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Why Sales Superstars Are Rarely Portable

This may be a shocker for most of you: I have zero tolerance when it comes to hiring salespeople: Never, ever, ever hire from a competitor. Why? Because as the old saying goes...

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“Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.”

That’s right, I have made that mistake a number of times early in my career and have watched so many others fail at hiring their competitors’ superstars. I now have enough wisdom to tell you that your competitors’ superstars are rarely portable!

But, before I get into why I know this for a fact, let me share with you my flawed logic early on which coincides with the logic I still hear today from some of our clients and prospects. It might resonate with your present-day thinking.

I had the usual reasons for hiring my competitors' salespeople. I thought their previous experience in our business would save me time and money. After all, they knew the business-- so I wouldn't have to train them on the intricacies of our “special” business. They would hit the ground running and I would be able to grow revenue faster. They would bring their people and their talent. They will love working in our culture with our systems, processes, and recognition. Unfortunately, “theory” was nowhere near “practice.” Here are just some of the problems your competitors’ salespeople bring to your company.

  • Bad habits. They bring conflicting habits and conflicting values to your company. I simply could not get them to change. They had their way of selling and were not open to coaching on our way of selling.

  • Bad attitude. As soon as they hit a rough patch they would talk about how much better their old company was. Highlighting all the things they did better than us. Most of which was nothing more than an excuse to rationalize their lack of performance. If their old company was so good, then why did they leave? Chances are, they weren’t performing as well as advertised.

  • Bad decisions. Next, in an effort to close the quota gap, they would violate their non-compete and non-solicitation. Even though I insisted on the fact they honor their restrictive covenants, as soon as the going got tough, they started calling on their old customers, prompting a strong letter and a threat of legal action from their previous employer.

  • They were no longer superstars. Typically, superstars are part of a team where they take most of the credit. Chances are they were no longer superstars for a host of reasons and that is why they decided to leave. They either lost a big customer or several customers. They saw a big drop in commissions coming and decided to shop last year’s W-2.

So what did I learn? “Superstars” are rarely portable. I say rarely, because I have never had a positive experience personally, but I have heard of a handful of successes from other companies.

With unemployment dropping, the war for talent is becoming readily apparent. As an organization that specializes in both client and talent development, Butler Street understands exactly how closely related client and talent development are and also how important it is to dispose of the age-old myths around the hiring and retention of talent. We believe in order to build a great sales organization, you must be able to create institutional value. What is institutional value? Institutional value is the ability of your organization to provide your salespeople with the tools, processes, systems, and training so that there is no way they could possibly be stronger on their own (or with a competitor) than they can be with your company. That is how your company can make mere mortals become superstars!

At Butler Street, we help companies build a system of reinforcing activities to drive both client and talent development. It all starts with a strong hiring process followed by an investment in training, recognition, rewards, and metrics to drive the desired behavior. After all, people deliver service. Well-trained, engaged people deliver better service. People delivering better service have a tremendous effect on quality. A quality experience keeps customers coming back and creates positive growth. Contact us and let’s start the conversation.

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