Many years ago, I ran a contest inviting sales managers to share their worst hiring nightmare. I had a couple of my own, but it turns out mine weren’t even close to being as bad as some.
Not one entrant, but two, discovered they had hired hookers. Another hired a rep who, as it turned out, didn’t own a car. One manager found out he’d hired a kleptomaniac. In their first week, his new AE was at a regional corporate training session and two other AE’s had wallets taken from their purses. She was caught when the business manager drove by her apartment and saw a big plant on her balcony that had previously been in the station’s lobby. (If you keep reading, at the end you’ll see the winning entry. It still makes me laugh.)
We all make bad hires. If you haven’t, I’m guessing you haven’t hired enough people yet. Reference checks, testing, better interviewing techniques all help, but even the best managers will hire a dud every once in a while.
The real issue isn’t that we make bad hires. It’s what we do about them. Often, we’ll take way too long to admit our mistakes and deal with them. Maybe it’s human nature to give people a second (or fourth) chance. Maybe we keep hoping that the little progress they show will turn into something.
But, here’s the problem. Our business isn’t getting easier, so someone who’s a “C” today becomes a “D” in a year or so if they don’t change. That means that any manager who tolerates an average or below-average performer is setting themselves up for even bigger performance challenges as the business gets harder.
This isn’t just a situation with new hires. Many of us have members of our sales staffs who aren’t ready for our new business and will never be able to change enough to get ready. When you keep them (as so many managers we see are doing), you’re setting yourself up for even bigger problems down the road. And down the road may be a lot faster than you think.
How do you know it’s time to part company with someone? It’s probably best to consult your HR department before you get into trouble listening to my opinion on that. But, I follow two pieces of advice I was given early in my career. First, as mentioned, I’m always really concerned about the people who are just “OK,” because I think the business isn’t getting easier. Second, I always ask the question, “What will we lose if they leave?” If the answer is “not much,” I’d guess you have a problem.
A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts with you about recruiting. It’s important to have a robust recruiting effort or you’ll delay dealing with your challenges. So that’s a biggie.
But here’s the bottom line. You’ll never be a great leader with an average team. And, you’ll always have an average team as long as you put off dealing with your mistakes. Both the ones you hired 120 days ago and the mistakes that have been with you for years.
And now… the winning entry. This will prove your mistakes haven’t been all that bad.
I work for a TV station. Here’s my story. How about the failing AE who SWORE that she was out making calls when she was really trying to win concert tickets from a radio station… She was actually “live on air” with the radio station during the morning drive to work. During the call she complained about our station, spread rumors that we were shutting down the news department and the station was probably being sold, and that it was a terrible, hateful place to work… The on-air jocks invited her to SKIP our mandatory sales meeting to come into the studio to do a stunt to win the tickets. (Which she did. She told us she had to leave for an important sales call, but we already knew where she was going since we’d heard her on the radio.)
Then she decided it would be a good idea to take a NEW ROOKIE salesperson with her for some company in the car, I guess. She did the stunt… she crawled on her hands and knees blindfolded through a hallway filled with rat and mouse traps while on air… won the pair of concert tickets, and returned to work.
When she got back to the office, we asked how her “great call” went. She could feel we had something on her and started back-peddling. Then I PLAYED AN AIR CHECK FROM THE RADIO STATION MORNING SHOW WITH HER DISTINCT, TWANGY SOUTHERN VOICE ALL OVER IT… about 5 minutes on air, she was very detailed and even complained about her co-workers. She totally denied it was her, even though she said SHE WAS A SALESPERSON AT THE ___ STATION and the jocks talked up what their favorite shows were, and she kept making remarks like, “They’ll lie to you about everything but try to make it a good place to work. I have a mandatory sales meeting and they’d all be upset with me if they knew I went to your station just to win tickets.”
The jocks then said, “BLOW IT OFF, c’mon down here and let’s talk. Don’t you want the tickets?” (It was also a lame third-tier concert that OUR station already had a bunch of free tickets for). What she didn’t know, even though she totally denied the whole event, was that when she was crawling through the hallway, the morning show webcam was capturing the whole thing and it was posted on their site. So, when she dismissed the phone call as not being her voice, we showed her the VIDEO of her and the rookie taking part in the stupid stunt. Even then, she tried for a moment to say it wasn’t her. When this was all going down, she COULD NOT understand why we were firing her.
And yes, she hired a lawyer to sue us. We actually went to court. But when her attorney saw we had tapes and the video of the contest, he gave up on the spot.
Have a GSM or GM meeting in your future? Why not have Jim Doyle or John Hannon speak to your meeting about how to turn your sales staff into a Sales FORCE? We promise powerful, thought-provoking content customized to your company’s needs. Contact Jim Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-926-SELL.