Writing the Winning Business Plan"
- Focus first on improving your Sales Productivity
- Try one of our Whiteboarding Sessions,
...or just, even more simply, give us a call at anytime to talk through your 2017 objectives. I and some of my partners have a wicked commute every evening (the cost of living on the beach), so we welcome the time just to talk confidentially at the end of a day. Send an email, and we'll schedule you in. Simple as that. No cost, it's confidential, and provides you with an opportunity for a sounding board.
Good Selling Today!
Everything we see around us says that 2017 is going to be a great year !