In Total Quality Management (TQM) there is a saying “quality can be free”.

According to TQM, the cost to quality only occurs with scrap and rework and not when it is done right the first time. So isn’t it possible that recruiting can be free as well? The challenge is: many companies have not prepared to recruit thoroughly. And you can hardly blame the Hiring Managers. The organization and reporting structure demands it that way and does not leave room for a thorough recruiting approach. A recruiter cannot change an organization. A recruiter is just expected to recruit successfully.

So how can a Recruiter implement quality to recruitment without trying to change an organization?

Talent acquisition is not enough. Neither is a vital isolated job description. In a first step a recruiter will need to come to a thorough understanding of who the company is. This requires talking to various Managers to understand how the company works and where the company is special. This is the starting point I used many times successfully to build a compelling story which catches first the attention and then the interest of the candidates. But before reaching out to candidates I need a proper understanding of the five main job tasks and their expected results. It no longer comes as a surprise to me that I met Hiring Managers who have never thought about defining job tasks beyond the obvious. It does take time to think about it. Rome was not built in one day. I just need enough information to get my search started. If the Hiring Manager really understands the importance of the job tasks then she will understand to use this as a basis to manage her team better and to unlock the potential of her team more effectively.

There are many ways to evaluate how much importance a Hiring Manager places on describing the job tasks and their expected results. One way is to understand if the Hiring Manager is looking for a candidate who has done the job or who can do the job? This also reveals much about the awareness to recruiting.

Finding answers to what makes a company so special

Both questions yield to a different set of candidate profile. If a recruiter wants to recruit quality, he will opt for the second question. But in reality most companies go for the first – “has the candidate  done the job before”? Having done the job before doesn’t tell us if they have done the job well. Top performers want to grow, do something new and are not after a lateral move.

Finding answers what makes a company special and what the new hire is expected enables me to recruit the most valuable candidates into companies. And there is no need for me to change an organization to be successful. However, I certainly would if I could.

I admit, one challenge are HR KPI’s. They measure time and cost and not the quality of hire.  These KPI measures are not helpful as they shift the focus of recruitment away from the best hire. To come back to the question. Can recruitment be free? It could cost much less and be done much better but that required a top down approach from the CEO. But as said, a recruiter cannot change an organization and instead can go on recruiting successfully regardless.

Have you ever wondered why some companies are so successful and innovative year after year and yet have the access to the same resources as anyone else? The same recruiters, the same consultants, the same machines. They do exactly the opposite of any other company out there. These highly committed, highly performing companies define a strategy once and leave it untouched for 15 years.

First, highly committed, highly performing companies start with a belief. This belief is always based on two beliefs: The future will be brighter than the presence and we are your partner to get you there.


The reality you live in is based on the belief you create.
And those who follow a belief do it for themselves.


To understand why a belief is that powerful, let us first look at the synonymes for belief:

Acceptance, assumption, conclusion, confidence, conviction, expectation, faith, feeling, hope, idea, thinking, trust, theory, opinion, position, suspicion, understanding, view.

Note that these synonyms are founded on emotions. And these synonyms are drivers of behavior. Some of them like trust and acceptance form values that leaders use to shape a true team spirit.


Now let us look at a few examples that illustrate the power of beliefes:

What is the world biggest and longest mobility? Christianity which is a belief.
Why do you take Vitamins and other pills? Because of beliefs.
Why do people invest in status? Because they believe that others believe …
Why do you vote for a party? Because you believe in change …
Why do you invest in stocks, gold and other assets? Because of believes in returns.
What happens after you bought stocks? You feel a kick somewhat like a drug addict because of a belief and emotions.
Why isn’t selling stocks as easy as buying them? Because of emotions and beliefs.
What is the greatest mover in man kind? Love. What is it based on? Beliefes and emotions.


On the contrary, are there any decisions based on facts only? Yes, when there are a number of factors present:

• Outcome is 100% predictable
• There are no other choices
• Step is inevitable
• Other pressures have much greater weight


Even then in an environment that is only fact based people may make an emotional decision which is against all rational. But there is simply not much room for making choices without emotions, without beliefs. Yet, Sales Professionals and companies expect these environments all the time and try to force buying decisions only on arguments, features and quality.

The belief tells anyone “Why” an organisation is in business. So the belief helps defining why an organisation is in business, why they do the things they do. This is exactly what successful companies, organisations, preachers and movements do: they start with Why.

People buy from you why you do it, not what you do. Prospects become long term committed clients because they understand „why“ an organization is in business, not what it offers. And most importantly: believers always do it for themselves. They follow you as they share your belief why you do things not what you do. And they follow you for themselves.

“We do things different” (Apple)
“We challenge the status quo” (Apple)
We challenge the complexity of …

Building and running an organization starts with the same exercise by defining one’s belief. But that exercise is neglected by most organizations. That in turn gives those enterprises a competitive edge that formulate their belief and preserve it like a treasure.

Before starting your business and reshaping the organization the first step is to create awareness what you believe in. That is why attracting the right candidates, suppliers and customers always starts with formulating one’s belief, one’s Why and not stating it’s products and services, it’s What. From the Why you follow stating your “How” and eventually come to the What which is then least relevant.
Even more use the „What“ beyond products and services by building in a feedback loop to continuously strengthen human interaction. This way products or services are not required to be perfect from the start and you can allow yourself time to continuously improve upon which is accepted by the customers, employees and suppliers.


Once you share a belief, you can lead it into something bigger, a higher purpose. When the organization is based on a higher purpose, the employees and stakeholders will not only work for money but they will work for sweat and tears. This is one of the best accelerators organizations can leverage on.

Why do you want to grow your business by 7%, 15% or 25% if those growths can be much higher at 80%, 150% or over 300%? Businesses are run by people, not machines or spreadsheets. People are at the centre of the business and they are attracted by the belief, the Why the business is doing what it is doing. Isn’t it time to release the full potential of your employees, clients and suppliers?

Ask yourself:
Would you consider purchasing a fridge from Dell? You probably wouldn’t.
But would you consider purchasing a fridge from Apple? You would probably look at it.

Why? Because Apple starts with „Why“ they are business. “We make things different”.
Then Apple goes on and tells it’s consumers How: “we make things intuitive, easy to use, slick design, perfection to detail”
Only then they come to What they offer: Music, PCs, Telephone, TV, Car…
Apple understood that customers buy from suppliers Why they do it, not What they do. Customers buy Why you do it, not What you do.

Whereas Dell jumps right into “What”. Today Dell lost even it’s How approach.

Some organization become aware that sales is achieved via emotions over facts. This approach stems from biology. The limbic brain is responsible for feelings and emotions. Why and How address the limbic brain directly. And when addressed, emotions are always stronger than arguments because the limbic brain can blog the neocortex, the part of the brain for reasoning and logic which evolved later in human beings.


Secondly, highly committed highly performing companies tell the customers how they do it.
We do it intuitively, easy to use
We give it a slick design not only outside but also inside (Apple)
Start with the user experience and work our way backwards to technology (Steve Jobs)
We align the understanding of all departments across the company by cross interviewing candidates, marketing interviews sales candidates…

That is why high performance, high commitment companies start with Why and How and only then come to What. That strategy carries them successfully for 15 years without the need of reorganization every few years. The What, the products and services, can be constantly adapted under the same Why and How. The What becomes less of a decision factor if Why and How have been defined and others follow you because they believe what you believe. Emotions and feelings are stronger than rational and thought. That is why it is a so much easier win to attract by emotions and feelings with Why and How and only then to underpin it with arguments and logic. If you leave out the emotional attachment, the mere discussions on arguments like features, price and quality end up in a never ending loop. Stop it and win them over by emotions, with why. Then underpinning it by What is a piece of cake.

Source: Simon Sinek

For a sales professional to be successful long term, one needs to have a plan before action, a strategy before deeds.

But what is a sales plan based on?

The sales approach needs to be something you as the Account Manager fall for, pull off and continuously improve upon.


 What a CEO can do to an organization, a Sales Professional can do to his personal career.


The Sales Professional can build a personal lasting sales career on the same three pillars as a CEO builds a resilient organization for lasting success:


  1. Commitment
  2. Performance
  3. Continuous improvement


Let us see how a CEO sells successfully to have others committed, perform and continuously improve upon.




Just like a CEO, in the first step you create commitment. As a sales professional you want to be commited towards your customer and want your customer to be committed towards you and your targets. How do you do that?


Shared believes create commitment


A commitment is a soft dimension, commitment is all about emotions not arguments. The basis for commitment is a set of believes and values that you share with your customers. The shared believes form a participation that is meaningful. A meaningful participation helps you to work together motivated to reach your business objectives. But be aware: no business objective is worth sacrificing your values for.


Let me give you a quote of the CEO of  Southwest Airlines, the most profitable airline in the world, who would not sacrifice his shared values over business objectives: “We’ve never had layoffs…we could have made more money but we don’t do that.”


For a Sales Professional that would translate to not treating customers as disposable. Instead, treasure your shared believes and values as the basis for commitment.


Relationships allow for ongoing commitment


For an ongoing commitment you want to establish a relationship.


Let us look what the Little Prince suggests by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It is the best selling book worldwide after the Bible and the Koran: the constraints to interpersonal relationships are jealousy, claim of ownership and superficiality. People today do not take time to get to know anything. They buy “ready to go”. But there are no shops where they can buy friends, so they no longer have friends.


Yet, the internet offers shops for making friends – Facebook. We have shops for relationships – Linkedin. But real relationships cannot be created in virtual networks. The networks facilitate the initiation. Real acquaintance or familiarity requires some sort of physical proximity, spiritual affinity, patience and freedom.


The fox and the little prince keep a distance to each other, step by step become more acquainted until they reached proximity, trust and finally a relationship.


Then the fox points out the consequences: „You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.“ In other words you are responsible for your customers, employees, friends you made yourself familiar with.


Sharing the same beliefs is the basis for commitment. Building a trusting relationship can lead to a lasting commitment. A sales person can go even a step further by defining a higher purpose.

The commitment that you created allows you to create something even bigger: a purpose.


The shared values and the relationship allow you work in a long term committed environment. To bring this even to a higher level one offers a higher shared purpose.  This is the highest form of commitment as it gives meaning and goes far beyond on  the individual job assignment.


Let us use Ernest Shackelton as an example to reach something far bigger. Ernest Shackelton (1874-1922) was a polar explorer who led a British expedition to the Antarctic. Their ship was trapped in pack ice and slowly crushed. But Shackelton succeeded in bringing back alive all 27 men because he had chosen his people with the same beliefs to pursue a bigger purpose. His job advertisement read:


“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success”.


For commitment you create values by sharing beliefs. A relationship ensures long term commitment. This in turn allows you creating something far bigger: a purpose.


How does this translate into sales?

Determine your personal sales approach.

The Instant Buddy: emotional approach: warm, friendly, asks questions and shows interest.

The Guru: expert on a more logical and less emotional approach.

The Consultant: combining the ‚guru‘ and ‚buddy‘ to work in the best interest of the prospect.

The Networker: Running an updated network to create flow of leads to provide most sales needs.

The Hard Seller: “scares the prospect into buying”.


Based on your personal sales approach, articulate your beliefs and values. Match your products, employers and customers accordingly.

Do not scarify your believes over objectives.

Build a relationship for long term commitment and for building something bigger, a purpose. The purpose could be spending an amount of sales revenues to charity.


This way you build a lasting sales career that you steer and are committed to.




In the second step you measure performance. Commitment was the soft dimension. Performance is the hard dimension. It is about arguments and facts not about emotions.


“Performance measurement is the process of collecting, analyzing and reporting information … to see whether output is in line with what was intended…” (Wikipedia).


Usually most attention falls on the hard dimensions. Mistakenly companies love to select Account Managers primarily based on their expected performance.


Performance strategy based solely on meeting financial goals is bound to fail.


A research study from Bain revealed that seven out of eight companies in a global sample of 1,854 large corporations failed to achieve profitable growth, though more than 90 percent have detailed strategic plans intended to achieve high-performance targets. (Kaplan, R., & Norton, D.P. (2005) “The office of strategic management”, Harvard Business Review, 83(10), pp72-80).


Let’s look at the hardliner Jack Welch, former General Electric (GE) CEO: what was in place so he succeeded with his ambitious growth rate between 22and 24 percent? Jack Welch allowed no discussions. GE would not have achieved the targets if it had allowed a debate about it. The focus was not on the past but on how to reach the targets. Let’s look at the success drivers which explain how to solve the paradox between required targets (performance) and commitment:


First, the (sales) manager must have a desire to achieve extraordinary numbers.

Second, the (sales) manager triggers a fact based discussion on the true environment the company is facing. This includes explaining how top management arrived at and the purpose of those numbers.

Third, (sales) management commits to give any resources required as long as they were managed well.


Beliefs and performance mattered under Jack Welch at GE


Jack Welch also replaced managers who were not in line with the company values. He powerfully communicated the connection between values and merit.


In addition Jack Welch made the 10% lowest performers redundant annually.


As a result, the firmness on this created a culture in which beliefs and performance mattered.


And for those of you who are into balance score cards: use them to measure the endeavor’s profitability as well as the commitment for improving performances of customers, employees and community alike.


How does this translate into sales?

You performance mirrors your inner desire. Match your true desire against the sales environment you are planning to work in.

As a sales professional you will be hold accountable. Ensure you may address openly what hinders you in performance so this can be sorted and not be used against your performance.

Ensure the availability of resources you need to excel in sales. This would include pre-sales consultants, budgets and marketing materials. You would also want to qualify products, process and supplier relationships for their maturity.



Continuous Improvement:

In the third step you continuously improve upon anything you measure and speak honestly about. The set of values and beliefs of “speaking the truth” allow honest conversation that in itself is a continued investment in one’s culture.


Eventually the culture becomes a MOAT – the protection to your business


The culture itself will strengthen your MOAT. The MOAT is your protection from competition.

Moat types:

1) Brand – pay more because you trust it. I.e.  Harley Davidson/Mercedes/UPS

2) Secret – patents.  I.e. Intel

3) Toll – exclusive control of the market.  I.e. Utilities

4) Switching – to switch is too much trouble.  I.e.  Microsoft/Apple/SAP …and Culture !

5) Price – cheapest producer.  I.e. WalMart/Aldi


How does this translate into sales?

Make sure an open and fact based conversation takes place. Do not look back but ahead of how the challenges can be addressed.


In conclusion management by commitment leaves out the pressure to perform. Management by performance leaves out commitment. Only all three commitments, performance and continuous improvement form an integral part for building a resilient sales and organization success for sustained advantage.

When I went to university, I was taught the strength of an economy requires individual interest rates. This approach proved to be highly successful. For the Eurozone, this conviction is gone: the authorities decided one interest rate can be set for all countries. Although the goal remained the same to build a resilient Europe for sustained advantage, the result has changed. We don’t see resilience, we don’t see sustained advantage. We see inefficiencies having led to a crisis.

Why is Talent Acquisition damned to be inefficient?

What is going on in the Eurozone compares with what is going on in many companies. The goal is the same: to build a resilient organization for sustained advantage. And most companies do not achieve it, some slide in a crisis.

Talent Acquisition is considered to play one of the first steps in building such a sustained advantage by putting the right people in the right positions.

However conventional recruitment is inefficient in building such a resilient organization for sustained advantage.

I will illustrate this with the following example:

Let us say our Recruiter George has to fill a vacancy of an Account Manager for the sales department.

As our recruiter knows, all interview questions can be assigned under one of the following three headers, so he defines the interview criteria for each header:

What is the qualification?

What is the motivation?

What is the fit?



Prioritizing the first qualification of a candidate, the Recruiter would search for candidates who fit the criteria “have done the job before”.


In the next step the recruiter would also evaluate the candidate’s motivation essentially by judging the excitement against the salary package: The fix pay, the variable pay, the possibilities of overachieving coupled with a multiplier uncapped. Wow, isn’t that exciting? The Recruiter would lift the candidate’s ego by joining the company of repute. All this looks like a sure motivation when underpinned by the candidate.


Recruiting „Talent“ is the goal. For sure, the Recruiter would also look out for communication skills, team spirit and flexibility to join the dynamic team. Sounds like a sure fit.

Our Recruiter George found a candidate that matched all the criteria from above. He filled that position and feels to have contributed to the long term success of the company.

 In fact, this approach by Talent Acquisition is inefficient. In his recruitment activity George the Recruiter has not contributed in building a resilient organization for sustained advantage.

This conventional recruitment approach fails. The success factors in recruiting are not the same as in sales. This change of success factors is likely to dissatisfy newly recruited employees and hiring managers alike. It will result in non-sustainable hiring. As a result the new hires will not stay very long and a replacement will be recruited. This will repeat itself and may be one factor to lead to a company crisis.


How can a Recruiter make Talent Acquisition efficient?

 Efficiency is when all team members pull and all success factors point in the same direction. This is valid across all organizations.

The success criteria of all departments have to point in the same direction.

 To recruit efficiently, George the Recruiter makes sure that the success criteria in the sales department, evaluating prospects, match the success criteria in recruitment, evaluating candidates.

In sales and recruitment, all questions for evaluation fall under one of the three headings:


Qualification – Motivation – Fit


In the following our Recruiter George matches the success criteria in sales with the success criteria in recruitment. As a result he will end up with a different candidate profile. That profile will be in line with building a resilient organization.



Who qualifies as a prospect in sales? In sales someone qualifies as a prospect who can buy the product. It is irrelevant whether the prospect has bought it before.

The Recruiter now matches this against a candidate:

Who qualifies as a candidate in recruitment? A candidate qualifies who can do the job. It is not of relevance whether the candidate has done the job before.

It is certainly easier to recruit someone who has done the job before. But is someone qualified because she has done the job before? That is an assumption. Efficient recruiting is based on facts not on assumptions.

As a result the qualification profile has shifted from a candidate “who has done the job” to a candidate “who can do the job”.  



What unlocks the customer’s buying motivation in sales? The standard answer is: a relationship. A relationship is based on sharing the same believes. In other words those customers are motivated to buy from you who believe what you believe.

The Recruiter now matches this against a candidate:

What unlocks the candidate’s work motivation in recruitment? A candidate qualifies who believes what the organization believes, what the department believes.

Efficient Talent Acquisition puts the believes in the center of motivation. If the candidate believed what the Hiring Organization believed, that candidate would be willing to work for sweat and tears.

As a result the motivation profile has shifted from a candidate “motivated by salary package” to a candidate “motivated by believes”.  



What customer is a fit in sales? Satisfying one customer need is not enough. For a long term fit, believes need to be aligned. A fit requires a balance between customer and seller.

The Recruiter now matches this against a candidate:

What candidate is a fit in recruitment? Recruiting Talent is not enough! A candidate qualifies who has a balance between talent and character/courage.

If the candidate evaluation in efficient recruitment followed sales then there needed to be a balance between talent and character. If a „Talent“ is hired as a Manager for example but doesn’t possess the character or courage to take on big tasks, he will never move forward and accomplish things. Vice versa if the character, ego or courage is greater than the talent, the new employee will take on tasks that are way too big for her to handle.

As a result the fit profile has shifted from a candidate “who is a Talent” to a candidate “who is in balance of talent and character”.  


A Sales Manager usually presses for quick acquisition of new clients and slow dismissal of nonprofit generating accounts. In Recruitment hiring is generally slow but dismissal of employees is quick. The recruiter George using the efficient Talent Acquisition approach will from now on look at the success criteria in  sales and recruitment to help aligning those more in parallel than in opposite direction.

Parallel success factors demonstrate parallel thinking. The alignment of the success factors across different departments is a measure for building a resilient organization for sustained advantage. In this case the Hiring Manager from sales alligns the assessment of a candidates with the sucess factors of sales.

Let me summarize the point of my blog with Steve Jobs on what brings an organization a sustained advantage: „Analyze the decision making and embed it in the culture“.


This blog is about unlocking the potentials in sales and recruitment. Why sales and recruitment? Because once you drill down they share the same thoughts and the same processes. You will be surpised to see…

So stay tuned, there will be more to come to unlock your potentials in sales and recruitment!

Until soon,



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