Some of you might be shocked to read this subject line. You might be thinking: “He’s crazy, he’d rather hire one of those disheveled guys in white shirts that try to schlep vacuum cleaners door to door then someone with a Master’s degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the world?”
I’d rather hire someone, for my company, who thrived making money selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door then someone who danced cum laude out of Harvard’s famous and highly ranked business school.
Here is the part where I need to tell you why, so let’s get it on:
1. I like people that are FEARLESS
This one is easy. In 2008, if you aren’t afraid to walk up to someone in their home and try to sell a vacuum cleaner to them, then you are FEARLESS. One of the biggest problems that I see in the world today is that the business community is rising up a generation of WIMPS - people that are afraid to sell. Now, I’m not talking about a bunch of used car salesman, but someone is isn’t afraid to ask for the sale.
We have too many entrepreneurs that think that referrals and soft marketing will bring in enough money to feed them. They might skate by, but I will blow past them in the market place, because my people won’t be afraid to be aggressive and strong, showing the customer or client that we can take care of them better then anybody else. Yes, marketing is the driver of this, but you have to remember that everything you do is a sale. You sell your ideas, your concepts and your vision to your clients and customers as well as your employees and stakeholders.
Fear has no place when you are moving to the top.
2. I like people who can think on the fly
Good salespeople are like good jazz musicians, they can improvise on the fly. A good salesperson will swim in situations where others would surely drown. There isn’t always time to consult a report or get the consensus of your colleague’s then there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars at stake. You have to make snap decisions and then ‘wing-it’ the rest of the way.
I can’t think of a better way to learn how to improvise then to be faced with a different type of customer with each sales call, having to make sure you are delivering the right message to each person. Talk about thinking on the fly.
3. I like people who can take rejection, chew it up and spit it out
Have you ever seen an attractive woman on a date with a guy who you thought should not have a chance with her? That she was ‘way out of his league’. There is no real secret to this, except for the fact that the guyasked her for the date. Many guys out there asking: “Is it that simple?” I think it is, but I am not a date doctor. Where I see this principle ring true in the business arena is simply asking for the sale. In order to ask for the sale, you have to be willing to take a good number of ‘no’ answers before you get a ‘yes.’
Most of the Harvard MBA’s I have met have not had much rejection in their life. They are All-Stars. High achievers. Most haven’t had doors slammed in their faces, heard the word ‘no’ said to them 1,000’s of times and been faced with the choice of selling or starving.
4. I like people that can deal with stress and ambiguity
In my humble view, the ability to handle stress effectively and function well in high intensity situations is one of the most endearing qualities a person can have. President John F. Kennedy said it best: “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Meaning, that when times are good you don’t know which ‘boats’ will sink or float. I love this analogy for business, and life for that matter, because it captures the essence of what separates the leaders from the rest of the pack.
Ambiguity is part of life. Very rarely do we have a fraction of the information that we would like to make the best decision we feel we can make. The ability to function and make decision with small amounts of information are what define good business leaders. Call it good ‘gut instinct’ if you will. Gut instincts are developed by being in hand-to-hand combat situations, like being eye-to-eye with a customer who would rather spit on you then look at you, let alone open up their wallet and give you money.
You just can’t earn these stripes slogging through financial modeling and game theoy analysis over Starbucks coffee at 10a.m. Walking through strange neighborhoods and taking on angry glares before you even get to present to one house is something that will teach you to deal with stress and ambiguity like nothing else.
5. I like people that are willing to learn the hard way
Life would be great if we could get everything we needed from case studies, group projects and internships. Business would be wonderful all the time if all I had to do was slap some proformas financial projections through Excel and take it to the bank. But, alas, it cannot be so in the trench warfare of 21st century entrepreneurial business.
Those that develop the thickest skin will generally win in the end. Sometimes business success can be summed up to nothing more than a battle of attrition. Anybody that has taken earned their stripes fighting in the trenches will win more in my book than somebody who has earned their stripes in the boardroom.
So, there you have it. I expect this week’s Top 5 to stir a bit of controversy. And, yes, I fully expect to hear back from some Kirby salespeople turned Harvard MBAs.