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The 3 'I's for Successful Selection

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Candidate Selection Rule #1 - People don't change

There is a school of thought, led mainly by uneducated pedlars of success, which maintains that people can change... That it is possible for someone, after 30 years (or ten thousand eight hundred and fifty days) of mediocrity to suddenly burst forth as a new person. This is folklore. Quite worthwhile stuff though, since it enables the failures of our world to console themselves that, “Come Monday I will be a new and successful person.” It provides hope. As Wilde said, “Ambition is the last refuge of failure.” Cast your mind back over all the people you have ever recruited and try to recall even one who emerged from a lifetime chrysalis of mediocrity to become a dynamic self-starter. Perhaps it can happen, but we are talking about life habits which, after age twenty five or so, have actually become part of an individual’s personality. You won’t change this overnight. Certainly the likes of Billy Graham may have claimed success in turning atheists into religious zealots, but that is no real change: they just ran from one extreme to the other while still retaining their basic extremist personality. J.A.C. Brown makes the point that conversion of any form of extremism is simply changing dogmas while still retaining the basic trait of dogmatism. If you still want to believe in the folklore of ‘instant success personality’ you are welcome, but don’t bet on it at an interview to select a salesperson. The odds are stacked against you, and the stakes are too high. © Copyright - Ltd 2015.

Successful Selling 1 - Be Brilliant at the Basics

Is selling a tough job, a hard job, or a difficult job? Well, it can be all of these things, but in reality is none of these things. Many people describe selling in these terms because most people do not like selling, don’t wish to sell, and probably cannot sell. Is selling about having a brass neck, a big mouth, or a sharp suit? Or, while I’m at it, does selling success come from brilliance at product or technical knowledge; or from utilising clever closing phrases or from being in the right place at the right time? At times, it can be some of these things but, if you want to build a long-term sales career, it is none of these things. The truth is that successful selling – no matter what the product, the service, the industry, or the territory – always requires the salesperson to complete this series of simple steps: Taken individually they are basic, logical steps. Nothing complicated; nothing difficult or tough or hard. Just a series of simple, basic steps. But most people cannot complete them. Great salespeople, on the other hand, always complete each of these simple steps consistently well. That is why successful selling is not about being brilliant at product and technical matters, or being brilliant at debating or winning arguments, or about having all the answers to all the questions. Successful selling is about being ‘Brilliant at Basics’. © Copyright - Ltd 2015.

Time Management #1 - an introduction

It’s the big question that every recruiter of salespeople in financial services asks over and over again: what are the key features that make up a successful salesperson. Many people know (or think they know) the answer to this. However, I think recruiters are asking the wrong question… The question that we should ask first is “Why do so many salespeople fail?” Why do some recruits become hugely successful and others – who appear to have the qualities many expect to see in a good salesperson – fail terribly? Let me cut to the chase here and tell you now that the biggest “killer” for salespeople is time management – or rather their inability to manage time effectively. Yes, time management is the key to sales success… It beats product knowledge, technical skills, sales skills, motivation, determination, closing skills, the ability to prospect, and so on. Put another way, in the financial services industry, salespeople do not fail because of a lack of potential customers – there are potential customers everywhere. Nor do they fail because they cannot explain how a product works or why a product may be of use to a client. They do not fail because they cannot master the sales skills required – the sales process is just a series of simple tasks that must be done in a pre-arranged sequence (refer to previous articles written by me on this subject in this section). To be successful a salesperson needs to have high activity levels. But activity alone is not sufficient. Without excellent time management capabilities even the highly active (the busy fool?) will fail. The tragedy is that too many salespeople (and their managers) discover too late that they face a huge time management challenge. The vast majority (90%+) of failures in sales come as a direct result of poor time management. Why are salespeople so poor at time management? And is this problem unique to salespeople? The answer to the second question is that it is not unique to salespeople. However, I believe that it is only when someone enters the sales arena that they discover that perhaps time management does not come naturally to them; that, in fact, it is a skill that has to be learned. We cannot assume that given the freedom to do so that we can manage our time effectively. We simply cannot take time management skills for granted… © Copyright - Ltd 2015.

Candidate Selection Rule #2 - The Best Guide

  Actually the full Rule is: “The Best Guide to What a Person Can Do is What they have already Done.” If you have read the first article in this series, you will realise that this is a corollary of Rule #1, but one which should be fundamental in shaping the questions you want answered at interview. - What has the candidate been doing with their life? - What does the candidate think were their best achievements? - Where does the candidate think they have failed? Of course the candidate may not be completely honest with you, but it will be interesting to see where they put the emphasis. A man whose greatest achievement was getting married (and believe me this comes up pretty often) would be great to hire if you needed a professional groom for pregnant secretaries but, as a level of achievement for us in predicting the more usual type of business success, getting married is not particularly relevant. © Copyright - Ltd 2015.

Time Management #2 – Are you Independent or Dependent?

An old colleague of mine used to say “When we come into this world we don’t come equipped with an instruction manual”. Too true… We have to be trained, coached, managed and motivated in almost everything we do. So are you now independent and, if so, since when exactly? It appears to me that within the animal kingdom humans come into this world distinctly lacking in the self-sufficiency department. In my younger days I spent time on my uncle’s farm and witnessed calves and lambs and piglets being born. Within a few hours they would be walking independently, playing, exploring and feeding themselves. A human child is not quite so quick off-the-mark. For our first few years we are totally dependent on our parents to be fed, cleaned and changed. We are put to bed and called in the morning. We are fed with food that has been prepared for us. We are totally dependent. However we grow up and our parents eventually pass us over to our first school. Perhaps this is independence? I don’t think so… We are called to class by the school bell, we wear a uniform, we are told when our studies start and when they stop. We are given homework. We are still dependent. But we do get to play sports, I hear you say. True. But the practice is supervised, the game is controlled by a referee and we are told where to play and how to play by our coaches. We are still dependent. But when you eventually start your first job and earn your first pay-cheque, you will tell me that this is independence – at last. Well, not so fast… You will be expected to ‘clock-in’ and clock-out’; you will have a manager to tell you what to do, how to do it and when to do it. They will even decide when you can take your holidays and for how long. This is not true independence. The fact is that we quite expect – and are used to – our time being managed for us. Even though the majority of people will aspire to being independent – and even though many believe that they already are independent – we are not actually familiar with true independence and, frankly, most people cannot handle the reality of independence very well. When a salesperson comes into a commission-only role for the first time they are often faced with the greatest amount of freedom they have ever experienced. The freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail… © Copyright - Ltd 2015.

Successful Selling 2 - Get the Sequence Right...

I have already addressed the importance of completing the various simple steps in the sales cycle (see Be Brilliant at Basics). However, I haven’t yet covered one other vitally important element of the sales cycle... the importance of getting the steps in the right order. Consider the different experiences one might have in a clothes shop. You go to two separate shops. In the first one the sales attendant is friendly, enthusiastic and keen to help. He even asks “Can I help?” You tell him you are considering buying a suit. He immediately he whooshes you over to see the shops latest collection of Italian suits and announces with eagerness and confidence that “The Armani double-breasted in grey would look great on you”. A great salesman. But he doesn't get the sale. In the second shop the sales attendant is friendly, enthusiastic and keen to help. He too asks “Can I help you?” You tell him you are considering buying a suit. He then asks enquiringly whether you want a casual or business suit; which colour and style you are considering; double or single-breasted; long or short jacket; and so on. Taking all your answers on board he brings you across to the rail which has your size and style. He gets the sale. Why? The second salesman understands that before you make a recommendation you must first undertake a fact-find, analyse the information gathered from that fact-find, and then recommend a solution. The first salesman went straight from the introduction to the presentation and close. He might have asked questions later when he realised that his ‘solution’ wasn't in line with your requirements, but it would have been too late. He got the sequence wrong. You cannot ever break the sequence of the sales cycle. In this example, skipping the fact-find turned the first salesman into a product flogger. He’ll make sales because he makes the effort. But he will not make as many sales as the second salesman who will also have happier customers who will refer their friends and who return to buy again. So, successful selling is about being Brilliant at Basics. Great salespeople know how to complete the series of simple steps, in the correct sequence, consistently well. © Copyright - Ltd 2015.

Candidate Selection Rule #3 - People are a product of their Past

  It follows that if a person is a product of their past, then you need to know all about them. Again, this follows from the previous rule, but the common error is to allow your interviewee to select out, and present you with, only those things which they feel are relevant. You are a better judge (hopefully) of what is relevant, so just get them talking about their lives from childhood on. Find out what their parents’ occupations were, and about how successful the son/daughter feels their parents were. If the candidate is happy with what Mum or Dad did then they are likely to settle for just a little higher than the same level. Family background becomes relevant in helping you to determine the drive to achieve that which was implanted while that (young) candidate sat cloistered on their Mother’s knee. Trace their progress through school and college in detail, looking for a pattern and then deal with every job they have had and get comments on how successful they were in each of them. It is surprising indeed how a pattern of behaviour becomes obvious as you carefully sift the facts of a person’s life. It is this pattern that you are trying to establish at interview. It is there, and if you listen closely the candidate will tell you all you need to know. © Copyright - Ltd 2015.

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