I was doing a motivational sales keynote for a national insurance company on the topic of selling and gaining competitive advantage in the age of uncertainty. As I closed out the presentation, I was approached by one of the agents with a terrific question.
First, let me tell you about this agent, because he was remarkable. I was shocked when he told me that he was 71 years old. I couldn’t believe it, as I thought he was in his fifties. He shared that he had been with this company for more than forty years, loved what he did, and could not imagine retiring. Conferences were how he got refocused and energized. He devoured self-help and self-improvement books. This was a man who was engaged, pumped up, and just generally excited about life. I thought as I was talking with him that he ought to be up here on stage.
He asked his question in almost an apologetic way, “This may sound crazy, but I want to know how to clone myself.” Now I knew what he meant was that he wanted to know how to hire team members that he could work with and mentor who had the same energy level, passion, and customer focus that he did. He said that in all the years he had been hiring sales people, he always thought he made great hire only to figure out months later he had made a poor choice.
This challenge is one that many sales leaders find themselves wrestling with. Hiring well and hiring correctly can be extremely difficult, especially when your standards are high, and your work ethic is strong. Why is it so hard?
First, you wait to hire a good sales person until you need someone. That is your first mistake. Then you treat the hiring process like a blind date. You ask your team members if they know someone, and then you place an ad. Accepting interviews from almost anyone who applies.
Then you ask a few questions, have them take an assessment or two, and if they pass boom you hire them. Hire them, without really knowing too much about these sales people. Turning them loose on your most precious asset, your customer. Only to find out later this is not the person you want r caring for your customers, and you have to start all over again.
See hiring sales people is a little like getting married. Before you make that decision you better have done as much as you can to ensure this is the right one.
So how do you do that?
- Embrace Hiring As A Lifestyle – any good sales person has a job, is excelling at that job, and is probably so busy selling they aren’t looking for another job. Waiting until you need a good sales person, is a guarantee you won’t find one. Just like sales, hiring sales people is a lifestyle not a task.
- Hire Based On Values? First, you have to be clear on your own values, and then you need to hire sales people who share yours. You need to sit down and spend some time really thinking about what is most important to you; what are the non-negotiables for you as it relates to the sales process, and then hire sales people who share those beliefs.
- Keep a list. Just like you do with prospects for sales, you need a strong prospect list for potential hires. You should keep a running list of amazing people that you meet, people you would want to have on your team and in your company. Have coffee or lunch with them, get to know them, and begin the recruiting process slowly. This gives you time to really get to see what they are like, how they act, and if they would be a good addition to your team. To hire well, the hiring process needs to be more proactive than reactive.
- Situational Interviews – Shake up the interview process so that the majority of the questions you ask center around situational issues. Honestly, in this job market, skills level and education ought to be the ticket to entry. You should not even be spending time talking with people who do not meet that requirement. So, that leaves you the opportunity to ask questions that allow the candidate to share how they would react in a certain situation or handle a customer complaint.
- Working Interviews – Never close the deal without doing a working interview. Insist they attend a networking event or a team meeting and see how they act and respond. Does their behavior and attitude match what you are looking for? Set your standards high and watch them in action.
Lastly, stick to the 90-day rule. Believe me that is the honeymoon period, and it’s as good as it’s going to get. How your new sales hire acts, and what they do is the best of the best in the first 90-days. If their attitude and values do not meet your standards, then end it now, and turn back to your proactive list.
So yes, it is possible to clone yourself as a sales leader. With a little different approach and a different focus, you can find right sales people to take your organization to the next level.