Help Wanted : Hiring a Salesperson
Liz, Barb, and Jen were back in Joe’s office the following Monday morning to follow up on the letters that had been sent out the previous Monday. By midmorning, the calls were done, and Liz had booked two more appointments. That was a 50% hit rate, since she had only been able to reach four of the eight patients who didn’t respond. When Liz spoke with the two patients who ultimately declined the proposed treatment, she didn’t try to pressure them. Instead, as she was accustomed to doing by now, she carefully probed their layers of resistance. The patients did not disagree with the problem, the root cause, or even with the proposed solution, which was implant treatment in both cases. One of the patients expressed a concern about the major negative effects that could result from implant treatment. She had a friend who spent thousands of dollars on implants and had several that were loose. Another friend had terrible lower jaw pain after receiving her implants, even after a year. The second patient who declined said she really wanted the implants but would not proceed until she had all the money set aside in advance. Liz asked her if she wanted to investigate much less expensive alternatives or payment plan options, but the patient had already done so, and while she wanted the implants, she was not ready to go into debt over them.
At 10:30 Joe took a quick break, popped into his office, and was delighted when he heard how successful the calls had been. The 10 letters sent last Monday had already generated $750 of booked work. In addition, Joe had received 13 email responses to the ad for the sales position and was starting interviews after 5:00 that afternoon.
“How did you select the sales candidates to interview?” Liz asked.
“Liz, I’m not a novice at this. I’ve hired people before.” Joe was defensive. He also hadn’t answered Liz’s question.
“Joe, it’s your practice, and you have every right to make your own decisions. I’m only asking because Rich and I learned the hard way that good salespeople are of a different breed. It’s easy to make a mistake and pick the wrong person the first time around. It’s not like hiring other staff.”
Joe, still defensive, said, “I’ve picked the best three candidates so far, and I just might hire one of them on the spot if it seems right. This is my constraint and I’m not going to wait weeks to find Mr or Ms Perfect.”
Liz didn’t want to get into a fight with Joe, but she felt compelled to try to save him from a miserable failure. “Joe, are you interested in hearing the characteristics of a good salesperson that Rich and I identified?”
Joe just shrugged his shoulders, barely nodding. Liz took this as a willingness to listen, so she proceeded. “First and second, they must have sales experience and proven success. There are lots of people out there who want to do sales because they hear about the high commissions and the greater freedom, but they are not prepared to handle the constant rejection from patients who say ‘no.’ Third, they must be money-motivated. The best candidates are driven by high leverage in their compensation. It doesn’t mean that it’s only money that motivates them. But they love the chase, and they love to win. They hate meetings, and they hate rules. And their basic style during the interview should scare you. Good salespeople are direct without being rude and are much better at asking you the tough questions than you are in reverse. They are not your typical office staff.”
“Liz, thanks, but I’m going to hire someone who fits in here. I don’t need any prima donnas, and I think I’m intelligent enough to know a good candidate when I see one. Lots of people enter new jobs with no experience and end up being successful,” Joe replied curtly, heading to his next patient.
As Joe was walking out of his office, Liz asked, “Do you want me to sit in on the interviews and give you my impressions?”
“No, Liz, I can do this by myself, thanks.” Joe’s voice had a tinge of angry sarcasm that told Liz to back off.
Barb tried to apologize for her husband’s behavior, but Liz just shook her head. “There’s no need to be sorry. I know where Joe is coming from. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Wise people learn from other people’s mistakes. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that Joe is doomed to be smart, not wise, in this case. But you never know. He may luck out or his instincts may be better than I’m giving him credit for. We’ll all know soon enough.”
By the end of the day, they had succeeded in getting 15 letters out to Joe’s patients and 15 out to Brian’s patients. That evening, Liz was visiting Brian and Jen when her phone rang. She saw Joe’s name come up on the screen and immediately felt her stomach jump as she thought about their last interaction.
“Liz, I’m really sorry about my attitude this morning. I guess I’m still sensitive about not being in control of my own business. And when my self-confidence is down it comes out in nasty ways sometimes. I’m sorry,” Joe said, sounding genuinely contrite.
“Hey, listen Joe, I’m not offended. You have the right to run your business your way and make your own decisions, and that includes the right to reject my help. I’m OK. Apology accepted,” Liz replied.
“Well,” Joe said sheepishly, “now that we got that out of the way, I have to ask you a huge favor.”
“You can ask me anything. What is it?”
“Well, promise you won’t be mad at me?”
“For goodness’ sake, Joe, get on with it, or I will get mad at you. We’re in the middle of watching a show.”
Joe hesitated for a few more seconds, then blurted out, “I hired a salesperson today. She was great in the interview, and I didn’t want to wait. She left her previous job a few weeks ago, so I asked her if she could start tomorrow morning, and she agreed. Liz, please, would you start her training tomorrow? I’ll owe you big time! I’ll even listen to you next time you make a suggestion!”