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Doing What It Takes, Figuring It Out

by David Brock on February 7th, 2012

I had a conversation with an interesting individual today.  It was a fascinating conversation–different from so many that I have with sales people.  I was interviewing a candidate for a client.  On paper, the person didn’t seem to be a natural fit, but I was taken by this individual—at least his mentality and attitude.

Too many people I speak with have a sense of entitlement-that they are owed something.  Whether deserved or not, there is an arrogance about their jobs and (always) compensation.  They often refuse to recognize the need to change–even if they see things aren’t working they continue to do the same thing.  Or they feel they are owed a job, it’s benefits, and compensation because they are putting in the effort.

This gentleman was completely different.  He told me his story–started as a technical support person in technology companies.  Several years ago, was laid off.  He shared his struggles in finding someone that would hire him.  He said that he decided to take a different approach, if he couldn’t find someone to hire him for “40 hours a week,” he would find “40 people who would hire him for an hour a week.”

In looking for a job, he came across an advertisement for a sales job.  I won’t go into the details of the job, but in interviewing, he was told he couldn’t do it, that he didn’t have any sales experience.  He convinced the company to give him a chance–he said he was willing to work for 100% commission.  To make a long story short, he struggled building his business.  It took time, he didn’t have a whole lot of support from the company, but they let him act as an independent agent.  Over a couple of years he built a business from absolutely nothing.  He got the most difficult territory.  Because he was an independent agent, he didn’t get a lot of support — so he had to figure things out for himself, create a lot of his own demand generation programs, and drive the business.

In a couple of years, he had built a pretty nice little business.  His results weren’t stunning, but they were good.  He was making a living, paying for his family.  He was looking to the future.  He was investing in himself and his business—hiring some subcontractors to do work that wasn’t a good use of his time.

I talked to him about the job he was interviewing for.  I said, “On paper, you don’t look like a great fit.  You don’t have any experience in the industry and these types of solutions……”  His response was simple, “I’ll figure it out.”  He went on to explain exactly what he would do–he had researched the company, the industry, and had some ideas.  Some of them weren’t right, but his thinking and approach were sound.  He went on to say, “I’ll do it for 100% commission.”  Our conversation went on for a few more minutes. There was no boasting, just a straightforward approach on what it would take, what he would do, and appropriate examples of how he had done similar things in the past.

He was probably the least “qualified” candidate, but he stood out.  Others came from more traditional backgrounds.  They were concerned about their territories, quotas, commission plans.  They were worried about the marketing programs and would they be getting leads.  They had lists of concerns and reservations.  Most had good track records–not outstanding, but satisfactory track records.  They asked the usual questions, and, in the end, none of them struck me as much as this one gentleman.

He didn’t know all the questions to ask.  He didn’t know what other candidates knew, he didn’t have any experience in the industry, he knew he wasn’t a fit.  But he stood out.  He didn’t hide these, he didn’t try to pump up his experience, he didn’t have any unrealistic expectations.  He just had a commitment to do whatever it took to be successful and to figure it out.  His past experience indicated it wasn’t a hollow claim.

Somehow I knew he could figure it out.  Success in the job actually required that.  Somehow, as much experience as the others brought, I wasn’t comfortable they would figure it out.  They needed to much, they had too many concerns—about themselves and their needs.  They were too concerned about the risks and focused on the possibilities and figuring out how to get there.

I don’t know if he’s the right guy, whether there will be an ultimate fit.  There are assessments and other things to go through.  But attitudinally and based on what he had done, he was head an shoulders above everyone else.  There’s something about these people that you have to really respect.  Their willingness to do what it takes, the absence of pre-conditions, the willingness to take risk, the total absence of a feeling they are “owed something.”

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  1. David Olson permalink

    BRILLIANT ! Absolutely on the mark. This post should be required reading for every employment seeking person and every hiring manager … on the planet. I’ve shared it with three so far – one seeking work, one seeking employees and one that was just approached by someone to consider a new role.

    If we all approached our work this way the impact on productivity would be beyond measurement.

    I’m just sayin’ !

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