The Myth of the Rolodex
It is almost an age-old cliché that many managers and CEOs want to hire salespeople who have a “good rolodex“. Unfortunately, many of these decision-makers are duped by this old-school philosophy.
In my experience, a good rolodex is a measure of a salesperson’s potential in very few industries. If your company sells insurance, financial planning and/or other professional services, then the balance of this article will not apply to you. If, on the other hand, you’re involved with sales in other industries, approach the next candidate that you are evaluating with caution.
In the 35 years that I’ve been coaching and consulting to small and medium businesses, I’ve seen hundreds of salespeople claim that their rolodex would accelerate the profitable transition of that prospective employee into a client’s company. Unfortunately, very few of these claims ever come true and, if they do, the timetable to realize new business from the new employee’s “rolodex” is always longer than either the employee or the hiring manager had anticipated.
Although the ego of the employee says that the “customers are buying because of me“, in reality that’s true only at the beginning of a new customer relationship.
As the customer makes subsequent purchases, the customer becomes bonded with the ability of the company to deliver excellent results. The older the relationship is, the more important the people in the seller organization (other than the salesperson) become.
If they are buying regularly, the orders come in as specified and, in the events of any “hiccup”, it’s resolved promptly and professionally, the customer does not credit the salesperson for these excellent results. Consequently, when the salesperson leaves the previous employer and attempts to bring that customer to a new employer, there may be a surprise in store for the hiring manager as well as the salesperson.
Long-term customer relationships are frequently the result of excellent execution of orders, not excellent salesmanship.
When you’re evaluating the quality of a candidate’s rolodex, make sure that you clearly understand what role the candidate plays in delivering those results.
For instance, the CPA that has worked with my wife and me for over a decade recently changed firms. We had no compunction or hesitation in shifting our business to the new firm, due to the fact that the results that we have achieved were delivered by the CPA. If the results were delivered by someone other than the CPA, I would’ve been less inclined to make that move. I’m sure you have had similar situations in your life.
Also, in today’s world, the value of the salesperson’s relationship (from the customer’s point of view) is far less than it was in the not too distant past. As a matter of fact, some companies regularly reassign their purchasing decision-makers in an effort to prevent the sales representatives calling on them from creating relationships that go beyond the objective evaluation of a product or service.
As always, regardless of the size of the salesperson’s rolodex,
- You must assure that their selling style aligns with your company.
- You must also assure that the new salesperson can do your job the way you want it done.
Relying on the rolodex is a gamble that most companies can’t afford to take.
For instance, did the salesperson inherit the rolodex? Or, did he/she create it?
These and many other questions are asked and answered in my webinar Recruiting Sales SuperStars, Now!
Click this link to register for that webinar, and you’ll see how important the behaviors of salespeople are when evaluating their potential to work for you.