Black Books

My recent involvement helping out with American sales interviews reminded me that many sales leaders like to play it safe when it comes to recruiting. And not without justification.

I’m referring to taking on people with specific, related industry experience.

This usually means snatching people from your competitors.

I do understand the attraction. You shrink on-boarding and if you are seen as the go-getting player, then all those whom you’ve vanquished on bids will want to join.

Yet my experience is that it isn’t always a good idea.

One factor is that you can be lumbered with milk-rounders. When you yearn for the star performers, you get the underwhelming ones.

Also, old habits die hard. The number of times I’ve heard a rep say, “at my old company, we ...” makes me scream. Their implication being that their previous employer’s way was the better path.

But possibly the biggest reason to resist such recruitment temptation is in the allure of the little black book.

I’m talking about contacts.

Every salesperson that switches sides like this says they’ll bring over a mountain of wonderful new deals. All based on their existing network. Their black book of contacts expectantly bulges.

Yet I have never seen such promise materialise into a slew of signed orders.

The reasons for this are manifold, not least because the salesperson-buyer relationship is only one parameter, completely ignoring how entwined each company’s systems are and other relationships at the sharp end.

Yet this also has ramifications for anyone selling themselves on this premise.

The simple advice is, do not expect any of your previous contacts to come over with you. That way, you’ll not only avoid disappointment and a dangerously curtailed honeymoon, but you’ll also force yourself to sooner cultivate the kind of new contacts you’ll need to become a genuine and lasting success.

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