This week one of my candidates called and said: "Hey, I am over 50 and I
just do not think I can get hired."
My comment was this kind of thinking was just nuts and he was crazy to think
for a minute he could not get hired for a great job selling "stuff that
matters" at an age over 50.
Selling stuff that matters—pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, software,
high tech is a very different game from selling widgets. A widget is
something where the only differentiator is price. So selling advertising,
selling copiers, selling undifferentiated stuff is just widget selling and
you are going to starve.
But selling widgets has a great side benefit—it teaches you the secret art
of prospecting. My thesis is different from all other sales training pros, I
believe prospecting is 95% of the sale. Maybe it is 99%. But is it not one
of 5 steps in a sales process where it is only 20%.
How does this take us back to selling at an age over 50?
Las month I had lunch with a recruiter for one of the top search firms in the
world. They hire CEOs. They never hire sales people. We were chatting
about what CEOs want.
CEO’s told him prospecting was a "dead art." Many of these CEOs came
from sales where they prospected endlessly using the phone, cold calling,
showing up knocking on doors. Then they succeeded and went to the top of
So they fully expected their sales reps would have the same sense of
urgency—the same desire to break through any hurdle to find a new customer.
Unfortunately, they were sadly disappointed. They found sales people were
waiting around for the "phone to ring." They found they could not find
highly motivated sales talent, no matter what the incentive.
Well, this is where my 50 year old candidate was in great shape. I took his
resume—the first step in his story, and I rewrote it in such a way as to
focus on his unique ability to prospect.
The entire top 70% of the resume went into detail about HOW he prospected and
how he measured success. Any sales manager reading this resume came away
with one message—the guy is a killer deal finder.
And that was the message I wanted. But then we went with a "negative
message." My candidate, during the interview process, told the hiring
manager in the first phone call—"Jim, every sales manager I speak with
says they are frustrated because their reps just wait around for the phone to
ring. I solve that problem." It opened the next question—why are you
able to do prospecting so well?
Then cam my candidate’s "negative positioning." "Well, because I
have been doing it for 30 years, I have sold out of my existing territory and
I need to sell a much larger footprint product."
That told the hiring manager that the reason FOR success was age, it was not
a reason for doubt.
And he got hired.