ARE YOU HIRING RUSSIAN DOLLS
Is there a magic-bullet question for hiring super-talented salespeople? What do you look for to get fire-breathing, don't-take-no-for-an-answer overachievers? David Ogilvy, advertising guru and founder of the advertising agency Ogilvy &
Mather Inc., one day handed each of his managers a Russian doll. You've probably seen them - they're hand-painted (made in Russia, of course, and very expensive), and each has about 15 dolls inside a big one. The big doll breaks apart to reveal a smaller
doll, which breaks apart for a smaller one, and so on to the last one, which is about a halfinch high. Ogilvy's managers looked at each other, flabbergasted, wondering why the Great One put them through the exercise of breaking down these dolls. Then, as they got to the smallest dolls, Ogilvy explained: "If you hire people smaller than yourself, we'll be a company of dwarfs. If you hire people bigger and better than yourself, we'll be a company of giants." Building a sales force of giants is easier said than done. After all, would you rather have a Harvard MBA who demonstrates "paralysis by analysis - or a smart, street-fighting tiger" I always choose the latter. As you go through the hiring process, here are five questions to ask the prospective employee to see whether he or she really has the head and the heart of a strong salesperson (which, in the end, is really what we're looking for):
1) "What is your favorite book?"Are they educating themselves, which is one of the most important things you can look for in a potential recruit? Are they reading the most current sales and marketing books and studying the economy, or are they reading Monsters Inc.?
2) "To what trade magazines or publications do you subscribe?" This goes hand-in-hand with No.1. Do they have subscriptions to The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fast Company and Strategy & Business? By the way, your current staff should also subscribe.
3)"Is your favorite hero Superman, Spiderman or Daffy Duck?" This might give you some insight into their psyches. Do they see themselves as street fighters or pacifists?
4) "What was your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?" You're not trying to get personal here, but you want to find out whether they were ever hand-to-mouth at some point in their lives. Did they start their own business and fail? If so, how did they get back on their feet - and what was the driving? This is where you find the single mother who had no choice but to make it happen, relying on herself. Another good thing is putting themselves through school - how did they do it?
5) "Do you listen?" One of my former sales managers always started the interview with, "Who won last year's Stanley Cup in hockey?" (You want to find a sport they don't know.) When the applicant wouldn't know, he would give the answer. Then, at the end of the interview 45 minutes later, he would ask the same question. If the applicant did not know the answer, that person was not hired. A correct answer meant one step closer to getting the job, by proving the applicant could listen - the most important trait you're looking for in top performers. Rather than posing the proverbial "tell me a little about yourself," asking these questions might give you a little more insight into the kind of person your applicant really is.