In 2007, I was happy to get a break from managing employees for the first time in several decades.
Even as a consultant, I would assume a role inside someone else’s company and had direct reports. I wanted a break, I wanted a business where I could work alone and collaborate with peers.
Being an options trader appealed to me; the lifestyle, the mobility, and the unlimited potential. I liked it so much, I decided to learn how to trade options… professionally.
I enrolled in a specialized training program, taking about a year to complete and then went on to be mentored with one of the top options traders on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. I was pretty good at it and it satisfied my need to take a break from running a staff.
That Changed One Day When The Phone Rang.
My old friend of nearly two decades Chet Holmes called for one of our weekly catch-up calls and he was angry this particular day. He was upset at a particular staff member on his team who was being “difficult.”
If you knew Chet, being “difficult” with him could “make him crazy” as he would tell me. I started to get upset too, I hated to see my friend so angry. I said to Chet “Let me call him and I will fix this” which confused Chet since I didn’t know who that person was or even understand the problem he was having. None the less, I thought “why not?”
What would you have done?
I called anyway and found that my conversation was actually enlightening. I spoke to Ted Miller who fits Chet’s definition of Sales Superstar to a “T” and discovered that he had a real gripe. He couldn’t recruit AND train AND sell AND run webinars, etc. So I asked him what I could do to take some of this load off his plate. He told me I could help by recruiting for him. To my own shock and surprise… I agreed.
Now I’m a Recruiter!
One small problem, I was never really trained on how to do it.
Ted let me shadow him on a few calls, I took some notes and Chet sent me this video on How To Hire Sales Superstars and I watched it carefully. It made sense.
It was a loosely constructed system that reflected Chet’s personality. I needed to learn it, to make it mine and for me to really make this work, I HAD to systematize it. Being a “software guy” I knew I could increase my own productivity and eventually scale this into a whole division with systems that had to be built. And so I did. I built out the system which I used to personally recruit several hundred people into Chet’s organization and then formed the Recruiting Division and hired Superstars for our clients.
So, What Is a Sales Superstar?
Anyone who has worked with that one exceptional salesperson knows what I mean by Sales Superstar.
It’s that elusive quality of superior selling skills combined with persistence, intelligence, and confidence. Put them in a bad situation and they excel none-the-less. Give them poor training, bad tools, old leads and they still emerge on top. A Sales Superstar performs under any conditions and outsells his peers by 200% – 500%.
The basic premise of Chet’s technique is that the best salespeople have that perfect balance of ego and empathy. Too much ego strength and the person is always closing but never builds a relationship with the prospect. Too much empathy and the person will build a warm relationship with the prospect but never close.
It’s that delicate balance of ego strength and empathy that makes the difference.
That balance makes it possible to get the ideal individual who can build relationships and close sales. How many of those do you have on your staff today?
You will likely want to change the way you hire after reading this post because the result of adding just one true sales superstar to your team will raise the bar for the entire team.
Under most circumstances, even by implementing some of the techniques explained in Chet’s book and summarized here, you will get more sales. You will be using psychological profiling to test how a candidate reacts to the same psychological environment as a real selling situation.
Two Distinct Personality Traits Which Define Successful Salespeople.
- High Dominance people get things done and are respected by their peers.
- High Influence people are naturally empathetic and love to be with people.
They can work well in teams, convince others of their point of view and are excellent communicators. Your goal is to hire someone who is both and in the proper proportion that makes them the best at what they do. Most people to decide if a candidate is appropriate for the job but I can tell you stories of personal experience where the perfect person (on paper) failed to get the job because they could not close.
No matter what they did for a living before, if they can get through this interview process their chances of success are far higher than someone hired on a resume search.
Placing the Ad
Use your ad to start screening OUT candidates who don’t fit our profile. The ad title would be: “Sales Superstar Wanted. Earn $50K to $300K” This high number should be what your top salesperson would be able to make, that’s who you want to attract. The first line in your ad should try and scare weak candidates away. “Don’t even think of applying for this job if you are not the absolute best at selling and closing sales.” Some people will still apply that are losers but we’ll get them to screen out in a later step. You can add more detail, Chet includes some additional details in his book but what happens next is important.
I like to use CraigsList and Monster but we’ve had success with local job boards too. It’s more important to get the ad right, you can place it in several places and see what type of response you get.
The Landing Page
At the end of the ad, send candidates to a page on the internet that explains the whole position from top to bottom, details the entire pay structure including any benefits or perks. This will also be a good place to employ more screening, more statements that dissuade people from applying unless they are top in their field. Statements like this are useful; However, if you are not at the top 5% of possible applicants for this position, save your time and do not apply.
The idea behind the landing page is to fully educate the candidate on the position so if they make it into an interview, you maintain complete control of the interview process. If they say “So tell me more about the position” you know they didn’t read the landing page and have already disqualified themselves.
At the end of the landing page, you can add a link to a scheduling app like www.TimeDriver.com. They can set up a time on your calendar and you will have all the information you need to do a quick screening.
The Short Interview
You will call your candidate and introduce yourself briefly. Spend less than 5 minutes on social chat like “How about those Red Sox” or “I hear the weather in Seattle is pretty bad this month” Then you get down to business.
Your first question should be “The ad said we are looking for sales superstars only. What makes you think you are a sales superstar?” Or something close. You were nice, now you are tough and they may not know how to respond.
Whatever they say, you respond: “Well, I am not hearing Superstar.” and just be quiet. One of two things will happen. They will say “Oh OK, Thanks.” and hang up. Or they will say something like “Well, as I just explained, I was the top producer at XYZ and before that, I won the 2012 salesman of the year award.” This is good. You have a possible candidate.
At that point explain that you have a large candidate pool and while they might have succeeded in the past, this job is very challenging. Once again, you want them to reassure you. You want their ego strength to shine. If they are the right person, they want to win, losing even an interview is not acceptable. They should push politely but firmly. If they do. Reluctantly agree to provide them with a 2nd interview.
Note: For those who fail this process, be prepared to get calls with complaints about the abusive hiring manager they spoke to at your company. It’s happened before and people don’t like to get rejected, even if it’s simply being told they are not a sales superstar.
The Long Interview
Those who make it into this group are about 10% of all those who applied for the position. If the % is much higher then you were not as firm as you could have been in the Short Interview. When you start interviewing you might be concerned with how you make the candidate feel.
Remember, you are doing yourself and the candidate a favor. No one likes to fail and no one likes to throw away money. Being “nice” or giving them a break is wasting time and money, eventually, they will fail. But not before you’ve invested in training, spent time integrating them into your company and paid them a small draw on future commissions they will never earn. Do a good job and be firm, this way you will both get what you want and need.
The basic premise of this next interview technique is based on Chet’s 3 main points: Relax, Probe, and Attack.
The goal is to allow your candidate to show their best side to you. Spend time letting them talk about their successes in life, their personal passions and interests, and what they feel is their best personal traits. You really want them to relax and drop their guard. In your short interview, you were a bit gruff and very business-like. Now, as you start your long interview process, your switch to Mr./Ms. Nice Guy may at first come as a surprise to the candidate.
Before I get into this, I want to remind you that you have to be very careful with your questions since some State hiring practices may prohibit you from asking personal questions of this nature.
If you tell your candidate upfront that you will be asking them questions about their life and explain that they don’t have to answer them, you should be OK. Skip questions about their age, racial origin, religion, or anything that would relate to discrimination of any type. Check with your H/R department or legal counsel if you need to.
Explain that you are applying a personality profiling system to see if they are a fit with your company and the job. Start with a question that goes something like this: “Would you agree that it’s more important who you are than what you’ve done?” If they say yes, then your next statement can be something like this: “I agree too and I would like to ask you about your childhood and your growing up years, would you be comfortable with that?” If they say yes you have a green light to proceed.
If they say no, you need to find out why. Remind them they can refuse to answer any question they are uncomfortable with. But refusing or being uncomfortable is a sign they are not really empathetic. They should want to share and show you who they are. And they will if you give them a chance, they will go on and on.
I created a flow chart to plot the path this interview should take if at any point they are not empathetic or they get hostile with you then you are done. If they are dishonest and you catch them, you are done. Other conditions apply and Chet makes some of those clear in the book. But now it’s time to…
This is where you get to see what they are made of. The goal is to see if they can stand up to the type of rejection they may face on the job. It’s carefully systematized so you are staying within a narrowly constructed framework designed to test their rejection strength. You can transition from Probe to Attack by saying;
“Thank you for sharing so many details about your life. After hearing your story, I am sure you are a good person and someone I would enjoy working with but I don’t think you have what it takes to make it in our very competitive company.”
Now Shut Up!
Just listen to what happens next, because the whole interview has come down to this very moment of truth.
I want to tell you a story about a recruiting contract I was working on and how it turned out. I was interviewing for a sales manager of a NY clothing company. I found the absolutely perfect candidate. She made it through the 1st interview with ease. We bonded quickly in the second interview where I began to admire her for her warmth and ability to be comfortable in an interview. I found myself smiling as she spoke, I was in recruiting heaven, I found the perfect candidate. Or did I?
I used the same line as I always use as I stated above. Then, the most amazing thing happened. After I told her that I didn’t think she had what it takes, and after I shut up and let her respond, she said… “OK Thank You” and hung up.
I was heartbroken, I couldn’t believe she caved, my PERFECT candidate.
But she did and I didn’t call back. I wanted to but it would have been of no value to anyone had I done so. She, unfortunately, was NOT a Sales Superstar.
This story makes it so clear just how important this screening process is and how well it works. I have at times given some candidates “one more chance” and it always backfires. Even those with stellar resumes and deep, broad experience who can’t make it through this intensive screening are not going to be successful or will be unhappy trying so hard that they may become ill or don’t fit in.
Don’t get me wrong, Sales Superstars are not the easiest people to manage. They can be demanding, temperamental, and appear to be very self-centered. They should be because those traits go along with the territory. Don’t think that because they exhibit some or all of those characteristics they are a Sales Superstar, nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s just that Sales Superstars are rare and you have to look hard to find them. They show up in the oddest places. Even at the mall.
He Was Trying To Sell Me a Cell Phone Case, I Hired Him Instead.
One very cold Saturday in December, I was at the Mall and wandering through the kiosks. A young man approached me and asked me a question. “Do you know that the average cell phone case lasts only about a year and that all the radiation from the phone is actually amplified and aimed at your body? ”
Education-based marketing at the mall! Amazing!” He went on to show me why all other cell phone cases are inferior and why his is actually a safety device, shielding your internal organs from potential harm.
Wow, I was impressed. And yes, I bought the cell phone case and recruited him on the spot.
If he would have applied for a job, he would have been turned away by a conventional hiring process. He was from outside the U.S. and he didn’t really have a traditional work history or a resume. It turned out he was already interviewing and was hired by a Telecommunications company before I could get him in the door.
Pulling It All Together
If you want to use Chet’s system on how to hire a Sales Superstar, go get the book and study Chapter 5. Take notes as you go. Everything is there if you read it all carefully. It’s worth the effort and I assure you that a Sales Superstar in your organization will be one of the most valuable additions you make.
Or if you want to work with me directly to help you build and deploy your own sales organization, let’s talk!