How to Snag a Superstar

By Heather Baldwin

Did you know that 52 percent of salespeople would give up after only one rejection? And that only 4 percent will try more than four times? Yet today it takes 8.4 rejections to get a meeting, says Chet Holmes, CEO of Chet Holmes International, an organization that shows companies how to achieve dramatic increases in sales ( The lesson here is that if you want to see extraordinary sales growth, you need to hire someone in that 4 percent who will barrel into a client eight times after the client has said no.” It may sound like it is easier said than done, but not if you follow these pointers from Holmes:

1. Age and background are irrelevant. Don’t hire for sales experience – hire for the psychology of a superstar. Consider that Holmes recently hired a 70-year-old man – a former line producer for feature films, no less – who has unmatched skills for getting top executives on the telephone. Holmes also saw a winner in a woman who once tried to sell him a sweater in a clothing store. He hired her and she wound up running three divisions of a company run by Holmes. And one of his greatest finds came from a stereo store – a persistent young man who is now a millionaire. “I’ve hired 24-year-olds who have out-sold 20-year veterans,” he says. “So disregard age and background.”

2. Design an ad to attract the superstar. Holmes’ ads begin like this: “SUPERSTARS ONLY: Don’t even call unless you are an overachiever and can prove it.” To weed out the real superstars from the wanna-be’s his ad asks candidates to call between 12:00 and 2:00 only. Holmes then spends two hours a day for five days screening calls. “I make it a point to talk directly to the respondents on the telephone before interviewing them,” he says. The reason: he acts gruff and unimpressed with anything they say to see how they respond. “A top producer will not be intimidated,” he explains. “If they can’t talk their way into an interview, what makes you think they’ll ever talk their way into a meeting with an important prospect?” Find out early on how they handle rejection and you’ll save a lot of time and money, he adds.

3. Interview using the “Relax, Probe, Attack” method. First, help the candidate relax by being friendly and a good listener. Next, tell the candidate that you hire based on psychological profile rather than sales experience and then probe into their history. Ask about their childhood, mother, father, how they grew up, situations in which they showed true grit. “If they become uncomfortable, you don’t have a superstar,” says Holmes. “Superstars like to bond with others.” Finally, “attack” by saying something like, “You seem like a nice person, but to be truthful, I don’t get the impression you’re really a superstar.” Tactfully suggest the person doesn’t have what it takes. Lots of candidates will crumble here, but not the superstar. “They have tremendous faith in themselves, and nothing can convince them they can’t do any job,” says Holmes. When you find such a person, hire him/her.

4. Establish a performance-based relationship. Offer the job with little or no base pay, but great commissions. Superstars don’t want a salary or hourly rate – they want a percentage of the deals they close because they have absolute faith they’ll close the biggest deals and shatter every sales record. But make sure you word it properly in the ad. One of Holmes’ clients paid its reps $9 per hour, plus commission. The client printed that rate in his ad and attracted just that – $9-per-hour kind of talent. But the client’s top producer was earning $92,000 per year. When the client changed the ad to read, “Can earn as high as $100K if you are a star,” he attracted a dramatically different pool of candidates.

You could train your sales reps to go back again and again in the face of rejection, but it makes much more sense to hire someone with that kind of persistence in the first place, says Holmes. “The type of person I’m talking about is someone you can put in a bad situation with poor tools, no training, bad resources and still, within a few months, they begin to outsell your best salespeople and build your company in ways you never dreamed possible,” Holmes concludes. Find this person using Holmes’ techniques and watch your sales skyrocket.