Judged by Your Rolodex

Sound familiar in some way?  Some think size matters, others think quality does.  I am of the opinion that sales organizations that look for sales people with a big Rolodex are putting the cart before the horse.  What really surprises me is that the word “rolodex” still exists in the vocabulary of the modern salesforce.  With today’s technology, there are far better places to effectively manage your contacts.

Having a well stacked contact list is not necessarily the best hiring criteria of a sales person, yet it still carries considerable weight.  I believe it is one of the worst measures and needs to be removed from the “must have” list.  Let me explain why.

The current state of social media lends itself to everyone having a big contact list.  I like the analogy of your phone book’s white pages.  If you live in or near a metropolitan area, the white pages contain thousands of names.  Do you know everyone included in the phone  book?  No, and that is my point. Same applies to your contact list.  The amount of time necessary to keep up with a rolodex that size leaves no time to do what a salesperson was hired to do: SELL! I’m not saying someone doesn’t have that many contacts, I’m saying that the relevance of the names to the position being filled is probably a fairly low percentage.  I say “probably” because the majority of salespeople do not move to another company that is selling the same line of products.  Ok, granted some do, but most don’t.

With today’s economy, an experienced sales professional (bag carrying or manager) is expected to have a list of contacts.  Personally, I keep 4-5 thousand names.  Sound like a lot?  Not really when you consider my list is broken down into an industry list.  Those individual lists are small in comparison to the whole.  The key is they are valid!

What I find truly amazing is sales managers still believe when they find a candidate that states they have contacts at Fortune 500 companies including the CxOs,  that this is going to be the hiring difference.  What makes you think IF you did have those contacts that the company would just rip out their existing product and plug yours in?  For every contact you have, an investment may not have run the course of the ROI.  There are few questions hiring mangers need to ask themselves:

There are situations where having the contacts is a good thing.  Selling services, which can and should be viewed as an intangible is probably a better use for the contact list.  In conclusion, the next time you hire someone, don’t ask about the size, rather how many names are relevant to the position.

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Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Experience, Hiring, Sales Tips

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