All men are created equal. While that may be true in terms of certain inalienable rights, there are areas where every man is different, and I’m not just talking about fingerprints. Strengths, weaknesses, interests, thought processes — all of these things are as unique to the individual as the pattern of a snowflake.
It is a fact that people are vastly different, which is what makes life interesting. Some people are good at some things, while others are good at other things and nary the twain shall meet.
Salespeople are definitely a different breed. A good salesperson has the ability to get kicked square in the nuts and still greet the next customer through the door with a wag of the tail and tongue-dangling smile; eager to fetch the next sale. Salespeople tend to be a bit sloppy — organizational skills are rarely their strong suit, but they also tend to have the memory of a steel trap, identifying customers who bought a specific ATV 10 years before as though they’d just seen them yesterday.
It’s this type of thinking, however, that usually keeps a great salesperson from being a great manager. Managers have to be organized, learning from every poor experience and designing a counter play when confronted with that situation again. They have to be wary of every engagement, suspect the worst, plan for the best and be ready to implement changes to their strategy in the blink of an eye for the overall good of the business.
How many times have you seen a salesperson address a problem by portraying themselves as a victim, right alongside the customer. It’s their nature, part of the role-play that makes the customer feel at ease with that salesperson. “I know, I know! They told me the bike would be ready in 15 minutes an hour ago,” he says. “Man, I don’t know what’s taking so long back there. I’m as upset as you. Let me go yell at someone!” Of course, in the back, he’s telling his favorite service tech that the customer has unrealistic expectations.
Too many times, business owners fall victim to the salesperson’s tactics, entrusting them with duties that are far beyond what they are typically capable of handling. A salesperson, for example, is not the best person to be watching the till. They tend to give things away in order to close a sale, playing the “what if” game with customers just as much as with owners. “What if I can throw in a helmet?” “What if I can get another 100 bucks off?” “What if I can close 10 more sales per month?” That’s really not a quality you want in a manager.
There is a place for every person. As much as you don’t want your best salesperson handling your accounting, you also don’t want your best accountant trolling your showroom for customers. “What if I raise the price another 100 bucks?” Just doesn’t have that same ring!
Identifying a person’s strengths and weaknesses is a skill paramount to the success of any owner/manager. Many times, I’ve misjudged a person in pre-employment interviews hiring them for one position only to find that they don’t fit, but in noticing that someone is crappy at one thing that often points to another area of strength.
The trick is not to get emotionally attached. Don’t put so much of yourself into an employee, hoping that they will excel in one area and being disappointed when they fail, that you might not notice something else they’d be good at. A salesperson who can’t close a deal to save his life, but is as organized and efficient as a computer might actually prove to be your best department manager, warranty administrator or even an office worker. Likewise, the guy with great computer skills who is constantly side-tracked by doodling skillful artwork on their desk blotter, may very well be the best Internet advertising guy you could employ.
Don’t be afraid to realize that you’ve failed in the hiring process if it means missing out on an unrelated opportunity. Some of the best employees are ones who convert from another department. After all, sometimes it’s not the employee that’s bad — only the job that’s not well-suited to their individual skills. Think about that the next time you’re ready to can someone. You might just find that you’ve been trying to make a pencil out of a crayon … maybe that crayon is better suited to a coloring book than an accounting position!