The Producer Pit
Stop wasting time and money on hopelessly ineffective salespeople!
It’s not just poor leadership or a downward-spiraling economy that can trip off a major financial disaster within your agency. Unwittingly hiring a Producer who’s actually ill-suited to the job will also do it. The statistics are disturbing and speak for themselves: a recent survey shows you have a better than 50/50 chance of choosing the wrong person for the job! Mis-hires are incredibly expensive; the final cost can be thousands of dollars in unrecoverable work expenses and hundreds of thousands in lost sales and margin. Factor in all the time you’ve given and the emotions you’ve spent, and you’ve got every manager’s nightmare.
Think your agency’s solvent enough to absorb the financial expense of frequent hiring and firing? Think again! Constant employee turnover causes other problems: it makes even the most reputable agency seem like a questionable place to work. Outsiders wonder about not only the environment and morale but also the work approach of any agency that can’t hold on to its employees for any length of time. Your pool of interested and viable job candidates will dry up.
There are ways to help stop the cycle of bad hires when searching for good Producers. It’s important, however, to educate yourself. Have a firm grasp of the potential pitfalls of hiring and then take the action necessary to eliminate them.
Know your needs. Are you looking to “clone” one of your existing Producers? Or, to the contrary, is there a nightmare employee from the past with specific traits you’d like to avoid? Make a list of the objectives for the job and clearly define the key strengths and overall criteria you’re targeting while keeping in mind your own management approach and work environment. By doing this, you’ll have the basis from which to flag a candidate as either potentially suitable – or a decidedly bad fit.
Know where to look for possible sales superstars, since the old spouse-seekers’ lament that “all the good ones are already taken” often also holds true for Producers. The ideal person for your job may not be actively looking; use your networking skills as an alternative to the classifieds. Obtain the names of your competitors’ top reps and approach them. Contact everyone you know in the industry and ask for referrals. Also consider using head hunters since these professionals typically know how to quickly locate top people.
Don’t forget to promote the job as a financially rewarding career-growth opportunity and your agency as a great place to work. Give currently employed Producers every reason to even consider meeting with you.
Make your interviewee comfortable by initiating a little small talk at the outset of your meeting. Take note of the responses, but keep in mind that some personalities are far more comfortable than others conversing with strangers. Outgoing individuals actually enjoy being the center of attention, so don’t be mislead by their enthusiasm and gusto! These Producer applicants might be excellent at promoting themselves, but such social assertiveness doesn’t necessarily translate into closing ability. Look for some evidence of strong determination, the ability to push back, negotiate and deal with confrontation.
Ask open-ended questions, and then read between the lines. Seek evidence that your applicant has successfully finalized problematic sales in the past and was comfortable doing so. Look for signs of thick skin and the ability to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks, turndowns and losses. Validate your interviewee’s sales skills and his or her fit with your management tactics by utilizing behavioral assessment tools like The Omnia® Profile. Make sure there are signs of compatibility not only with the job, but also with your environment. You may be surprised to find that the person who seems to have the skills you need, would likely be painfully out of sync with your work pace, management tactics or the general perspectives of your other employees.
The more information you gather from the interview process, the better off you’ll be. Knowing in advance about a person’s probable strengths, weaknesses and differences makes your job easier and allows you to decide for yourself whether you believe your candidate will bring a new dimension to the team or destructively undermine its success.
Once you’ve interacted with each applicant, evaluated resumes and assessed individual strengths and weaknesses, you should be ready to make a much more informed hiring decision. For example, you may find a Producer candidate who possesses the traits of a win-driven closer and has proof to substantiate his/her claims of past success. However, this same person may be less consultative when making presentations and more needful of guidance and direction than you typically give. Should you hire the candidate?
The answer depends largely on how you feel about bringing onboard a person who may approach the job in a manner you do not expect. Can you realign your expectations? Are you willing to give this candidate the time and attention he or she may want? If so, hiring a new employee with proven abilities but a unique perspective might work for you. If not, it’s probably best to choose a Producer who seems more in line with your personality, your management style and your objectives.
An impressive resume, a solid reputation, and a professional appearance might pique your interest as a potential employer, but looking past those initial appeals, digging a little deeper, utilizing all your resources, gives you the upper hand and control you need when hiring. It also increases the likelihood that you’ll be the one out of every two employers who hires the right Producer for the job – the first time!