Given equal amounts of effort, the more skilled your staff, the higher your production. But what is the most cost-effective means of increasing skills and production?
There are now a number of video and audio products available, some of which are excellent. Many owners and managers possess great knowledge to impart. Yet without a solid foundation, that critical information will be absorbed imperfectly, if at all. That foundational knowledge can be most easily and inexpensively learned from the right industry-specific book. Yet this major benefit only scratches the surface of what your firm can gain from this indispensable tool.
Do you suspect you or your staff are not "readers"? Oh, yes, they are! You have just been trying the wrong books. Adult education is different from the school reading you remember. Adults learn best when they can directly relate the material to its intended purpose. A book originally designed for the insurance industry, as an example, will probably not be read or utilized by a non-reader. A book written in our language however – interviews, search assignments, candidates, closing, etcetera – most certainly will be. Let’s look at what such a book has to offer.
While the benefits of a good training manual and reference guide are overwhelming, perhaps the best initial use is before a new consultant comes on board. The benefits of a solid foundation on which to build for a new person are clear. Not so obvious, but even more effective, is the use of a book as a selection device.
The list of qualities that are desirable in a search consultant are numerous. Of them all, however, perhaps the most important is a strong desire to succeed and the commitment to work hard to do so. "The world is full of willing people," said Robert Frost. "Some willing to work hard -- and others willing to let them!" What manager has not invested massive amounts of time and effort in a new consultant only to find the desire to learn was lacking? The earlier this can be determined, the better.
A top-quality modern industry-specific book is the answer. Give the book to the new consultant before he or she comes to work. Tell him to read, highlight, or underline the book, and to show up on the first day of work ready to discuss it. Date, sign, and inscribe the book ("To Bob...a future superstar") to encourage the new consultant to do so.
A motivated ambitious hard-working potential consultant will do exactly that. A probable failure will barely glance at the book, and will certainly not underline or highlight it. How much wasted time, effort and money could your firm have saved if this methodology had been followed?
The best book for this purpose is the comprehensive hardbound book Search and Placement! A Handbook for Success by Larry Nobles. Visit www.larrynobles.com for details.
Any training given by the manager – lecture, demonstration, explanation – is far better received if there is a foundation of knowledge. Without such a basis, much of the explanation of the manager simply goes "over the head" of the new consultant.
What is a search assignment? Why is taking a thorough one important? How does one select the right candidate to present? Why is daily planning critical? What does "follow-up after interview" mean? Such basic questions as these may not be clearly understood by the new person, regardless of management explanation. Yet the new person may not ask for fear of appearing ignorant. Or the new consultant may believe an understanding exists, yet in reality be unclear.
As a result, regardless of the quality of instruction given by the manager, the message may not get through. Imprecise understanding yields inadequate implementation. This leads to wasted time and effort by the manager, who will have to repeat, repeat, repeat over time until the light dawns on the new consultant…if it ever does.
A good manager has a wealth of knowledge to impart to new people. But without some foundation, that knowledge will not be absorbed. A top-quality hardbound book written for our industry which is read and highlighted before the new consultant reports to work is the best and least expensive way of enhancing understanding.
Perhaps the best way of consistently improving the skill level and production of an office is a program of regular, productive, effective sales meetings. Most managers recognize this.
The time involved in organizing, planning and outlining a good sales meeting in advance from scratch, however, is substantial. A professional sales trainer will invest a great deal of time in preparation for even a short presentation. Yet most managers will try to conduct a meeting without any advance thought. Results of such a meeting will be meager.
Even arriving at the topics for a productive sales meeting is not easy. Repetition of topics leads to redundant subject matter, boredom, and little learned.
It is critical to separate information-swapping sessions from skill-improvement. A sales meeting is not a listing and discussion of best candidates or search assignments, or a recitation of current assignments. Such topics may well be indicated, but are not, strictly speaking, sales meetings and should not be blended with skill-improvement sessions. The purpose of a sales meeting is to improve production by improving the skill level of the individual consultants.
The easiest least-expensive way to accomplish this is with the aid of a comprehensive, industry-specific book for each consultant. Here’s how it works. Sales Meeting Format
What should be the format for the least expensive – in money and management preparation time – and most productive sales meeting?
First of all, every consultant must have his own book. It is cheapness and foolishness for the manager or a consultant to attempt to explain what is in a chapter. Maximum results can only be obtained by advance preparation by the participants. Reading and highlighting the material to be discussed is mandatory.
Secondly, the chapters to be discussed must be stated in advance. The entire group needs a "track to run on," not just floundering about on a subject.
Thirdly, in addition to highlighting, each person should put stars in the margins of the book, next to either a new idea or an important idea which is not being fully implemented.
Fourthly, in addition to discussion of what has been highlighted (or not) by individual consultants, someone must take notes as to these new ideas for a later follow-up meeting. This could be a secretary. This can be easily done by simply marking a book in a different color, and the marked passages typed out and distributed for review. Don’t do too much. Three new ideas per meeting is plenty!
Finally, the meeting should end on a note of "what was left out?" A brief discussion of ideas not mentioned will give consultants a sense of creativity, will disseminate knowledge throughout the group, and will add surprisingly to the positive energy and confidence of the firm.
The problem with experienced people may be two-fold.
First, many who think they know this business actually learn just enough to get by and be productive. Especially in a strong market, this lends to an inadequate knowledge of the industry and limited skills. These may be sufficient for a strong market. However, the result is reduced production and an inability to adjust to the changing market that will eventually be encountered.
Secondly, of course, people do drift away from good habit patterns. It is obvious that many consultants forget to implement the physical steps of success such as daily planning, desk organization, keeping track of appropriate numbers. What is not so obvious is that sales skills can also deteriorate. From the foundational methodology taught to new people to far more advanced techniques, rebuttals and closes, experienced people need ongoing reminders to maintain.
Finally and most importantly, new material and a sense of forward progress are essential to stave off boredom leading to deterioration.
The most-cost effective tools to prevent or correct these situations is an appropriate book. Again, those who believe their people "don’t read" have simply not tried the right book. An in-depth well-written industry-specific book will be read, as it directly applies to day-to-day business.
The first step is a comprehensive training manual and thorough reference guide. This will be well-received if accompanied by the phrase an old manager once told this author. "Nobody is smart enough to remember all he knows!"
The strong likelihood is that such a book will identify areas that can be strengthened to increase production. But even a well-trained highly-competent consultant will find things he used to do…but from which he has drifted away. The book must be underlined or high-lighted to enhance retention, and repeatedly reviewed. There is much much more to this business than a "foundation". But even for experienced people, that is the place to start. The only such book available to our industry may be found at www.larrynobles.com.
Once this step has been followed, more in-depth sophisticated material is indicated. There are definitely excellent sales-oriented video products available. A person who must commute some distance to work may find a number of good audio cassette products to be quite effective. However, the first and least expensive place to look is the right book.
This is an area where generic non-industry-specific books will be helpful: A visit to a large used-book store (or the internet equivalent) will yield many books that will benefit anyone. The truly timeless works of Charles B. Roth, Frank Bettgar, J. Douglas Edwards/Tom Hopkins will be beneficial in improving sales skills.
However, a substantive high-content industry-specific hardbound book is certainly more immediately-beneficial. The subtitle of the author’s own book Breakthrough! is "How to Explode the Production of Experienced Consultants". Only an industry book designed for this task can be expected to do so.
Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that appropriate gifts at an appropriate time can significantly strengthen loyalty and commitment. This is as true in a business relationship as in a personal one.
There is no better business gift than a business book. Apart from the content, a warm and confident inscription ("with all personal best wishes for even more success") will be a reminder of the owner’s belief in the consultant every time the book is referred to (which will be frequently with the right book). It also gives the consultant permission to underline or highlight the book, as no one will do so in someone else’s book.
Mentioning that the gift comes with "strings" – that it must be highlighted while reading – will ensure maximum results.
If your firm does "splits" with other recruiters either through networks, franchises or on your own, you will find that an inscribed and autographed business book is an ideal tool to strengthen the relationship, and to ensure cooperation and good will in the future.
With a new year just beginning, this is a timely idea. Industry-specific books are best and several have already been mentioned. However, the author’s book Breakthrough! has an entire chapter of book reviews on the best generic books on sales and management.
It is worth repeating that these massive and truly long-term results are available quite inexpensively. Even for larger firms, the total cost of appropriate books for each consultant is minimal.
The cost of selecting the wrong consultant, of an inadequate foundation of training, of less-than-adequate sales meetings, or of not fully developing or challenging an experienced consultant is shockingly high.
When one compares the negligible cost of a book with the superb long-term reward, it will be clear that the right books for each consultant represents the best possible investment for any recruiting firm.