Does Your Hiring Process Resemble a Trip to Lost Wages?

by Charlie Hauck

And I don’t have to tell you why people call that place Lost Wages, do I? I am headed there to present to a group of business owners soon, so the idea of what really goes on in most hiring processes struck as cruel irony. Phrases like Resume Roulette and Credential Craps started coming to mind as I thought about my program. Just because a candidate’s resume looks like he or she is an ace doesn’t guarantee the face card will follow for a winning hand of Black Jack. It is scary to think how often people have said “hit me” only to bust on what looked like a sure winner.

How much does it cost?

When you consider the bottom line impact of a hiring mistake, Lost Wages could not be a more appropriate reference. Some people calculate the cost of a bad hire to be 1.5 times the annual salary of the employee. And depending on the industry, or the level of the position, that figure could be very conservative. Despite hard times, we still hear of companies where turnover is as high as 15% in some areas. That math is staggering when you consider there are enough tools available to minimize hiring mistakes. Why so many business leaders/owners still consider assessments or testing to be an unnecessary expense shocks me.

It’s not real money is it?

The costs of bad hiring practices may not show up on a balance sheet as a line item, and perhaps everyone has just accepted them as just the cost of doing business, but when the impact of not making the right choice is so high, how can companies afford to not do things differently? Upgrading your IT system happens because you found something that is more efficient and can help your profitability. Doesn’t it make sense to upgrade the expectation of what kind of human assets you add to your organization?

Daily Inspiration From A Simple Gift

The road to business development success takes many turns, with many of those turns unexpected. Just as unexpected, can be the surprise source of a nugget that speaks to the mindset or habits that separate the real high performers from the rest of the pack. Finding one of those nuggets may require something as simple as tearing off the next page of a desk calendar filled with quotes.

Random Surprises

I’ve been grateful to receive just such a calendar from someone I’ve done business with, but more importantly have developed a valuable relationship with over the last few years. We met twenty years ago in one of those unexpected turns, and along the way have shared many conversations about the philosophy of success, raising kids, taking risks, running our businesses and just about everything else. His gift of a simple calendar each year has always provided me with random surprises of humor or insightful advice from the icons of history or contemporary life.

Courage

So, from the 28th of January, 2010 comes a classic thought as we all begin to get after it again day after day trying to make a buck and keep our families fed and our clients satisfied. In as true a statement about what makes business development efforts so challenging as I’ve read in a long time, I’ll close by sharing what that master motivator had to say 60 years ago or so. From Winston Churchill, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

Like I said, a rare gem from an unexpected source. Thanks, Kevin!

Your Business Development Results Are Only History

02/04/2010 Leave a comment

That’s right. Looking at your results is just a history record of what you have done in the past. It’s a lagging indicator (or rear view mirror) of the sum total of your efforts over the past few weeks and months. Maybe it was prospecting, networking or listening to your past and current clients that got you there. That being the case, is there any way that you can find a forward looking or leading indicator of your future results?

Your Sales Pipeline isn’t the whole answer

You’d be partially right if you thought that your Pipeline is part of the answer. Depending on your qualifying and closing averages, it can give you a good clue as to what to expect in the future. So sure, you can do the same you’ve been doing, and work at it harder, more frequently and with more intensity. Nobody would discourage that behavior, but it takes a lot of time and effort to get the desired incremental returns on that kind of grinding.

The Intangibles

So perhaps a better leading indicator of future results is not always the quantity of effort, but rather the quality of the effort. Can it be that your own personal and professional development could really have the biggest impact on your future results? No doubt that the old adage about working “Smarter” comes into play here. But how do you define it? Is it increasing product knowledge, sales skills or other expertise in your field, or is it more about intangibles like passion, self awareness, emotional control, understanding, insights and perception? Only a consistent program of self development is the way to find the answers that are right for you. How hard would it be to get off the roller coaster a little bit every week to focus on self development as your leading indicator of success?

Many thanks to Daniel Grissom for inspiring the concept about the Leading Indicator.

What does the North Star have to do with Business?

01/27/2010 Leave a comment

I know where the North Star is with 100% certainty. It’s like death and taxes. Unless someone moved it, or everything written about astronomy over the last few hundred years is just a big hoax, it’s usually pretty easy to find if you know where to look. Sometimes when the conversation comes up with others, and I show them where it is, I’ll get a reaction like this … “No, that’s not it. It’s not the brightest. That’s not North”, or some other reason for them to dispute the reality. Although they obviously don’t know where it is, they are almost certain of where it isn’t.

What’s the point Smarty Pants?

So when we recommend to managers that are selecting sales people to use an assessment before making a hiring decision, we sometimes get a similar reaction like this …  “No, they don’t work. I don’t want to spend the money. I’ve done it before. I can trust my gut. But we know him or her.” … and all the other reasons.

OK, I’m alright with skepticism up to the point where it doesn’t fly in the face of the truth or the proof. The stats for our assessments are this: When you follow the recommendation to Hire, there is a 94% chance of success. When you ignore the recommendation Not to Hire, your chances of success go down to 25%. Those stats are based on hundreds of thousands of real life data points and have been back tested to confirm the validity. No doubt that 94% isn’t as sure as 100%, but it’s pretty darned good when it comes to understanding the future potential and production of a very important and expensive asset.

Is it really that simple?

No it is not that simple, so don’t believe it when you hear it. Nothing is that simple anymore. Using an assessment is just a part of a process. First, it has to be the right assessment. Too many products out there are marketed to have the same effectiveness, but the truth is that they do not have the same predictive validity. Secondly, potentially good sales folks can easily be de-railed by a weak on-boarding plan, mis-alignment of sales management, insufficient coaching, poor fit with the work environment or many other parts of the process. Being blind to these others factors is probably the reason that those who have used an assessment in the past no longer believe in their usefulness.

Next time you get ready to put on a new sales rep, can you please ask yourself how certain you are of the parts of your process?

Ice Cream for Breakfast?

01/20/2010 4 comments

The feeling of being denied the freedom to make your own decision is one of the worst feelings in the world. I don’t know too many people beyond the age of two that would argue with that statement. If I decide to go out and ride my bike, eat lunch at 1:30, have ice cream for breakfast or stay up until 3:00 AM, well, that is my choice thank you. So why should I change my mind if that is really what I want to do?

I’ll just sit here while you try to convince me

So when did it become fashionable to deny a prospect the choice to hear a pitch, stay with a current vendor or take advantage of special pricing from a competitor?  Is it that everyone we approach must be stupid or making a mistake if they don’t buy from us? Or is it just possible that we aren’t right for everyone? The tried and true process of spouting features and benefits is a tad “seller-centric”. .. meaning that those “can’t miss” benefits should work for everyone because that’s what the sales person is telling you. Just because you offer a car with fold down seats does that mean I should be thrilled even though I have no need for that particular feature that is so desired by someone else?


Just trust me, please

Someone once told me that feature and benefit selling amounted to “positive performance before trust” when used to fuel the sales process. I didn’t quite grasp that idea until I found myself as the prospect a few times. You could almost feel the salesperson telling me to just go ahead and trust him. And the funny thing was that the more he told me about this feature and that benefit that made no difference to me, the harder it was to believe I should grant him any trust at all.

So in an effort to find a more nurturing way to sell I began using a permission based sales approach that embraced the fact that either party could say NO, that allowed both salesperson and prospect to feel in control, and that used question marks instead of exclamation points or periods to drive the process forward. Wouldn’t we all like to work in an environment that felt that comfortable?

Defending Your Life

01/12/2010 5 comments

Everyone knows about fear. Because the word itself has some negative connotations, some prefer to call it anxiety, apprehension, discomfort, dread or trepidation in order to make the emotions more manageable. What started out as instinctual or subconscious “fight or flight” syndrome in early creatures, this is an emotion that is so vast in its cause and effects, that it is impossible to know where it starts and ends.

The topic has no shortage of discussion when it comes to personal and professional behavior. So many ideas about how to deal with it, deny it, understand it, embrace it or fight it are commonplace, but often provide little relief. We all know what the various forms feel like, but does that help anyone understand how it really affects our performance in any of the many roles we all have to fill every day and week?

Different Angles for Business

One of the most popular approaches in the business world are the concepts presented in the book “Who Moved My Cheese” when Haw asked himself “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. Only when Haw began to understand the implications of the answer was he able to mobilize himself and realize his potential for action.

If the book is good, is the movie better?

Perhaps a different approach gives another perspective. In the movie “Defending Your Life”, Albert Brooks has recently died in a head-on crash, and has been sent to an afterlife (Judgment City) where he must demonstrate how he has overcome his fears  in a court that will decide if he is now worthy of advancement in the Universe or not. In this clip, his Defense Attorney explains the Big Picture about fear.

Watch the clip and then ask yourself:

What should I start doing different right now?

A Funny Thing Happened When He Quit – Part 3 of 3

11/24/2009 Leave a comment

In the first and second installments of this blog, we looked at the story of Robert, a senior sales rep who grew complacent and elected to leave (under duress) his high salary position due to some performance and behavior issues. The fact that he had left a fair amount of business on the table at his existing clients was surprising news to his old managers. Robert then found himself with a new job that required him to implement a different sales discipline that allowed him to be successful under the mostly commission based comp plan. And with that new found discipline, even Robert was surprised to see his results go up dramatically.

Of the many comments received about this story, some suggested the following:

  • The fault lies with sales management for not paying attention.
  • Just because someone on the team speaks up, doesn’t mean that what they are saying is always negative and should be let go because of it.
  • Robert was just a phony trying to do a minimum of work just so he could collect a paycheck.
  • Somebody should have done a better job of “motivating” him.

Any of the above could be true, but the fact of the matter is that every situation is different because of the vast combination of workplace elements combined with the unlimited array of human factors. As with many of the dynamics in the sales world, there is never a shortage of right vs. wrong thinking, finger pointing or what seem to be perfectly rational explanations. The temptation in these situations is to try to find the “answer” to solve the “problem”, when in reality these problems are just conditions that have been going on forever, and will continue to persist as long as sales and business continues to be an imperfect world. So with no magic bullet and no hard science, all that can be done is to treat the conditions themselves rather than being frustrated that there is no single answer to the problem of managing people.

It’s all really simple, right?

So, in the business of sales, someone will have to unravel all the inter-related items that can affect the performance of each rep, each sales manager and the overall success of the company.  In the case of Robert, just a sampling of the questions that could be asked are:

  • Did Robert really have the Desire, the Commitment and the self responsibility to be successful?
  • If not, then why did he succeed in one position and not the other? Was it only about the comp plans?
  • Why were some of Robert’s peers hitting their numbers when they were in the same market with the same products? Did they just have a “better territory”?
  • What parts of Robert’s game really needed fixing the most?
  • What impact does sales management really have on performance? Should they be cheerleaders or intimidators, or both?

Certainly there are many “Do it Yourself” approaches than can be tried, but in the end, Sales Force Development is a planned process with many moving parts.

[Author note: Someone asked if Robert was a real life character or if I just made this story up to serve my own purposes. The truth is that “Robert” is a compilation of three different reps that had almost the exact same situation occur to them in real life in the last six months. True story.]