Recruit CHARACTER First
Why? What does this mean? How does character affect sales performance, branding, and teamwork?
For twenty years, I coached baseball from Little League to high school - hundreds of baseball games and practices. I saw character displayed on and off the field. In games that were tough, the same players that played well in blow away games gave up to their emotions in close ones. When things were tough and difficult, they complained, threw their bats, and gave up at the plate. I discovered that a team of men with characteristics like perseverance, self-discipline, personal responsibility, and a hard work ethic were worth far more than a team of “talented” players. It’s the same with soldiers in a battle and salespeople in a market. Character defines a culture. It wins wars and makes a profitable difference over the long term.
Despite high skills and sales experience, with lower maturity levels on their sales teams, sales leaders deal with production and ethical issues. Rep arrive late to work, to appointments, and to sales meetings. They act like internal terrorists and gossip. They talk in negative ways about the company without facing leadership with their complaints. They lie. With uncontrolled emotions, they create elevated customer issues that hurt a company’s brand. When prospecting gets difficult, they quit, complain, take time off, or show a lack of discipline and perseverance. Some reps exhibit a poor work ethic resulting in low or inconsistent performance levels. Sales leaders, experiencing the effects of poor character, end up putting out fires and dealing with multiple problems resulting from bad attitudes and behaviors. As a result, some hang themselves from the nearest bridges with the names of “talented” reps on their chests.
We can overcome the societal shapings in our new reps by first paying attention to character traits during recruitment. In other words, we recruit reps with greater maturity. To do this, we use various recruitment tools to look for appropriate levels of …
- Hard work ethic
- Personal responsibility (or conscientiousness)
- Servant attitudes
When recruiting great sales leaders, business owners and sales vice presidents look for two additional character traits:
- Positivity (has a 'can-do it's my ship) attitude even in the face of adversity - looks for solutions - supports leadership)
- Humility (allows reps to feel a sense of accomplishment and pushes recognition onto them)
(a skill example during your recruitment process)
In your interviews, work to uncover emotional commitments and responsibilities tied to specific income levels. In other words, do reps need to make a certain amount of money for a very important reason? Do they have a motivational need to excel at a certain level? Are the candidate’s income needs, when translated into sales targets, above minimum standards for sales performance?
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, said that his team’s research found that great companies recruit character first - before skills. The United States Marines do this as well - they recruit character and then teach the mission to those that have what it takes to be a Marine.
Dr. Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., and CEO of Emotional Intelligence Services, has written a sequel to his famous book, Emotional Intelligence (definition here), entitled Working with Emotional Intelligence. In his book, Dr. Goleman mentions a rather unusual study began in the 1950’s. Eighty (80) Phd candidates were given many tests, I.Q., personality, and psychological. Along with checking intelligence and personality types, they also measured emotional balance and maturity, integrity, and interpersonal effectiveness. Forty years later, when these former PhD candidates had reached their early 70’s, they were reassessed and emotional intelligence abilities were found to be about 4 times more important than IQ in determining professional success and prestige (even with scientists).
Ernest O. Lawrence, the Nobel laureate who founded the labs at Berkeley that bear his name, said this “In scientific wok, excellence is not about technical competence, but character.” Recruit character first - then personality traits and competency strengths.
You can learn to recruit character first. Make your sales culture healthy and attractive to new recruits. Improve performance without your presence. Make your coaching more effective with the 'right' people as reps. You will sleep better. Lance.