“Why are great salespeople hard to find?” is the most common question asked by business owners and sales managers. They are frustrated, and the reasons for their frustrations are real.
Every industry in America today is experiencing the challenge of hiring productive employees.
If you listen to anyone’s comments about anything, a restaurant, a retail store, a great vacation spot, you will hear them say, “Its really hard to find a great.… just fill in the blank.” It is the reality in which we live. Exceptional people, experiences, service, close relationships…extraordinary is rare. Many intelligent people have studied this phenomenon. Understanding why this challenge exists can help develop develop strategies that will help you find great candidates.
Jordan Peterson writes much about this in his book 12 Rules for Life an Antidote for Chaos.
I quote. “When a defeated lobster regains its courage and dares to fight again, it is more likely to lose again than you would predict, statistically, from a tally of its previous fights. Its victorious opponent, on the other hand, is more likely to win. It’s winner-take-all in the lobster world, just as it is in human societies, where the top 1 percent have as much loot as the bottom 50 percent – and where the richest eighty-five people have as much as the bottom three and a half billion.
That same brutal principle of unequal distribution applies outside the financial domain – indeed, anywhere that creative production is required. The majority of scientific papers are published by a very small group of scientists. A tiny proportion of musicians produces almost all the recorded commercial music. Just a handful of authors sell all the books. A million and a half separately titled books sell each year in the US. However, only five hundred of these sell more than a hundred copies.
Similarly, just four classical composers (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky) wrote almost all the music played by modern orchestras.
Bach, for his part, composed so prolifically that it would take decades of work merely to hand-copy his scores, yet only a small fraction of this prodigious output is commonly performed. The same thing applies to the output of the other three members of this group of hyper-dominant composers: only a small fraction of their work is still widely played. Thus, a small fraction of the music composed by a small fraction of all the classical composers who have ever composed makes up almost all the classical music that the world knows and loves.
It also applies to the population of cities (a very small number have almost all the people), the mass of heavenly bodies (a very small number hoard all the matter), and the frequency of words in a language (90 percent of communication occurs using just 500 words), among many other things.”
Derek J. de Solla Price discovered the application of these principals, which is referred to as Price’s law. It says, “The square root of the number of people in an organization are responsible for 50 percent of the productivity.” That is 3 out of 10, 10 out of 100, and 100 out of 10,000. As the size of an organization increases, competency flattens, and incompetency increases exponentially.
It’s quite clear that there are very few people who are highly productive and efficient. When things get hard, challenging, and push people out of their comfort zone, most people look for the easy way out by running from the challenge. Therefore, they don’t grow in their success.
A justifiable reaction to this reality is, “It’s just not fair!” I agree; however, this phenomenon of unequal distribution is obviously part of nature and a common occurrence in the natural development of societies. It occurs mostly outside the domain of our control. Nature is brutal and out to kill us. Inevitably, nature wins in the end.
Most people run from the unfairness and inequality and hope to get lucky, or they look to someone else to bail them out. A few take on the responsibility of the challenge and overcome it. If you take away all the money from the richest people, in 10 years, they will have the largest proportion of the money again. I’m stating a fact, not standing up for rich people or supporting all the ways they get rich. They work hard and find a way to get back to a higher level of success.
Similarly, when everyone in sports gets a trophy, the competitive individuals will leave that organization and find one where they can compete and gain the recognition for their hard work. There are unique people on whom you could put a parachute, push them out of a plane, and within a short time, they would be successful in the city in which they landed.
Until we know and understand the reality of this natural law of unequal distribution, we cannot develop a strategy to solve the problem and overcome the situation that it creates.
How to Overcome the Odds
The goal should be to end up on the positive side. Much of this exists because individuals choose to stay on the undesirable side of the inequality. They actually choose to stay there. Everyone’s situation is an accumulation of their choices. When they discover what it takes to be successful, they simply make the decision that they don’t want to go through the struggle to be successful. They are looking for the easy path, or a path that doesn’t require them to accept the responsibility and commitments required of the success.
There is the argument that many people are born into a situation where their choices are limited, the environment is filled with lack of opportunity, they don’t have mentors, etc. I agree, many people are born into situations where getting out seems almost impossible. Many people are born into situations with great parents, great environment, and it seems as though they are set up for success. These are great arguments for the extreme of each side; those with no hope, and those with a silver-spoon. However, we have seen many successful people who were born into the most challenging situations and succeed. We have also seen those born into a situation where success came easy, but they end up in jail.
Let’s not let the extremes of this topic get us off track. The principals we are examining are true for the majority of the US population.
You see this every day. First, you post a job for salespeople, and 20 people apply. Then, you send them an email asking them to take an assessment as part of your selection process. You never hear from 10 of the 20. 10 complete the assessment. 2 of these 10 tried to fake it. Of the remaining 8, only 1 comes close to having the right personality traits for the job. You interview this person, and they have the right personality traits, but they do not pass the section of the interview questions related to work ethic. Now, you have to go find 20 more. This is just the reality of the culture in which we live today.
In my 37 years of sales, sales management, and consulting for hiring salespeople, it has been my experience that sales is one of the most difficult jobs in America. Especially, if the product is complex and sold in a very competitive environment.
It takes a special type of person with the right combination of personality, intelligence, character, attitudes and motivations to be a highly successful salesperson.
Just as nature has not produced a large number of great athletes, composers of music, successful scientists, dominating animals, successful business people, and authors; nature has not produced a very large number of people who can succeed in the very challenging job of sales.
Now that we know that one of the main reasons that it is so hard to find great salespeople is due to the natural law of unequal distribution, and that there is little that we can do to change this law, what are some strategies that we can deploy, so that we can be on the successful end of the unequal distribution phenomenon?
Consider these strategies:
- Adopt the frame of mind that you are looking for the best-of-the-best, and you will not settle for the low producing, time wasting, money draining low producer. When you are tired of searching, interviewing, and trying to find a pearl in a mud pile of weak resumes, don’t give in to lowering your standards and choosing someone just because they are the best candidate. The pick-of-the-litter doesn’t always mean you are choosing the best. Compare every candidate against a great candidate, not the best of your top 3 candidates.
- Learn and put into practice a recruiting system that will help you quickly screen out low producers, so that you can spend more time searching for the high producers. A great system helps you collect information regarding each candidate. Use this information along with your intuition to make a decision.
- In addition to sourcing for candidates using online job boards, develop and deploy a proactive searching effort to get into your community to develop relationships with other successful, well-connected people who can introduce you to great candidates.
- Become a master at using LinkedIn as a tool to find successful individuals who would be attracted to the opportunity of you mentoring them to eventually own their own agency or business.
- Master the use of other social media sites to market your opportunity and find candidates.
- Update your social media presence, so that when candidates research you and your company, they are impressed and attracted to working for you.
- Create job posting wording that attracts successful salespeople and repels weaker candidates.
These suggestions are not easy. Easy doesn’t pay much. Looking for the easy candidate brings you a large number of resumes of low education, no skills, un-employables who are simply looking for an easy job.
People who look for easy end up on the lower, most undesirable end of the law of unequal distribution. The unusually successful path is hard, so put in the work and effort to deploy the above strategies.
Thank you for joining me. Feel free to reach out to me with questions and comments. If you want more information regarding the resources to deploy the above strategies, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go make it a great day.