Who’s On First?

In the famous Abbott and Costello comedy routine about baseball, “Who” is on first base, “What’s” on second base, and “I don’t know” is on third. For the business-to-business telephone sales manager, the same is true of the team they will field. “Who” can bring home the revenue bacon? “What’s” the best telephone salesperson selection methodology?  And, “I don’t know if this person will work out.”

“Who” makes the best business-to-business telephone salesperson? Someone who has a demonstrated history of doing a repetitive job. Sitting in a cubicle and picking up the hook sixty or more times a day is repetitive. Some salespeople, especially those who started out in a field sales position, can’t sit still. A job on the phone may not be a particularly good fit. Those who are audio learners make good telephone sales reps. Visual learners may have difficulty with the lack of visual clues, and kinesthetic learners may be unhappy with the lack of tactile stimulation.

“What’s” required in a good selection process? At Business Performance Group, we use a 9-step process, because failure is not an option.  It’s way too expensive to hire someone, train them, and then let them go because they weren’t a good fit in the first place. The process begins with soliciting resumes, most commonly done online today. The second step is to review the solicited resumes and grade them, assigning a numerical score. The third step is a graded telephone interview, again as a screening tool, to eliminate candidates which are clearly not a fit. The fourth step is a face-to-face interview, using a scoring tool to reach a quantitative result. Next, a validated personality profile, we use Caliper. Sixth, a second face-to-face interview to clear up any questions from the profile, done at the same time as step seven, a job shadow. The eighth step is a reference check, and finally, the ninth step the offer.

This selection process provides hiring assurance, and avoids the “I don’t know.” Sure, it’s more work than hiring with your gut, but most of us managers have been fooled by the slick interviewee who verbally hit it out of the park.  Then, once on the job, couldn’t sit still and make nearly the number of calls required in a day.  Or, the candidate with the sure-fire resume of seemingly steady advancement, who when hired strikes out.  We quickly realize their history was an embellishment.

Not everyone is cut out for this job. It’s not a personality defect, or a lack of trying or a character flaw. It’s the basic fact that only a certain subset of people has the aptitude for this challenging position. Those that do, will do it for a long time. I know telephone salespeople who have been happily in the role for over 25 years, but others are miserable from day one. They are not bad people, just a bad fit.  It’s our job as managers to go through the effort to select the diamonds out of the hundreds of resumes we may receive, and hire just those who will be a hit.

Now that’s a home run!