6 Lessons in Sales and Executive Leadership from the World of Retained Search, From Special Guest Blogger Russ Riendeau

Russ Riendeau

Our colleague and friend, Russ Riendeau from East Wing Search Group has helped us with an article as our “guest blogger.” I hope you enjoy it and if any of our loyal readers would like to become a “guest blogger,” please let us know as we are always interested in content that will help our clients.

Russell Riendeau, PhD– I do retained search, specializing in sales and executive leadership. Recently I had a couple of experiences with prospects that reinforced several crucial lessons I hope that anyone running a small or midsized business will find beneficial.  So, here we go:

Scene I: A CFO calls to discuss hiring me to find a sales professional for their company. He sends me the job profile and incentive program for me to review, which I do before sending it back to him along with my insights and some data, noting some real challenges in his documents that will make it tough to find the talent he needs. He pushes me to meet with him and tell him what’s wrong with their profile and comps. I suggest some ideas and remind him that I’m paid to deliver the rest of what he’s asking for, and that I’d be happy to go into it in further detail once he retains me.

“Nope, not yet,” he says. He wants more proof, and tells me he feels he’s getting the hard sell from me. I don’t feel that way, so I sit on the email a few days before responding.

Scene II: A little later a president and Vistage member of a different company calls me via a referral. He needs a new VP of Sales. I share my insights, data, methodology, etc. He likes what I have to offer ands agrees to retain me on the spot. Great! So I send an invoice for over $10,000 to begin the search. We meet in a week to design and update new specs to fit the new world at work. It will be a successful project, no doubt.

Scene III: I email back the first CFO and share the story with him from “Scene II.” I suggested that, based on my experience, it’s better that I not work with him, as he’s too skeptical to embrace my ideas. I tell him I understand and respect his views. I was nice, professional, firm and tried not to sound elitist. My intention was genuine.

I’m waiting to hear his reply today.

Now there were six lessons reinforced, as I see them right now:

  1. Missionaries don’t get paid well. Work with companies that believe in the product or service you provide. Then, do it better or different in some way.
  2. Referrals are more profitable than prospecting. If you give value to your current clients, they’ll do the prospecting and promotions for you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a doubter. Tell them you are walking away. When they come back begging to work with you, you will be in control.
  4. Have good data and documents to shore up every statement you make. Opinions aren’t valid without data of proof.
  5. It’s not the price. It’s their lack of perception of your value, and it’s your duty to point out the real costs they’ll incur if they don’t use your services.
  6. It’s really fun and empowering to say NO to working with someone that you can feel will be a struggle. It boosts self-confidence and gives you the courage to believe in yourself and abilities.

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