Sometimes reps don’t tell the truth!

If you manage salespeople long enough, some very funny…as in odd, things are going to happen to you. You’re going to find yourself in unbelievable situations. Some will be exciting but some will be impossible.

I had one for the book I hope to eventually write in the 90’s. I answered a call on the plant phone to be greeted by a woman’s voice. She said, “Bill, I can’t tell you my name because I don’t want the industry to know I’m looking to change jobs. I would like to meet with you, however, and discuss possibilities.”

She went on to tell me she had a specific client that everyone in town wanted to work with. Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell me who it was…because then I would know who she was and the cat would be out of the bag. She simply couldn’t allow that to happen.

Like an idiot, I agreed to the appointment. Why in the world do we do that? Are we so desperate for sales that we’ll ignore every danger signal? What makes us set our prudence aside when it comes to hiring people that say they can sell? We don’t do that for any other position.

The mystery guest didn’t show for our appointment. She called weeks later and went through the story again. Once again I played the dummy and agreed to meet with her.

This time she showed. I sat across the table from a woman who wouldn’t tell me her name and attempted to do an interview. It was totally absurd. I was totally absurd.

It gets worse. We hired her. Of course we learned her name first…but we did hire her. My boss did a back flip when he learned who the client was and while it never would have led us to her name, it did get her hired. She started the next day.

Now comes the fun part. We waited. We asked when we were going to go see the big client. She explained that there were delays due to vacations etc. We waited some more. There was no work, there were no appointments and no discussion of business. There was only waiting.

After six or eight weeks of daily pressure she announced that we had an appointment. We were to meet in their downtown lobby at nine the following morning. Together we would go to the 33rd floor to get things rolling.

I was in the lobby early. Nine o’clock came. The mystery rep was missing. Then it was 9:10 and 9:15. I was solo and starting to wonder if I had misunderstood. Perhaps I was supposed to meet her on the 33rd floor.

At 9:25 she appeared in the lobby. I walked toward her in frustration as she explained that it would be fine. She had let the client know she was running late. Everybody was cool except me.

I can’t set it aside. The elevator is climbing and I’m fuming. We’ve waited eight weeks for an appointment and now we’re late. Nothing could be more unprofessional. Right?

It was at this moment she looked at me and said, “You know I’ve never met these people before” DING! The elevator door opened and we were standing in our target’s office. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide!

What I did instead was meet with the client. I made my best presentation and shared why I thought we might be a fit. I pretended It was a cold call. I guess it was a cold call.

Of course the woman of mystery didn’t make it. She was fired before we got back to the office. Our business owner was furious but had to laugh. We were so blinded by sales lust that we tossed caution aside.

So…what is the moral of the story? Employers, you owe it to yourselves to be diligent. Take your time with interviews. Ask for suitability tests (aptitude). Ask for references and check them. Include others in the process and don’t feel like you’re being intrusive.

Pay attention to the salary conversations too. If the demand for guarantee is too strong or too long, they don’t believe in themselves. If they expect you to carry 100% of the risk, odds are you’re going to inherit 100% of the surprise too.

I boasted to a peer once that I had hired a heavy hitter that didn’t have a single account conflict with our sales team of 15. The peer responded, “that’s amazing don’t you think?” Then it hit me. It wasn’t amazing at all. It was another stupid hire. Fortunately, I haven’t had many of those.

Hire talent but protect your company. Your existing employees are counting on you. You know how to do it.

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