Chat with any CEO long enough and you will eventually discuss the difficulties they have in finding experienced hunter salespeople, experienced sales managers, and marketing executives who understand how to create qualified sales leads.
Often these conversations are because everyone during their executive management careers has fallen victim to the myth which leads them to believe that in order to have a successful company, they must hire specific employees who are players from their unique business industry, have their specific product or service knowledge, or even be a player from one of their competitors.
This myth is propitiated by failing to hire the right person for the job or properly train new employees, and receiving unscrubbed or non-interviewed candidates on their doorstep from the girth of headhunters who solicit their business.
Today more than ever, CEO’s need to look outside of their industry or at least their business verticals to find qualified candidates who can help them grow their company.
To grow your firm, understand that many companies are failing because they are using antiquated sales and marketing methods carried forward by people who just keep performing the same old way from company to company.
The truth is:
- Many sales methods are antiquated and don’t work anymore.
- Many salespeople call themselves hunters, but in fact are farmers who make a disproportionate amount of their income selling new business to existing customers.
- Marketing that does not produce qualified leads for the sales department is wasted money.
- Leadership means to induce others to action — not just telling people what to do.
So why do executives divert to a repetitive process of hiring the same type of business candidates over and over?
- Sometimes they project their needs onto candidates when they feel pressure to fill an open job requisition because they are carrying a territory sales quota that says they should have a body in that position.
- They hire someone because that person has similar sales or management style or experience. Who better to hire than yourself?
- They think their sales business is so unique that no one could learn fast enough to be productive.
These assumptions are all wrong.
Filling an open sales or management slot with the wrong person because you can’t find the right person makes no sense. Hiring the best qualified person available at the time you interview is not the same as hiring the best qualified. Taking the least path of resistance to fill the rec almost guarantees failure.
Hiring based on the skills you have does not mean candidates who sound or act like you will produce the same tangible success results you did. They are not you.
Selling senior management is a specific skill set. Detailed knowledge of your product or service is not needed and in fact can be a liability when communicating your business value in the boardroom. Your product or service is a tool that drives results. With sales engineer support and discovery meetings almost a business requirement today, salespeople from any industry can sell your product or service if they can sell management, if they are polished, and if they are confident and professional. Thinking that your product or service is so unique and that you should only hire people who know your market is just egotistical.
So how do you correct this continuous cycle of hiring someone else’s employee whose contributions never rose above average performance?
- When you hire a salesperson, understand that it is a one-year commitment. Even if you let them go after six months for non-performance, by the time you hire their replacement and give them a probation period, it will be one year.
- When you hire a manager, realize that it is a two-year commitment. Like salespeople, you must give them time to succeed or fail but your commitment to them before you pull the plug will usually be at least 7 or 8 months, causing you start the interviewing, hiring and evaluation cycle all over again. Hire the right person for the job . . . not just an adequate person at the time you have a vacancy.
- Look for candidates outside of your market or business vertical who have specific business skills (sales, leadership, marketing) and may be just working in the wrong industry by mistake. Focus on what they have done and their results more than how many years they have worked as a sales executive.
- Use psychological testing, group interviews, one-day job ride-alongs and any other tool you can think about to help make a better hire.
- Don’t automatically assume that because someone hits their sales quota one year that their skill sets are transferable. Look for consistent performance. Great salespeople and sales managers learn to adapt regardless of the outside business economy.
- Remember from your own business experiences that just because someone holds a leadership position, it does not mean they are a leader.
- Consider that metric success in one company (leads created, revenue generated, employee team built) may not transfer from one company to another and the success a candidate has achieved may be related to his current or previous employer’s business environment or market positioning more than their individual capabilities.
- Go with your gut feeling. Over and over again, my gut feeling about hiring new employees has proven more effective than every psychological test I have used to help evaluate an employee’s potential.
In today’s market, industry experience is overrated. Focus on hiring great skill sets first and industry experience second. Hire slow and terminate fast.