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Dangerous Liaisons!

Some years back I’d read that getting an over-qualified person to do a job is like using a Nuclear Reactor to run an electric shaver. You will readily agree that the reactor is a little over-specified for the purpose.

The logic in recruiting MBAs and other candidates with high qualifications is that they can pick the ball and run without much hand-holding. It’s believed that the B-school would have done the job of explaining the fundamentals of business and the logic used for the non-MBAs is that since they are mentally agile it would be easy for them to learn the basics and proceed to job execution quickly.

Nothing is further from the truth. MBA or qualifications are not the requirements to excel at sales. I am not denying the MBA helps you to understand markets, to think up strategy, to take decisions, to be process-oriented and to be analytical. You learn to work with facts and data rather than by gut feel.

But the course misses or pays only scant attention to some very important points. Here is a list of skills that I think a Sales Professional should have. While it’s not exhaustive, I think it will be a useful toolkit to find the right person for the job.

  1. Communication Skills – Interesting and concise, conveys the message with impact
  2. Working with people – Coordination and Relationship Building
  3. Ability to take the initiative – Inquisitive, Self – starter and Quick learner
  4. Willingness to learn – Stays updated, searches for information, seeks advice
  5. Result orientation – Will to win, always focused on outcome, takes corrective action
  6. Handling Failure – Won’t take No! for an answer, does not give up, perseverant
  7. Customer Orientation – Empathetic, good listener, reaches out to help and advice

Instead of spending time to understand what they learnt in B-school or getting them to solve Analytical Reasoning problems it’s best to design tests that would bring out responses to highlight the above.

Get the candidate to tell you what they did while at school or college to meet the above criteria or how they tided over crisis and other tough situations in the previous assignments. The stuff they learn in the books will not help them to succeed in the market – relevant experience, the right kind of application in the academic years (extra-curricular activities) , clubbed with a pinch of attitude would do the trick!

Even if they are a bit less qualified, if you see a fit on the above parameters it would be worthwhile to give them a try.

Misuse of the nuclear reactor can cause a dangerous fallout… and I am afraid so can the appointment of personnel who don’t fit the bill!

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  1. January 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Very true… I couldn`t agree with you more. It is equally, perhaps more, important to examine the person who is carrying the qualification. In my experience of helping organizations use Psychometric Testing to identify the most suitable candidates, I have seen that more than not, the human resource person and the hiring manager have the impression of the more the skill and qualification the better it is, which is never true. It is equally important to understand how over-qualification can lead to loss of productivity.

    • JayadevM
      January 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Vijay, I have seen that happen too! This over-qualified person would agree to take the assignment and then constantly think “this is not the role I aspired for. I have potential to do much more”. The job was accepted hastily and things then spiral out of control – disappointment and frustration set in. This in turn leads to lack of focus and under-performance. The situation can deteriorate rapidly or slowly depending on how the immediate Superior and HR deal with expectations.

      To ensure stability, retention and performance its best to stick to the requirement while choosing resources for roles.

  2. vasant
    January 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    This happens not only in sales but also in service. This is one reason why when we appoint BTech or BE as service engineers – they just do not stick and act in the same manner as you Jay have explained .

    Thats the reason its better to have l—————service engineers who are only diploma holders or even ITI as they slog it out and produce results not only through rendering good service but also getting more service revenue. My view from the rich experience i have in the office automation industry.

    • JayadevM
      January 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      Thank you, Vasant.

      You are right. Engineers for routine service jobs in office automation is like going nuclear on the shaver. They will not find any value-addition. Some of them get stuck in such roles and sleep-walk through their careers.

      The second option indicated is the better one – with the right kind of support and encouragement they can work wonders.

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