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Key Idea: Test, Train Tell The Truth When Recruiting

Recruiting and retaining over 100 productive sales reps is an on-going challenge at AMCI.  Testing, training and telling the truth are the three parts of its the success strategy.

Key Question:


Tell the truth.

Anne figured out early in her recruiting efforts that because she made her work look easy many saw her in action and and said, "I want to do what you do!" She would bring in any person who had a willingness to learn but over time this strategy wore her out. New reps would get a taste of reality and about when their training was complete they would be out the door.

Q: Why is it important to paint a realistic picture to sales people you might want to hire?

A: First, if you are a sales person, like Anne, you are a natural optimist. The book shelves are full of books on sales and the dozens we have read all talk about the fact that a sales person must be an optimist. Therefore, you see everything through those wonderful rosey colored glasses. You can't help but paint a picture of an exciting and cash-rich future to a recruit.

Second, if you are like Anne, you are driving a nice car, sitting in a lovely office and surrounded by the trappings of your success. The recuit sees themself in your shoes but the recruit doesn't know that sales come naturally to you and that you have worked at this for decades and that you have lost more sales than you have made and that you have the tenacity of a pit bull.

Third, you only want to invest your time in people who will stick with you. Anne had to learn that others don't want to work as hard as she does and that they are hooked on a paycheck and that they don't have enough savings to live stress-free for as long as a year while they build up their territory. Keep in mind that Anne's business model calls for independent sales reps who only earn commission. Being based in Dallas she saw both Mary Kay and Mary Crowley build sales organizations this way. Mary Kay Cosmetics has 1.3 million independent sales reps who are supported by a home office with 3,600 employees. Mary Crowley's company, Home Interiors, has over 100,000 independent sales people.

How do I attract and keep great people?

A:  Set up a hiring and training process and stick to it.


How did Anne develop the testing part of her recruiting cycle?

A: She hired an expert. That person studied the successful reps at AMCI and created a test that would help to identify the qualities needed for a person to win at AMCI.

What did we learn about her training plan?

A: All new people spend three days in intensive training mainly focused on the nuts and bolts of how to do business at AMCI. After that they are assigned a mentor for the first year.

Q: Should all of your training be focused on the sales people?

A: No. Certainly that's a good place to start but Jim Schell had a company with over 300 employees when the sales people asked for training. He hired a sales trainer and as a result the sales increased 35%. However, the rest of the employees where overwhelmed to the point that old processes broke down. We have to think of the entire supply chain and how every person in the organization is impacted by every other person.

Sales training and the need for it seems obvious to most owners but what about training employees who are not in sales?

A: Pam McNair who built a salon and spa company from zero to over 200 employees says employees need technical and communication training. She figured out early that the only way to grow a business is to grow a team of some sort. There is no way to get around it. People are the raw materials you must commit to working with, day in and day out, if you want to grow a company. Businesses that lead with service must fully understand this concept because delivering service requires psychological heavy lifting. Every service provider needs psychological muscle. Lots of it. Psychological muscle gives the employee strength to cope with mean, demanding people and even turn them into nice people. The strong employee can can bounce back quickly from a situation that made them feel bad. Training increases confidence and quality so it must be done regularly. After employees have the technical skill to deliver, Pam focuses on training that deals with the way people feel when they come to work every day.

Why does the owner have to deal with an employee's feelings?

When people feel good they do good. When they feel bad they do bad. This is especially important when you are delivering a service and when it is one as intimate as facials and haircuts, it is critical. Pam's goal is to create a place where every employee feels safe, calm and confident. Employees even said, Gadabout is, "one place you can count on in your life." This is an example of the trend we've experienced during the last decade of the 20th century. We have witnessed the break-down of the family unit and at the same time we see businesses trying to create a family-like feel in the workplace. Pam is on top of this. She was a single Mom for years and she has plenty of women at Gadabout who are the sole support for their families. It is clear that Pam is achieving her goal to be a great place to work.

A: When we taped the story of Pam's success, every person in the company had completed conflict resolution training. They all learned a four-step process to solving a problem. First, you feel the problem and calm yourself. Second, you deal with it by going to the person with whom you have the problem. You tell them you want to speak with them about a problem. You go to a place away from clients and colleagues. Third, you speak about the problem and listen to the other person. Fourth, you let go of the problem so that it does not affect the future. The big benefit of this type of training is Pam can now hold people responsible for dealing with conflict. Pam doesn't have to take people into her office and work with them to resolve conflicts. Pam is brilliant because not only will Gadabout as a company experience a higher level of productivity, employees can use these skills in their personal lives as well.

Great communicators can have what they want and do what they want in life. We see this proven in every field and while Pam is not a public speaker, she is a powerful communicator. She understands that communication is the oil in the service machine. Gadabout sells plenty of products but it leads with service and in all service-based businesses, communication becomes the product.

Think about it

Is your turnover high? Are you tired of recruiting and training? Have you put job descriptions and expectations you have for people in writing?

What do you do now to help people feel good about themselves? What can you start doing? Does your company need conflict resolution training? What can you do to improve your own communication skills? What kind of training is needed next and when should you offer it?

Clip from: AMCI with Anne & Michael McGilvray

Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City: This story begins like so many  stories, one person goes out selling. Her name is Anne McGilvray and she sold holiday cards. She became as a manufacturer's rep and grew her business to $2M in annual revenues. She then invited her husband, Michael, to join her.

Anne knows how to pick products that capture our lighter side, spark our imaginations, and make us smile; Michael controls the magic of technology that transformed this Mom-and-Pop shop into a $60M per-year major distribution channel to over 60,000 retail chains.  We discover two very talented people who find and work with creative, talented people. Spend some time with this episode of the show and you'll learn what it takes to have the magic touch.

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AMCI, Inc. (AM)

Anne McGilvray, Owner

2332 Valdina
Dallas, TX 75207

Visit our web site:

Office: 2146384438

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1975

Test, Train Tell The Truth When Recruiting

(Voiceover) All manufacturers' rep companies are basically sales organizations. The name of the game here is recruiting, training and retaining.

ANNE: About, I guess, two years ago, we introduced a program with our reps, and it was basically, who do you know? And so this is still in its infancy.

HATTIE: Is it working?

ANNE: It is working. We've got some good people as a result. Actually, if we had started it many years ago, there would have been many bonuses paid, because so many of our people -- we have mothers and daughters... and sisters and cousins and, you know, all the things that large corporations frown upon... This used to be someone would call the applicants we were interested in, you would talk to them on the phone for hour, hour and a half. And then we developed sort of an applicant packet... about this thick. And what they receive are copies of previous newsletters... ...talks about our reps and some of the things they do and their backgrounds. We send them a handful of catalogs, basically to say ...

HATTIE: This is it.

ANNE: `Is this the kind of product you would enjoy selling? This is representative of what we do.' And then at the page three, it says, `OK, you've read this far. Are you prepared for a very difficult first year?' You know, can you make...

HATTIE: ... no money the first year.

ANNE: Well, possibly, it could happen... We ask for a two-year commitment. Of course you can't hold anyone to that, but we say, `Really think about it.' And if you're not in a position, you know, financially, emotionally -- I guess that really isn't the word we use in the letter -- but to make that commitment, then, please, don't apply. We don't want to waste your time, our time, our vendors' time.

HATTIE: These are the facts. This is what it's going to take.

ANNE: Right.

HATTIE: And then you tell them ...

ANNE: And then we use a psychologist at that point.

HATTIE: Oh, you do?

ANNE: Yes. We initially used the head of testing and psychology at SMU (Southern Methodist University). And he developed somewhat of a profile, looking at our top reps.You know, what are the components that you see again and again and again? In the most recent years, we're hiring quite a few people who have been in sales. We used to not do that. You know, we're not hard sell. That's very important. But there are, you know, a certain style of selling. And certain things that we look for and expect from a rep that may not have been the case in their previous job. So the person comes under any circumstance to Dallas or Chicago or Los Angeles, depending on where they are, for three days of training. Two days, you know, nuts and bolts kind of thing... You know, how to fill out an order form; you know, concentrating on their product lines. And then one of the three days, we send them out into the field with a senior rep...

HATTIE: Bringing in a person in now is very serious. It's a serious activity. There's a training process. There's a big fat book. There's all this stuff you're working on. Is that because of mistakes in the past? Say...

ANNE: You mean mistakes in selection of hiring?

HATTIE: Yeah. Yeah.

ANNE: We still make mistakes. It just blows my mind.

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