We were recently retained by a leading US pharmaceutical company to find its next sales director. I pushed back in my seat and waxed eloquent to our client about the behavioral characteristics of the type of candidate I imagined he would be seeking. I explained he was probably looking for a candidate who is polished, charismatic, driven, and goal oriented—someone who loves new challenges and uses authority to take risks and make decisions. He or she also loves autonomy and freedom from routine and mundane tasks, seeking out and conquering challenging activities and mastering projects that produce tangible results.
Our client smiled knowingly in agreement and said we’d hit the nail on the head. He then went on to describe his mentor, with whom he had worked in Singapore, as having the heart of Hafid, a character from The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. He explained that she had some of the characteristics I had listed about top salespeople, but this was hardly insightful. His remark wrapped me over the knuckles. He continued:
People who have the heart of Hafid are those who understand and love the customer. The customer is KING. They’re empathetic; they take the time to understand their customer not simply based on facts and figures but emotionally, too. They greet every day with love in their heart. They live in the market, and they persist, talk, and engage. The information gathered is rarely an anomaly—it is a piece of the market, and they are always thinking and linking and putting the pieces of the puzzle together. They are masters of their emotions and are able to ask penetrating, insightful questions to unearth key information. They understand that there are always two answers: the first one sounds pleasing or acceptable or is a brush-off, and the second one is the real reason. They have an ABS (Always Be Selling) mind frame. They understand that selling is not pushing but presenting information.
Our client explained that his mentor was always grateful for the wins and losses of the day and had a deep understanding that today’s failures are stepping-stones to the successes of tomorrow. He said she would go out of her way for her customers and not just in the business sense: she understood her customers’ likes and dislikes and was friendly without being too familiar. One of her favorite books was David Allen’s Getting Things Done. She didn’t procrastinate; she did first things first. I smiled and said we might have to wait for the messiah to make a reappearance. His smile doubled, and he said “Oh, yes, she had that, too: a great faith that tomorrow would be a better day.”