As Good as Your Last Successful Hire - 10 Tips for Consistency

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 @ 13:07 PM

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Most executives struggle at maintaining any kind of successful momentum when it comes to consistently hiring salespeople who actually succeed.  It's easy to hire a great salesperson who, when all is said and done, sucks.  It's difficult to hire any salesperson who, in the end,  performs great.  

Let's leave the world of sales and look at my favorite topic for analogies, baseball, and although it's very difficult this year, my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.  

Under first-year GM, Ben Cherington, the 2012 Red Sox were horrible.  They finished last after 10 years of playoff appearances and World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.  Ben inherited part of that team, but he engineered the draft, trades, signings, releases and promotions that became the final design of the 2012 Red Sox. 

The very same GM made questionable moves during the following off-season, and most experts predicted that the Red Sox would continue to be a team that wasn't very competitive.  The Red Sox fooled everyone and finished first, winning the American League championship and 2013 World Series.  Boston Strong.

A few more off-season moves led to the 2014 team, destined to finish last again.  It will be the first time in Major League Baseball history when a team would go from worst to first and back to worst during three consecutive seasons.

Most fans are wondering how the genius of 2013 could have ended up with such a horrible team just one year later.  Experts point to a lot of possible reasons, but most neglect that this was the same GM who led the 2012 team to a last place finish.

Is he the genius of 2013, or the incapable GM of 2012 and 2014? 

The answer is probably neither, but only time will allow us to judge fully.  [This just in, today he traded Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes for Yuenis Cespedes]

Back to sales.

When a company hires a salesperson who turns out to be awesome, the sales leader is a genius for knowing this person would succeed.  When a company hires a salesperson who turns out to be horrible, the sales leader couldn't have known things would end up this way.  After all, the candidate had a track record of success.

There are 10 things you can do to hedge your bets:

  1. Create and stick to a best practices, sales-specific, recruiting process.
  2. Use and don't vary from a validated, predictive, sales-specific, candidate assessment.
  3. Attract the right candidates with a killer job posting.
  4. Develop strong, sales-specific, interviewing skills.
  5. Identify specific selection criteria and stick to them.
  6. Design a powerful, meaningful, structured, onboarding program for new salespeople.
  7. Improve sales coaching skills and spend more time coaching.
  8. Improve your ability to hold salespeople accountable to agreed-upon KPI's.
  9. Check references.
  10. Prepare new salespeople for success instead of setting them up for failure.
In the end, you're only as good as your last successful hire.  Just ask Ben Cherington!
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Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, Sales Candidate, red sox, ben cherington, sales selection

Keys to Successful Sales Negotiations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 @ 22:07 PM

mlbIn the United States, Major League Baseball's trading deadline passed today with some noteworthy moves by teams other than my Boston Red Sox.  Aside from my disappointment that the Red Sox failed to make an impact trade to help the team, I recognized something else...

First-year General Manager Ben Cherington has made some interesting trades this year, most where he seemed to give up more than he received in return.  (See Appendix A below for examples.)

In contrast (bad, free-agent signings aside), most of the trades orchestrated by former GM Theo Epstein seemed to yield more in return than whom he gave up.  (See Appendix B below for examples.)

Assuming that I'm right, what are the reasons for the differences?  

  • Was Theo dealing from a position of strength while Ben dealt from a position of weakness?  
  • Was Theo a better negotiator?  
  • Was Ben more desperate?  
  • Did Theo hold out for a better deal?  
  • Did Ben concede too quickly?  
  • Was Theo more willing to walk away?  
  • Was Ben afraid of leaving the table with nothing to show for it?

Very often, the final stages of many sales cycles, especially those to large companies with procurement people, are negotiations.  Assuming that your salespeople have developed some compelling reasons to buy, and buy from you, then YOU have leverage.  They want what you have.  However, when your salespeople fail to uncover the compelling reasons to buy from you, then YOUR PROSPECTS have leverage.  You want their business.

Your outcome from a negotiation or competitive sales situation is in direct disproportion to how badly you want the business.

Appendix A - Examples of Cherington Trades

He gave up top Sox prospect, Josh Reddick, and in return received Andrew Bailey, who has been on the Disabled List (DL) all year, and Ryan Sweeney, who has been on the disabled list three times already this year.

He gave up 3-time All-Star Kevin Youkilis for a minor league pitcher and a utility player whom they have already traded away.

He gave up a good hitter, Jed Lowrie, for Mark Melancon, a relief pitcher who has just plain sucked for the Red Sox this year.

As compensation for letting Theo Epstein move to the Cubs, he received an injured minor league pitcher, Chris Carpenter, in return.

Appendix B - Examples of Epstein Trades

He gave up 3 talented minor leaguers and got All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzales in return.

He gave up a talented minor leaguer and got All-Stars Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in return.  Beckett and Lowell, along with Curt Schilling below, helped them win the 2007 World Series.

He gave up 4 young pitchers, none of whom panned out, for Curt Schilling.  Schilling helped them win the 2004 World Series.

He traded disgruntled All-Star Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, both who helped them win the 2004 World Series.

He traded clubhouse cancer and multiple performance-enhancing drug offender Manny Ramirez in a three team deal for Jason Bay. 

Topics: sales competencies, sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales personality, ben cherington, Boston Red Sox, theo epstein, trades, competitive sales call

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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