The Misperceived Value of a Rolodex

By David Nour

 Ask any sales manager what the top qualities they want in the next great sales hire are I would be surprised if a strong Rolodex wasn’t near the top of that list. But if you carefully consider its characteristics, the Rolodex itself is purely transactional. It’s perceived or underlying value is desired relationships which, by definition, lead to accelerated access, enhanced go-to-market, or extended reach at a much more attractive cost of sales.

Unfortunately, like many transactional measures, a Rolodex seldom has the means to represent more than its quantity. Two greater attributes often missed in the analysis of the ultimate value of that Rolodex are the diversity or quality of the individual it contains. What percentage of that Rolodex includes C- or V-level executives? How long have those relationships existed? Could you document a natural quality progression of those relationships? How many are invested in daily? What has been the documented repeat or referral business from that Rolodex? Has the inherent built-in trust ever been battle tested?

Author of Topgrading for Sales, Greg Alexander, along with Dr. Brad Smart, gathered interesting insights from over 6,000 interviews with sales professionals over a 20-year period. The research highlighted that many publically traded companies demanded monthly or quarterly quota performance from their sales organizations, a practice that resulted in a strong shortsighted focus by the individual sales reps.This high transaction-centric focus versus investment in the longer-term viability of key relationships toward establishing a foundational level of trust was identified as a major mistake.

“I attribute the success of individual reps to three critical areas: 10 percent knowledge, 10 percent luck, 80 percent relationships,” commented Greg. “Sales professionals with long-term careers who have succeeded through various economic cycles, selling for multitudes of companies understand and leverage the transferability of their personal brands.”

Jim Collins of Good to Great fame is notorious for highlighting the need for asking the who questions and getting the right people on the bus. His research clearly outlines that people can likewise be a quantifiable strategic asset and any investment in an organization’s human capital is surely to produce an above-market-rate ROI as the global war for talent continues to strengthen. Beyond the cliché that people are among an organization’s greatest assets, they are also quantifiable and strategic soft assets. Similar to a brand promise, people are added to an organization because of their promise to deliver quantifiable value. Only through adherence to a systematic process of a search for great talent, assessment of their appropriate fit (I’m often amazed at how many organizations “settle”); thorough on-boarding, training and development of their broad-based business acumen (versus simply their functional expertise); and consistent organizational alignment (for not only what the business needs today, but where the business is headed) and outplacement of a “wrong fit” with the least amount of disruption to the business, will an organization be able to fully gain the value of people as a strategic soft asset. That’s people promise, value, and equity realized.

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