The Real Deal Around Recruiting Salespeople

With the number of salespeople in the job market it seems timely to give a heads up on the stuff only really good recruitment agencies will talk about.

1. The best salespeople never get to the open job market. They certainly don’t need to register with several agencies or ‘spay and pray’ their CV. The best salespeople:

  • are locked into their current employer
  • headhunted
  • leverage their own network to create a new role
  • move because of an opportunity put to them by somebody they trust

2. This means the large majority of out of work for a while salespeople are not top decile, even upper quartile, performers. If you are, and you are reading this, get in touch!

3. Our own work with coaching newly appointed salespeople reveals most of have moved ‘sideways’. The major reasons being:

  • didn’t get on with their sales manager/director
  • consistently average performance was creating some attention
  • they didn’t believe the selling organisation (and by extension themselves), weren’t given enough respect/resources/support
  • many salespeople seem to be hired for their CV and fired for their behaviour

4. When interviewing a salesperson try to use either a competency based approach and/or predictive analysis:

  • competency based is where you have identifiable capabilities required, turned those into identifiable behavioural indicators and then design the assessment process against those indicators
  • predictive analysis is where you look at what you need done and then look for evidence that matches in the person’s CV. Successful candidates need to demonstrate capability, not through good communication and enthusiasm but with evidence.

5. Spend a lot of time on understanding the person’s mind-set. You can develop the person’s skills much more easily than their mental approach.

6. B2B customers, whether they are decision makers, users or professional procurement people, are getting smarter and more demanding. Don’t recruit for the job today; you need to recruit for the job 2-3 years out. Can this person move up the value chain?

Developing A High Performance Mind-Set*

In our sales development and coaching work we have been collating material from profiling a cohort of high performance sales people across several B2B organisations. The one thing they have in common is they are all ahead of last years numbers and this years targets. Sometimes this places them in a group smaller than 5% of their respective sales teams.

When you boil down what they are actually doing we came up with a surprisingly simple set of activities/attributes:

  • Where can I find things out?
  • What could I do to make things work better?
  • Who knows stuff that could help me?
  • Who can I bring into my network with power and influence?


  • Why am I doing it like this?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • When do I need to improve/succeed by?
  • What is it that motivates me?


  • Keep going – even when it’s hard to stay pro-active
  • Keep smiling – even when you don’t feel like it
  • Keep trying – even when it’s difficult to do
  • Keep learning – even when you don’t have the time
  • Keep focused – don’t be deviated from your objectives

These same things kept coming up over and over. Our high performers combined the action orientation of doing something (sometimes anything) with the self-awareness to understand themselves and the world around them, making for a very dynamic mixture.
Another striking element is its simplicity. These people aren’t always the brightest, or the most experienced, or the most senior, they just get on with things in a productive, meaningful way, relentlessly. It’s a cliché, but they do indeed make their own luck by creating opportunity rich environments for themselves more often then their (above) average peers.
We hold one day workshops for sales teams that dig into what’s behind these simple statements to help a larger percentage of sales people become high performers.

To talk about your sales team’s development, call us for an informal discussion.

* Mind-set Definition: The amalgam of a person’s personal belief system, general approach to work, and outlook on life.

Innovation/Creativity – It’s Easy To Talk About, Much Harder To Actually Do

Every business talks about being ‘innovative’ or being more ‘creative’ as part of its vision or values. Management will talk about blue sky thinking, or its more robust cousin blue ocean strategy, without doing much else.
Often people will talk about innovation and creativity as the same thing which doesn’t help. You might mean them to be the same but they’re not. Innovation is usually held to be the more exciting original, strategic activity; creativity being more about low level process and operational, incremental improvement.

However, the real meaning of the words actually places their context the other way round. Innovate has its roots in innovâre–to renew. Creative however is, by definition, to bring some brand new into existence.

Whichever way you use the terms they do point to two different activities and thinking processes; one about originality, creating new things, and the other about taking something that exists further and better than anybody else previously has. Both these approaches can be sources of competitive advantage.

The commercial history of attempting to institutionalise innovation/creativity can be shown on a timeline.

What major corporations have recognised over recent times is that a functional focus is no longer effective (above the line). A more networked approach is required that connects the inside of the organisation to outside expertise and customers. The other significant development is the focus on cultural norms rather than rules and responsibilities. With everybody thinking differently, the ideas pipeline is much more effectively stocked.

The Major Innovation/ Creativity Drivers

  • Clear alignment with the vision and values
  • Linked to strategic objectives
  • Encouraged through informal networks
  • People trusted and empowered to try new things
  • Critical analysis of customers articulated and unarticulated needs
  • Leveraging existing intellectual capital
  • Early involvement of suppliers/partners
  • Toleration of rule breaking

Three Major Innovation/Creativity Considerations

  1. It doesn’t happen without strong evidence of leadership being present
  2. It doesn’t happen without good organisational change capabilities
  3. It doesn’t happen without being measured through a Balanced Score Card type performance framework.

Note: The most common inhibitor to innovation/creativity is management talking about wanting more of it, without taking practical steps to make it happen.
One thing is certain, in this increasingly reductive, commoditised world, without innovative/creative capabilities your organisations’ competitive advantage will be severely limited.

Changing Your Organisation – Recession Or Not

Assuming you’ve already made the critical changes required for your organisation to survive, the next challenge is how should you change your organisation to thrive?
Different approaches are being deployed; some organisations believing any further change is dangerously destabilising, others who believe that developmental rather than remedial change is always required if opportunities are to be taken and competitors kept at bay.

In our work we see an interesting coloration that identifies this more pro-active change capability. The quality of leadership focus in the Senior Management Team* (SMT) determines the degree of competitive advantage development present in the organisations’ change agenda.

We developed a summary checklist to help identify this change – leadership symbiosis:

  1. How much of a defined and effectively prosecuted Vision is there for the organisation?
  2. How values driven is the organisation?
  3. Is the majority of SMT meeting time focused on customers and market opportunities rather than internal (and seemingly intractable) problems?
  4. Is the SMT a functional, integrated, value adding entity?
  5. Is the SMT visible around the whole business?
  6. Is leadership demonstrated more by this group than talked about?
  7. Is there an articulated strategy that the whole management population understand?
  8. Are structures viewed as servants to the strategy rather than the other way round?
  9. Are projects managed effectively, creating real differences in the business?
  10. Are people working on development activities as well as ‘business as usual’ stuff, rather than being ‘too busy’ for anything other than the day job?

There is obviously a lot going on behind these headline questions, with significant dependencies between all of the 10 points, but the conclusions are clear. If an organisation scores poorly on the above then its ability to change is severely restricted.
The notion that change is a remedial, difficult and extraordinary activity, rather than an exciting, developmental opportunity rich activity is a very dangerous one and a totally alien concept to leadership focused Senior Management Teams.

*Senior Management Team is the Directors plus all their direct reports.

Bird Flu, Banks, Swines and You

It seems that we’re never too far from a crisis. Whether we’re crunched by credit, panicked by pandemics, or outraged by outbreaks, there’s always something to be worried about. It may seem that all that worry is wasted energy, and to a large degree it is, however, some of that concern delivers real benefits when the Next Big Thing comes our way.
Looking back it’s easy to think that the Financial Services Authority could have found something more productive to do in the months leading up to the credit crunch than pull together board directors and key strategic managers from the leading UK banks and financial services businesses to take part in a large scale bird flu pandemic simulation over a number of weeks. Other organisations undertook their own emergency planning programmes, involving people at all levels to ensure that all foreseeable risks were covered. Bird flu has not made it to large scale human to human transition, so we’re not very worried about it now, the credit crunch was not foreseen so wasn’t planned for.

However that planning has already been used by businesses throughout the UK, reducing panic, maintaining business as usual and making life better for everyone. The need to keep cash moving is always identified by economists and criminologists as a key priority in emergency situations. When it looked like some UK banks could fall over, and panicky customers sought to draw out their cash, bird flu planning procedures helped to mobilise cash. When snow ‘gripped the country’ at the start of 2009 and people couldn’t get to work, bird flu planning procedures kicked in to ensure that thousands of employees could carry on working from home seamlessly, thanks to IT departments planning for restricted movement.

The emergence of swine flu has already seen organisations raise their internal preparedness level. It will be great if it doesn’t get used in a pandemic this year, but the planning that people do now will make business smoother in the long term.

Did You Choose A Real Leader?

The news has been full of Members of Parliament’s expenses this week. The publication of itemised expenses claims with receipts has been great fun for the newspapers as they construct lifestyles based on charges for swimming pool maintenance, ‘gourmet’ dog food and ladies underwear. For the MPs concerned it’s been embarrassing.
The MPs could feel that they are being unfairly victimised in trying to do a difficult job, living in two locations and trying to balance parliamentary, constituency and family life to the best of their ability within the rules.

Unfortunately it seems that the public doesn’t see it that way. People are expressing anger not at MPs salaries, or at the rules that allow them to claim allowances, but at the way in which MPs have claimed what seemed like unreasonable expenses and as a group worked hard to prevent the public from knowing what the money was spent on.

It seems it’s not the MPs honesty that the public sees as lacking, but their integrity. People don’t like to feel that people they trust would do something which they see as being unfair and underhand. People in leadership positions are held to a high standard of behaviour and those who fail to meet that standard can quickly lose the trust and respect of their followers.
We see the same thing happening in organisations when senior managers cancel all non-urgent expenditure whilst continuing to utilise their travel budget to the max, or when leaders announce pay freezes for all employees and pay themselves a bonus. Leadership means living up to the standards that other people aspire to, whether it’s easy or not. Leaders who do this gain respect, trust and loyalty, all vitally important ingredients of a successful team. To find out more about how Predaptive can help your leadership team succeed contact us.

How Would You Rate The Significance To Your Organisation (In The Next 6 Months) The Following Business Development/Survival Strategies?

We ran a survey last month with the above title asking people to rate the importance of a range of business development techniques from irrelevant to critical. Below we post the aggregated results, from most to least significant.


  1. Getting customer service right (most significant)
  2. Launching new products
  3. Reducing costs
  4. New ways of working
  5. Web based activities
  6. Field sales optimisation
  7. Changing the culture
  8. Tele-sales optimisation
  9. Recruiting new people
  10. Off-line marketing
  11. Reducing prices (least significant)


  • Getting customer service right was way out in front, over 80% of respondents rating this as critical. This still seems an obvious win, yet so many organisations still struggle with delivering any kind of memorable (for the right reasons), consistent customer focused service experience yet don’t really understand why. Working with our sister company we would suggest it’s to do with two factors. Firstly not aligning with and designing service as part of the strategy. And secondly, not engaging with the frontline effectively. The combinatory failure creates mediocre service.
  • Next, look at answers 2-5. What is the one organisational capability required to make an impact is these areas? Innovation. So few organisations are consciously competent when it comes to creativity and innovation, many have it as a key value (mostly more in hope than reality). Competitive advantage comes from either doing things clearly differently from everybody else, or from doing things materially better. To innovate, either incrementally through continuous improvement or radically through implementing step-change ideas will enable you to launch new products, reduce costs, and implement new ways of working and web based activities.
  • There seems to be a recognition that online is now more significant than offline marketing activities.
  • The field saleforce is still seen as a major influence on business performance, from our experience one of the quickest wins in boosting the numbers it to improve the activities of the sales team.
  • Changing the culture is not a quick win but this seems to be a (relative) recognition that many organisations don’t have the cultural norms to come through the recession. This will be a real challenge.
  • Recruiting new people is not bottom. Something to gladden any recruitment company.
  • It’s interesting that reducing prices is bottom. There is a look of evidence that prices are under pressure so this is interesting. It might be about the fact many organisations are reducing prices but only as a condition of play rather than with any sense that it will make much of a difference. The other factors in the list being more significant.


100 Days Of Management

Barack Obama has just completed his first 100 days as President of the United States. He’s put in place a $787bn economic stimulus plan, put 2m acres of wilderness under federal protection, set in place a major reform of healthcare and acquired a new dog. A Gallup poll indicates that a majority of Americans feel he has done a good or excellent job so far. At the same time former President George W. Bush has spent his first 100 days out of office raising funds for his Presidential library, after 100 days he’s at $147m, ahead of expectation and well on the way to his $300m target.
100 days is an interesting marker to see how well someone is doing in a new job. Some people set themselves 100 day action plans, clearly setting out what they intend to do each day to build success, others set themselves 100 day objectives, visibly publishing what they will have achieved at the end of 100 days without specifically identifying the markers to get there.

Unfortunately many managers set themselves a lower goal of using the first 100 days in a new role to settle in, find out how things work, get to know everyone, and think about what changes might be appropriate. This strategy rarely yields significant results. At the end of 100 days the new manager is able to explain the current situation, justify why things are the way they are and rationalise any failures in performance.
To give managers a real chance of succeeding, they need to feel excited about their new management role, and confident in their ability to carry it out successfully. In too many cases a person is appointed or promoted to the role of manager with no clear idea of what their responsibilities are and no clear mandate to manage. Structured Training’s Fundamentals of Management course is a great way to invest 3 of those all important 100 days, taking time to decide what kind of manager you are (and want to be), what your key challenges will be, what your objectives are developing strategies to really deliver on your management promise. Don’t worry if you’re already in role. Your 100 days can start here.

Customer Satisfaction – Is It Enough?

Businesses all talk about ensuring customer satisfaction as a priority. They even do detailed and lengthy surveys to determine just how satisfied their customers are – and why? – because we all know the old adage that unhappy customers tell more people of their woes than happy customers do of their joys. Whichever statistics you look at, we all know from our personal experience that the adage feels true. So what do we do about it? Agree standards of service based on the responses we get from the customer satisfaction surveys to get more satisfied customers – that’s what.
But is it enough? In an age where high levels of customer service is increasingly taken for granted the emphasis now is on Customer Loyalty – our research in this field has shown three main benefits from having increased numbers of loyal customers:

  1. Increased repeat business
  2. Increased recommendations and referrals – improved reputation
  3. Increased access to available spend

These three together equal:

  1. Increased business growth

Customer Loyalty goes much further than simply satisfying customers; it means ensuring that every interaction with customers, no matter how small, is an opportunity to Delight them. Businesses must re-align their entire operational focus on continually delighting customers otherwise they run the risk of losing them to someone who does!