03/09/2010 | Sales management
I recently spent more time than I would like in one of our marvellous airports and I was drawn to the bookshop as usual. Also as usual I saw the collection of books entitled "The one-minute etc." and asked myself the question why don’t they produce books in the series with titles like "The one-minute surgeon" or "The one-minute architect." The simple answer is that these are genuine professions that take years of training to achieve even basic competence in. Yet we seem to think it ok that jobs such as business leaders and/or managers or in particular sales person can be learned in about a minute while you are waiting for a delayed aeroplane.
In our work with private equity-backed businesses we regularly meet sales people who fell into the job and stuck with it (for a while at least) because the money was potentially good, they could choose how and when they worked and there was a company car involved. Unfortunately this is not a recipe for success and when the majority of them get found out by being compared to a standard where the quantity of hair gel isn’t a factor, we are asked to explain how they got the job in the first place. The simple fact is though, that there isn’t a formal qualification in sales and if a sales person has managed to be fortunate enough to work for a company with a great product in a growing market then they may well have a great track record (measured by results only of course!) that they can convince a prospective employer of. This (not so) merry go round will continue until the market gets difficult, which may coincide with a private equity-backed MBO if you’re unlucky.
Which begs the question - "How do you know if you are about to invest in such a situation?"
Well of course you don’t always but what you can do is make sure that the sales team is properly tested at some stage in the investment process and be ever mindful of the adage that ‘past performance is no guarantee of future success.’
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