What Type of Questions, though?

It is the perennial mystery for sales managers – how come there are so few good reps around?  In any profession, there are the top performers, a few percent that stand out.  Then at the bottom, are those who you wonder why they ever got into this game, about to be culled, sitting uncomfortably in departure lounges.  And finally, the majority, never setting the world on fire and, depending on environment, work away for how ever long it takes for them to do just enough to cling on or move around the industry, job-hopping into under-performance elsewhere.

How you find the superstars is a whole discussion on its own.  Where is the next Thierry Henry?  Madonna?  Tarantino?  Freddie Flintoff?  Such are rare indeed, yet finding someone who can nail 100% year in, year out, surely shouldn’t be hard?

I benefitted from a ‘management training’ weekend way back in 1991, ran by an English-based consultancy that featured a broad range of expertise, from world’s as diverse as academia and the military.  Their lead guy that group, was a bloke called Geoff Thomas.  I remember phoning him up once (as he’d invited us to do) to ask advice on how to get into his industry and he couldn’t get it out of his head I wanted a job within his organisation, when none were open.  Still, frustration in lack of help and genuine interest in me aside, he did pass on one nugget.

He apparently ran a course at Harvard called “CTC 83″ (aka, ‘cut the….”!) and one element was on teaching wannabe business leaders about Fast Failure.  If something is not working, you need to acknowledge rapido, and change tack.

When talking to a pal of mine who’s suffered the usual recruitment traumas recently, I realised one amazing Fast Failure indicator for sales people.

“Are they asking the right kinds of questions?”

When someone’s new to a role, industry, product in sales, think about what you think they’d be asking if they were enthused, capable and doing the right activities.  If questions are neither forthcoming, nor of any real relevance, then apply Fast Failure.  Put ’em on a Plan, or make a mercy killing.

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jamie@example.com
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