Beam me up, Scotty



There is something liberating about being ‘politically incorrect’. It can leave one with, at best, a feeling of greatness and, at worst, of smug righteousness.
So to the HR’ians who will cast a sensitive eye over these irreverent words I say this: as far as the selection of good salespeople goes, don’t get your hands dirty – leave it to those kindred spirits who understand, revere, and positively embrace the idiosyncrasies that make up these alien beings.
So, before you go waving your IPD – sorry CIPD – certificates in the air claiming that "it’s your job to recruit all personnel", start preparing form 67D (version 6 amended) and sharpening your pencil and brain box in earnest to catch these inveterate exaggerators out, listen up.
This brief insight into the mind and being of the salesperson could save you a whole lot of unnecessary time-wasting, and leave you free to do the real job for which you are trained and skilled. Your experience and knowledge is probably ideally suited to recruiting 99.9 per cent of staff. It’s that 0.1 per cent that you should leave well alone.
I have been a salesman, sorry, can’t be too none-PC – salesperson, for most of my working life. Prior to that, I spent nearly six weeks training to be a lawyer. Yes, six weeks! Then I was unceremoniously fired for having the wrong attitude. Thank God I failed, as I could have become one!
Back to the point, good salespeople are not normal. They do not understand the ways of normal kind. Every day of their working lives they are taking emotional risks that would give most people nervous breakdowns. They live on the very edge of that place where fear and euphoria dance together in an eerie tango, with no certain outcome. In HR terms, they are quite mad!
The successful salesperson is willing, on a daily basis, to take the risk of being spurned, rejected, abused (by both customers and peers) and face the ultimate humiliation of failure. So let me ask you, my compassionate, reasonable and fair HR’ians: How in the name of Yoda do you think you can judge these nutters in terms of them being successful employees? You work with reason, logic and order – not necessarily attributes that are spoken in the same breath as the word ‘salesman’.


But don’t lose sight of the fact that these are the kind of people that built your company into such a successful entity that the head of it decided one day that there should be a special person to make sure that everything was done properly, like contracts and forms, holiday entitlement and all that sort of really important stuff (especially nowadays). But what he or she didn’t expect you to do was to make judgments about people who, from your perspective, could be certifiably insane!
OK, so let me try and explain as simply as I can why the psychometric profile you need, no matter who is charging you an arm and a leg for it, is usually based on the personality profile work of Carl Jung.
And when you see that the individuals concerned is a high influencer with indications of being less than consistent, or stable, and compliant only when under pressure, don’t interview them! Instead, pass them straight on to your sales manager or sales director! If they show, in addition to this, a tendency to dominate and control situations, check with your CEO – he or she may be looking for a successor.
You see, salespeople are everything you are not. And for that you should be eternally thankful. They live for recognition, they strive to be noticed, they are under the questionable illusion that the world sees them as special. They suffer from a clinical and inherent condition which is known to many as the ‘look at me syndrome’.
The less informed may refer to this affliction as an ego problem – it is not. The adoration that the superstars of this profession crave does not come cheap – it is paid for week after week, month after month when they are compared to their peers and colleagues by that all-consuming God – the target.
To be counted amongst the great and good is a goal they must achieve. And the only way to achieve this is to throw themselves into the path of the thing they hate most after obscurity – rejection! This is a force that keeps the faint-hearted of this world out of this of all professions.
It is the avoidance of rejection which keeps safe people in safe jobs, and ‘bleeding hearts’ passing laws, that keep the inept cocooned in the silk of stupid regulations so that employers would rather suffer the incompetence or idleness of a freeloader than face a tribunal, so often outrageously stacked against them. Enough of this rant and back to my point.
Good salespeople are rare. They are worth fortunes and require specialised attention, ie from their own species and fellow aliens. They are difficult in the extreme to manage – did I say difficult? – at times nightmarish. I have never met a top producer who is good at reporting or paperwork. I would be deeply suspicious if I did. They are driven by emotion and instinct, they build trust and relationships with customers and are hurt if they feel that a customer is disloyal or too demanding.


They know everything they need to know about the communication aspect of NLP without even knowing that they know it, and as for their motivation, well, the quickest way to get rid of them is to forget to say "well done" for doing a good job.
So now that you understand a little more about these creatures, perhaps you can leave the selection of them to the people who are kindred spirits and thus qualified to make judgments and, if you insist on sitting in on interviews, fasten your seatbelt! Whatever you do, don’t expect these candidates to resemble anything approaching normality – at least not those exceptional beings that any company should give its corporate right arm for.
As for you sales leaders out there, if you are currently letting your HR department ‘screen out the dross’, you are probably losing your best candidates before you even start. Take back control and remember, you can spot one a mile away – they are a lot like you!