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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Great selling

You have to pass through several 'hurdles' to work in sales in our organization. In our most recent hiring initiative, we received approximately 115 resumes. From that group, yesterday one candidate, has reached the final testing stage -- a three day (paid) work assignment. There are a couple of others who could reach this stage as well.

Why screen so carefully? Seth Godin's observations about the difference between good and great is a truly useful insight. Many organizations accept mediocrity -- and (I suppose) some of them do okay, but if we are to achieve any level of greatness, we will have to do things differently.

My experience has taught me the screening tests we use are reasonably valid (though not absolutely a sure thing). If someone 'fails' the screen and asks for a second chance, we'll consider it -- but invite the prospective representative to work on pure commission (this is conditional of course on the person being otherwise okay, and us having an available opportunity that would not deny income to our existing representatives.) The reason for this 'exception-to-the-rule' rule is to allow qualities that might be measurable in tests but can only be seen in action -- is there a genuine drive or eagerness to overcome the barriers?

Importantly, the bigger challenge here is not in the hiring process; it is in what to do when sales representatives we hire and perform well initially, stop doing so well. The problem here is that it is wrong to be abrupt or cruel to employees and the cause of the failure might be something other than the sales representative's own efforts. (For example, the product may not be up to standard, there may be new competition, or the business/administrative practices are not providing adequate support.)

Part of the answer here I think is in frequent and effective communication. We have weekly meetings now; we keep our eyes and ears open, and I listen for signals as best as possible of potential challenges/problems. If something isn't quite right, I''ll intervene sooner than later, but with respect for the people around me.

If you would like to learn more about our hiring system/methodology, you can gather insights elsewhere in this blog or email me at

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