Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sales training in 3 words.
No subtitles.

Our current enterprise was the creation of two friends. Start ups and emerging enterprises are usually staffed about this well. Ain't no job you ain't doing.

When we hired our first outsider the culture of the whole deal was moderately at stake. We needed someone to act as our Inside Sales Manager, someone to back up all the helter skelter street level peddling. The detail work behind the scenes to support successful sales and marketing is critical. It's not rocket science, but do it wrong and you're out of business. Doing this right requires a passion for capturing important details accurately.

We needed this person long before we ever thought about looking for them, of course, but I'm jumping ahead of myself.

Dave and I were going to meet the very first person we'd ever interviewed. Dave had seen a guy who stood out from his workplace because of his relentless ability to want to contribute in a friendly, cooperative way. He was operating like this in an environment wildly cultured up to do things exactly the opposite.

We were going to meet this person for breakfast at the Hardscrabble in downtown Streator. I made Dave agree in advance that we wouldn't make any promises. We'd just hear him out. Then we'd carefully look at other folks and make our choice. Slow, Dave. Go slow.

We were still looking at the breakfast menu, just one or two coffees into it, when I offered Dan the job. Dave just shook his head.

In a very polite way Dan asked just what the sales job description entailed. Dan had not worked in sales previously. He thought it sounded great but, well, what's the deal? What do you need to do for a sales job?

Since I clearly hadn't scripted this whole process very well I didn't have a ready answer. Sure I had the talking points of a printed job description at hand. But I wanted Dan to see the job was something I hoped would be cooler than just a listing of the parts.

As we ordered I also thought about giving him my rant about a passion for capturing details accurately, but it was a little early in the day for that.

The mission critical goal for Dan was keeping our collective asses out of trouble. The right answer to his question was obvious.

If your enterprise is to be sustainable you can't build it on lies. You can never shortchange your product or service. You need to be the best at something but never over-promise your way into defeat. You can't under-deliver. You can't execute poorly and survive. Every single thing in your operation needs full transparency, repeatability and grand slam data control. Above all you need honesty in your data and honesty in your life. Sustainable work.

Are there nefarious enterprises bilking people and running economically amok? Duh.

Are there zillions of enterprises set up to scam the system short term? Double duh.

However, that isn't you. That isn't what this is about. This is about sustainable work. First and foremost that means work that keeps growing. Next, it’s work that keeps you growing.

Starting honorable, well executed, properly documented, new enterprises looks hard. The reality is that it's far easier than wading into the world of cheating and lies. That stuff always takes far more time, work and effort than doing things right. Plus, you end up with the bonus of living a miserable personal life. Sign me up.

Breakfast ordering done, I told Dan his sales training came in a package of three words. Tell the truth.

He said “I can do that” and we shook on the deal.

Dan and I live and work in different states. Dan works in our sales office in Illinois. I work from Wisconsin. Since Dan joined us, weeks can pass between times we actually see each other. He doesn't need any direct oversight. He wants to do a great job and does. If we have stuff to work on together we find each other by phone, eMail, and all the usual suspects.

That frees me up to stay out there creating all the seeming chaos my kind of peddlers generate. We’ve since been joined by my sales partner, Bill. Being my kind of peddler he also has to meet his monthly quota of seeming chaos and he typically exceeds that goal, bless him.

Dan has to back all this up. I’ve done Dan's job in other places. It can be a miserable, inefficient mess if you’re not prepared.

Did I worry turning over this chaotic step? For his sake and mine? Of course. If this job is done wrong, you’re out of the pool, my friend.

Are there downsides to growing and expanding your enterprise so that you can do your evangelizing? Of course.

Enterprise is full of risk. Minimize it. But if you want to participate, you’re going to have to prepare, then learn to live with it.

Was there risk in hiring Dan? Sure.

Was there reward in hiring Dan? Immediately.

Why? Because Dan succeeds for all of us by minimizing the risk.

How does he do that?

Telling the truth.

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