Hire an athlete!

The age old debate, do we hire a sales person with industry experience or do we just get the best darn sales person we can find? I hear this conversation often. Today I heard the best answer.

A colleague suggested:

The answer is neither, we need an athlete! I’ve always believed that being a professional athlete and a professional salesperson have a lot in common.

As a pro athlete, you wake every morning starting again at zero, understanding that your success is based on how you perform in the next game. There is no tenure, no taking it easy because you had a great game yesterday—it’s today’s game that matters. Athletes have an unwavering commitment to self-improvement and exceeding goals.

That was a great way of reframing the discussion, but it is clear in these remarks that industry tenure is not at the top of the hiring list for this leader.

Then, just minutes later on Breakout, investor, entrepreneur and author Wayne M. Rogers discussed insights gleaned from his successful career. This is a financial investing show and it may be easy to dismiss Rogers as an actor dabbling in investing; a mental lightweight getting attention because he played Trapper John on M*A*S*H. It would also be a mistake. Rogers has seen it all, done it all, and written the book.

Rogers was asked about how he picks good companies to invest in.

“Look first at management.” he says. “That’s the key to a company.” Rogers doesn’t need a CEO who’s filled the exact same role in other companies but rather the innate skills to handle different tasks.

Anyone can fill their resume but the ability to inspire confidence in the troops is more rare. A good company head realizes he or she is “a manager of people, rather than a manager of that specific business.”

As an example, Rogers points to Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, a company he owns. A longtime Boeing exec prior to taking the top job at Ford, Mulally steered the company through the 2008 financial crisis without taking TARP money and still managed to keep the company focused enough to create products customers wanted three years later.

Whether it’s a sales role or the top spot in leadership, these are two good points made for skills other than tenure and industry experience.

photo by peterm7

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