Why is Personal Responsibility Important When Recruiting Salespeople? – by Steve Suggs

When I was in high school I worked at a small country furniture and appliance store.  It was next door to a cotton gin. A country gentleman with a high school education and a natural sense of business owned both businesses.  All of his friends called him “Shorty”. He was short in stature but not in character.

During the period of 1950-1970 in most small rural southern towns, there were 3 businesses that were always successful: the cotton gin, the furniture store and the funeral home.  Farmers who sat on the tractor all day plowing their cotton wanted a comfortable recliner, and to keep mama happy, a washer that worked and a good refrigerator.

And, in the south we all wanted to look good and show off at two important events: Sunday church and our funeral.

Needless to say, Shorty was a smart businessman.  However, he was not perfect. Like many successful businessmen, he had high character, but was unsuccessful in coaching this same character in all of his sons.

How do I know this? Like many family business owners, he brought all three of his sons into the business.  One son shared the same character as his father, the other two did not.  I had four bosses who created a challenging work environment for me.

After listening to my weeks of complaining, my patient mother finally gave me some of her greatest wisdom.  She said, “We don’t run from our troubles. If you don’t like the way things are, YOU work to change them.”

As I wrongly interpreted what she said, my solution was, “So, I’ll quit and find a job somewhere else.”

Her response taught me the most important lesson in my life, “No, stay where you are and work hard to change how YOU react to how YOU are being treated.  YOU are not responsible for how YOU are being treated. YOU are only responsible for how YOU react to the way YOU are treated. Until YOU grow past this experience and send off some of YOUR rough edges, YOU will carry the same rough edges into YOUR next job.”

This was my life lesson in the character trait “personal responsibility”.

If someone has the character trait of personal responsibility, what is their attitude?

Defined, personal responsibility is the character trait that causes me to live by the wisdom, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I can choose my actions and reactions.  If I choose wrongly, I am responsible for the outcome of my wrong decisions and must live with the consequences.  To have the greatest impact on the outcome of my actions, I must choose to serve others with an attitude of service in love.

Where does personal responsibility come from?

It is an environmental, learned character trait. Character traits are taught/learned in the environment in which we grow up. Parents, school teachers, coaches, mentors and hard life lessons teach personal responsibility.

How does personal responsibility play out in the life of a high performing salesperson?

In sales, having enough of the right kinds of activities will mean the difference between failure and success. Finding enough prospects, holding enough first meetings and turning these meetings into enough presentations where you are successful in securing business is the activity model used by all successful sales organizations.

People with high levels of personal responsibility are masters at choosing how to spend their time. They understand the relationship between spending time on important tasks and the outcomes produced.  Choosing to phone prospects for first appointments at 9 a.m. instead of opening mail will produce the outcome of meetings with a new prospect, instead of a culled stack of junk mail.

A high level of personal responsibility will manifest itself in the way a salesperson views using activity tracking sheets to measure performance toward goal achievement.  Winning baseball teams track and publish the results of batting averages and field plays. Winners on the team like to see their results so they can make changes toward improvement.

As a manager, your new salespeople will either bring a high level of personal responsibility to the table or not. This is a character trait that is taught beginning at a young age.  Many teenagers and young adults who have not learned this trait will struggle with the challenging career of sales.

How do you spot this trait in the candidates you are interviewing?

Here are some evidences in the person’s biography:

  • They worked in high school/college for things like, living expenses, to buy a car, tuition, etc.
  • They have stories of challenging work and/or childhood situations where they persevered and worked to change the situation instead of running from it.
  • As an athlete, they experienced losing and changing their workout routine to get better.
  • When they talk about previous bosses, they do not blame and criticize, but talk about how they reacted positively and grew during a bad situation.

Interview questions to ask:

What has been the most challenging thing in your life that you have had to overcome? What caused this situation? What helped you overcome this situation?

In a previous job, describe a low point. How did you react to this situation? What was the outcome?

In a previous job, describe something that went wrong that was caused by your actions. What did you do to fix it?

Learn to recruit salespeople who, you know with a great deal of certainty can actually sell. Go to http://www.SalesManage.com/CanTheySell.


Steve Suggs is an expert at sales recruiting/hiring and is the author of Can They SellYou can connect with Steve at the above site and the following sites: