Hiring is Awful – So Get Better at It
We are doubling our staff right now. Sales people, customer service account managers, administrative support. Hiring is the worst – the amount of time it takes, the expense and of course the frequency with which a great process produces an unsustainable hire. I have hired thousands of people over my career and I can claim a success rate only a tiny bit higher than the national average. I have made a few lessons law for us at Hunt Big Sales:
- Avoid “projects” – There is a temptation to hire people with potential rather than proven talent. The price is better and then you can develop them your own way, right? Not as a small company. You need real producers from day one.
- Forget “market rate” compensation – If you are a growing company, you need to set your sights on real contributors and pay for it. One “great hire” will out perform two good hires.
- Take the time – I’m always in a rush when it comes to hiring. That’s like going to the grocery store hungry. It’s better to go with multiple interviews.
- Standardize – Currently, this is our biggest mistake. If you want to get good at something, then you standardize and modify from the standard as you learn. Right now, we are making up our questions for each interview as we are meeting with the candidate. We are going to move to a template approach so that all of the members of the hiring team can get better with experience.
It is traditional at this time of the year to declare your goals and resolutions. I usually do this exercise like many other people. I often come up short on my accomplishments at the end of the year, but I have enough success to keep me at it.
This year, I have designed a different way of approaching this exercise. I’m calling it “The Ones.” The idea is simple; write the answer to each of the single challenges below and then execute against it. I’ll give you the list, and then my own answers as an example.
- One person to meet – Mine is a particular multi-millionaire financial adviser for 30 minutes. He has achieved success and balance and I want to understand some of how he did it and what he learned along the way.
- One habit to break – Interrupting my customers. (I’m terrible at this).
- One habit to make – Writing in my business journal daily. (I am reading old journals right now and am re-learning some great lessons that I learned once and seem to have forgotten.)
- One book to read – I have a stack, but for a project I am working on, “Dramatica” by Phillips and Huntley.
- One question to answer – What is the best structure to support our continued doubling growth?
- One fight to have – Stopping work at the end of the day. True, it’s a fight with myself, but it has to be had and I need to win.
- One fight to let go – Perfectionism.
Movie Quotes, Half-Stories and other Presentation Problems
I love movie quotes. They help connect people through a shared experience, even though the movie was watched separately. Magic. Except…when you use the movie quote in a meeting and there are people who did not see the movie or do not remember the quote.Then the opposite happens- people in the meeting feel left out and often annoyed.
Movies are not the only references. The same thing happens when you use expressions like-
- “I’m sure you all have heard the story…”
- “Like the old-joke goes…”
- “Sports legend (insert name here) was famous for…”
I can feel my age in the moments I try to use a reference to the movie “The Godfather” or make the statement “No one got fired for buying IBM.” I lose a chunk of the group to whom I am speaking because they don’t have the reference.
What to do:
- Tell the whole story – If you have a key story, which is critical for creating memorable points in a presentation, tell the whole story rather than assuming your audience has the same reference. To slim-down the story, prepare it and script it in advance.
- Frame the story – In your presentation, a good story is more meaningful when it illustrates a point. When you have told your story, summarize what it meant to the audience.
- Clean out the non-compelling references – Dropping lots of references to pop-culture and historical references can become distracting. Tell fewer stories and you will create a more memorable discussion.
The Power of a Sales Bucket List
I just turned 50. I know it’s just a number, still…. The day itself passed without much fanfare and I truly did not feel much different than the day before. Over the course of the next few days, however, I did start to consider what were my past milestones and what I want my future ones to be. Of course, a bucket list is bigger than your career. We do spend a lot of our time working, so having a few items from a sales career on the list makes sense.
I challenge you to make a bucket list for your sales career.
To help you get started, here are some challenges to consider:
- What is the size of the biggest sale you would like to land?
- Is there a company with whom you have always wanted to work?
- How many people would you like to successfully mentor?
- If you are a local or regional sales person, would you like to set a goal of closing a national or international customer?
- Would you challenge yourself to publish a book on your knowledge, participate in a nationally recognized panel on the topic or record a nationally distributed video on your insights?
Here are a few of my own:
- Close an 11-figure contract.
- Write a New York Times bestseller on selling.
- Speak to an audience of greater than 10,000 at one event.
Bucket lists are big items that challenge you. These ones challenge me. What is on your list?
It is hard for anyone to feel deterioration or appreciate prevention. You can only really feel relief or crisis. If you sell qualities such as reliability, your buyer can only truly understand it if they have experienced failure.
This is why inexperienced buyers are so dangerous in the buying process and why financially motivated buyers are risky for their companies. They do not have the context for evaluating the pitfalls of poor choices. Presenting the true benefits of the right partner to an inexperienced buyer often means little to them. They do not have relevant experience to evaluate the difference between an acceptable choice and the right choice.
What to do:
- Be relevant and specific in your examples. Your case studies must not be about market risks or disasters in general. It is too easy for the decision-maker to say, “We’re not like that.” Your examples must be business and industry relevant to create a true sense of risk.
- Define “good” versus “great.” Inexperienced buyers still have a general understanding of good versus bad when considering vendors. Their purchasing rubric has been defined to aid in that. What is missing is the rubric of good versus great. That comes with experience. Scare the buyers with the risks of bad choices, but also present what great choices offer.
- Bring a positional voice. I equate taking sales people to meet with finance people like taking a knife to a gunfight. Finance oriented decision-makers value someone who speaks his or her language. Take someone from your finance or purchasing department to the presentation or have him or her on a call to help financially oriented buyers to sort into their language the buying criteria
Holiday Gifts to Customer and Prospects
John Ruhlin from the Ruhlin Group is my gift-giving-guru, and here are a couple of his tips for what to give for the holidays:
5 Holiday Gift-Giving Tips
- Don’t give gifts at Christmas – Crazy, right? John’s point is that your gift will be lost in the other gifts. It is better to give in an off-season or 3-4 weeks after the holiday season.
- Skip the clothes and food – Apparel with your company’s logo on it, or consumable items like popcorn, wine or food baskets will not stick out or show any true thoughtfulness.
- Thoughtfulness isn’t an event – The sending of gifts, notes and tokens of appreciation should be built into your brand and approach if it is appropriate to your company’s culture, not just done once a year and on birthdays.
- Plan – General gifts receive little notice or appreciation. It is better to connect the gift to the relationship. If it is not your natural skill to design programs, then use a specialist to help you. We use John, but you may have someone you know who is good at this.
- Connect – There is something about the relationship with a customer that should be remembered or honored in the gift. The attached note should connect the dots between the gift and the memory.
For some companies, it is against their policies to give gifts. For other companies, it is against their policies to receive gifts. Be aware of the policies before starting the effort.
When you take people to meetings, magic or mayhem can happen. I’ve seen both and the magic is worth the risk if you can control the mayhem. Some of the mayhem is self-inflicted by avoidable mistakes.
5 Deadly Meeting Mistakes
- Pile On – When people add on to answers given by other members of the team it does not provide completeness. It creates a sense of lack of confidence in the members of your team to whoever else is attending.
- Fidget – Wiggling legs, tapping pencils, spinning chairs and so on are all fidgets. I have even seen members of a team get up mid-presentation to refresh their coffee while someone is presenting.
- Glancing – When a question is asked by their team, and we glance at each other to figure out who will answer, we look suspicious and unprepared.
- Digital Interrupts – Emails, texts, ringing smartphones in the middle of a meeting are unacceptable. You think everyone knows it until someone blows it.
- Double-talk – Over-talking anyone in the room happens because we anticipate the question, disagree with an answer, or are just focused on our own response.
What to Do:
- Assign the Host – During your preparation before the meeting you must assign a host from your team to manage the questions and interruptions. If anyone asks a question, the host’s responsibility is to confirm the question and then delegate it to one team member to answer. This helps to control Double-Talk, Glancing and Pile on.
- Agree on the guidelines – Set the expectations for the rules before the meeting with your team.
There is a simple test to understand your relevant power position as a trusted adviser with your clients. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do they call you first? Whether it be issues of opportunity, challenges, or a need for market insight – whom does your customer call first? In uncertain times, people look for certainty and authority – qualities provided by the most trusted. If you are not getting those calls, someone else has their trust.
- Do you get last look? When your customer wants to keep you as the preferred partner, they assist in the buying process. That shows up in the form of access to influential people within the prospect’s organization and information that will help you in winning the business. If you are not getting unique access or last look at scope, specs and price, you are not in the favored position.
- Do you receive a premium price? Competitive bidding will diminish the range of prices that can reasonably be considered on many of the commercial purchases in the marketplace. A premium is expressed as any amount over that of the next most credible provider’s price. When a customer wants to keep your insights and value, you will be able to keep your price premium.
Often with customers we believe that we have a great relationship. This can lead you to believe that you have a unique relationship or a powerful connection. The real measure is behavior. Ask the three questions to determine if you are really in a power position.
Early in my career, I received sales training on recognizing buying signs. Questions, challenges, even hostile accusations were, under the definition of my training, considered buying signs. These actions represented an expressed interest or engagement in considering the offer.
Fast forward to today. Prospect companies engage in expensive market scans for new vendors at the end of a contract or on a regular scheduled basis, even though 5 out of 6 of the final awards go back to the incumbent provider. This means that you have to be looking past what I was taught to be buying signs if you want to determine if there is genuine interest. Let’s call these Signals. Here are some of the types of signals that I trust:
- Speed – If the speed of the responses to my requests is on-time or ahead of the request time.
- Timeliness – When prospects show up on time and stay through an entire meeting, webinar or conference call it indicates strong interest.
- People – When the prospect is adding people to the process at the same or higher level, the prospect is investing the political capital that means interest.
- Information – Prospects that provide transparency and details early out of a desire that you have a complete picture of their needs are choosing to give you more than your competitors. Good signal.
- Questions – “How” questions in particular are great signals.
You are not looking for a fair fight or equal interest. You are looking for the signals that show you true interest in your solution, not just their compliance to their own process requirements.
Many of the companies with whom we consult are in a two-step sales process. They first have to sell a governing body such as a GPO, franchiser, corporate procurement department, or other central body to approve them as a “preferred or approved” vendor. Great! They have the contract, but no money. The money happens with the purchase orders from the distributed body of buyers inside of the large company’s network. Now the selling starts over again. When you land the big company, you have just gotten a license to hunt, not a real paying customer. Yet, many companies work hard to land the license, then let osmotic pressure or marketing efforts bring in the money. That’s a slow road to revenue. Here are a few things to do instead:
- Support Agreement – Seek to get definition of the roll-out support you can expect from the parent organization. Know what you want in advance – whether that is an announcement, a jointly released video, a feature in their newsletter, a prime location at their next national meeting, or an opportunity to speak. The job is yours to get their support in a way that is favorable.
- Blitzkrieg Team – The landing of a large master agreement is an event. It should be treated as a win that you can springboard. Instead of just rolling out to your field reps the announcement, establish a team to go after the highest value locations in the network and land business quickly. These locations will start the dominos of the buying organization’s network tipping in your favor.