Friday, April 24, 2009

The Dark Side of Management: People are Selfish and Greedy

Remember why you came to work today? Was it because you wanted to get started on making your company the best and most highly respected in the nation or the world? Probably not. You came to work today in order to make money to pay the bills and hope that there is a little left over to spend on yourself. You don't really care if the company makes a profit, you really only care if YOU make a profit. Will I have more income than expenses this week? Will I be able to take a vacation? Can I afford to go out to diner tonight rather than having to eat at home in front of the television?

Don't be ashamed. Selfishness and greed are two very powerful emotions that if harnessed properly can be both self-serving and profitable for any business. The secret is to find a way to create an environment where these emotions can and will serve two masters. How can that be done?

Aligning personal goals with professional objectives is the win-win of management today. Every employee in the company must clearly understand that the way they make more money is for the company to make more money. They must understand how going the extra mile will result in their personal gain. How will they be able to improve their lives by improving the service or products the company has to offer?

Compensation and incentive plans that are too complicated or take too long from the time of service to reward are not the answer. False hope and empty promises will do more to ruin morale than any other aspect of management. Reward programs must be easy to understand, directly tied to measurable outcomes, and frequent in nature. When you start to see small increases in your pay over a short period of time it will motivate you and others to keep up the good work.

Hire The Best, Weed Out The Rest: Recruiting Top Sales Producers

Hiring top sales people is the key to accelerating your company’s sales. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Yet even if you agree with this, we all know from experience that finding and attracting high performance sales talent is anything but easy. Getting this right is a combination of both art and science, and requires a real commitment to excellence.

A recent survey showed that 53% of all sales recruiting efforts lead to mis-hires. That means if your company does an average job in sales recruiting, you have a 50/50 chance of making a mistake. And nowhere is it more costly than in sales. Given the learning curve and sales cycle for a new recruit, it can easily take 6-12 months before you realize the person you hired is incapable or unwilling to sell for your company. The costs can be staggering: tens of thousands in expense, hundreds of thousands (or millions) in lost sales and margin, and as much as 1-2 years of lost momentum and market share to your competition. With so much at stake for your company, are you willing to accept these outcomes?

Fear not. It is possible to avoid these costs, as long as you recognize the potential pitfalls and work proactively to eliminate them. Here’s a set of rules that will help you in your quest for making top hires:

1. Know Your Requirements. Start by developing a clear job description that fully identifies the key skills and experience you’re looking for, the selling environment, the ideal candidate profile (hunter vs. farmer), sales objectives and key performance metrics for the position. This sounds easy, but if you skip this step, chances are you’ll end up with nothing to match candidates against – and that’s the start of a recipe for disaster.

2. Understand The Skills & Traits of Top Performers. Many managers hire sales reps that epitomize the stereotype of a top sales rep. They mistakenly believe that if a person can sell himself or herself through the interviewing process, that person must be good at sales. Dead wrong. Look for these key traits and skills:

Traits - Skills
Motivation To Succeed - Prospecting
Ego-Drive - Probing
Empathy - Listening
Service Orientation - Persuasion
Conscientiousness - Negotiation
Ego Resilience - Technical
Detail Orientation - Organization

3. Know Where To Look. Let’s face it. In this economy, placing an ad in the local paper or on job boards is not going to attract top sales talent. Why? Because the best sales people are already working, and probably not looking! If you want to find the best, you need to develop a highly targeted strategy. Start by finding out the names of top reps who are working for your competitors, and make a direct approach. Continue by contacting everyone you know in your industry network (including your customers), to get referrals, since most great hires come through people you already know. If these efforts don’t yield results, target top reps in companies that are selling complementary products to your customer base. Need help? A good headhunter knows exactly how to find the best people.

4. Sell the Job. If you want to attract the best, make sure to spend time developing and promoting your own company’s story. What’s your vision for the company? What’s your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? What’s your strategy to win in your market? What sort of growth and advancement opportunities do you offer to top performers? What makes your company a great place to work? Are you offering a job, or a real opportunity?

5. Develop a Rigorous Process, Then Stick To It. This is where companies often fall down: by going too fast and skipping critical steps. Hiring great sales people requires lots of time, commitment and energy. To do the job right, make sure your hiring process includes the following elements:

  • Build the right interview team, train the team on interviewing skills, assign different topics to team members, and make sure to debrief on each candidate.
  • Use behavioral interviewing techniques, rather than asking closed-ended questions.
  • Collect detailed sales achievement history from all candidates, by asking for a breakdown of their annual quota and actual results for the previous 3-5 years. Top producers have this information – under performers don’t.
  • Assign homework at each stage of the process, and watch closely to see how well candidates follow-up -- and follow instructions.
  • Validate your candidates sales skills, using an online sales profiling tool (we like the Express Screens at
  • Discard personal references, and insist on speaking to each candidate’s past 3-4 immediate sales supervisors. If they’re not listed, insist on talking to them anyway.
Hiring the right sales people is not easy, but no task is more important if you’re committed to achieving your company’s growth objectives.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Focus Your Search

If you are a top sales and marketing producer at the executive, mid-level, or frontline, and looking for a new job, make sure that you have a laser focus in your resume on what your career objective is. Spell out exactly the ideal job you are looking for at the front of your resume in succinct terms so that anybody who sees your resume understands exactly what you're looking for, why you would fit the opportunity that they are screening for, and how they can help you find what you want.

A good career objective includes the following elements: position, title, size of company, industry focus, duties and responsibilities, and overall cultural fit. By spelling out these elements, in clear, succinct, short sentences, you'll be doing yourself a great favor. Most recruiters and people who are looking for talent are really trying to figure out who lines up exactly with their requirements. They are trying to do a quick screen and a job match. By giving people a precise idea of what your career objective is and how it lines up with your experience; you will be setting yourself apart from most resumes which define their skills in very broad terms. Likewise, by doing this you'll also be able to get much better help from your colleagues and associates when you are out networking, looking for that next job and looking for referrals to that next job.

Why? Because people who you meet with to network are usually happy to help, but they need to know exactly what you are looking for, and you need to paint a picture for them in their mind that gives them a precise idea of the ideal situation that you'd be looking for in a new company. If you do that, and when you do that right, well connected people who are trying to help you will immediately know who to send you on to who might be able to help you land the job of your dream. Make sure your career objective is very well focused on your resume and that it covers the essential elements of your ideal job scenario. If you do this well, what are the chances that you'll get that ideal job? Well, a lot better than if you don't do this right.

Are Good Sales Professionals Available in this Economy?

Everyone keeps asking me "how is the economy effecting our business?" Well here it is. What we are seeing in our recruiting practice is that while there are a lot of people out of work, good sales professionals are not among them. While the economy is hurting, top sales professionals are still finding ways to sell their products and business is still getting done in many sectors of the economy. The majority of the sales professionals on the street today are merely the "farmers" that companies find hiding in their fields waiting for the phone to ring hoping someone wants to buy something

Companies are not letting their top performers go and why should they, they are the life blood of their business. In hard economic times, hiring top sales people is probably harder than in good economic times. We currently have over fifty sales positions open on our job board ( and the majority of the applicants that are applying for these openings are not qualified for the position but merely hoping to get their resumes viewed by a recruiter. These candidates apply for every position we have clogging our system, adding to the amount of time we have to spend weeding them out and explaining to them why they are not qualified for the positions they have applied to.

I understand their desperation, I really do, but what most unemployed sales professionals need to understand is that when we are in an "employer driven market" like we are today, employers can afford to be picky about the candidates they are willing to interview. No longer are they willing to except a "good sales person" from another industry. Why not? They are not wiling to interview or consider candidates that just a few short months ago they would have been happy to see because they do not want to train new sales recuits and they honestly believe that they can get someone out of their industry. They would rather wait for one of their competitors to go out of buisiness or do a second round of job cuts (at least they can get tier 2 players) or wait for that promising start-up to loose its funding knowing that these sales professionals will be willing to make the jump and usually for less money.

So what does this mean for the few good sales professionals out there looking for a new career opportunity? It means you are going to have to be willing to put up with longer interviewing processes (most companies are taking from 2 - 3 months to make hiring decisions), providing more documented evidence of success, have a book of business you can call on immediately (get close to your former clients now even if its just to say hi and update contact information), and be looking for positions in your existing industry (this is no time to be thinking about changing your industry no matter how bad it might be!).

And what does this mean for employers? While it might be an "employers market" today don't be fooled into believing that good candidates are going to be beating a path to your door. Finding and retaining top sales talent is now and will always be a difficult task. You should be examining your compensation plans, in a down market sales will be lower and commissions will be less. This may be cause enough for your top talent to start looking for other opportunities.

If you are looking to fill several critical positions - don't wait hoping to hire that "all-star" from the competitor, they may never come. If your sales are dropping off, the only way to grow in a down economy is to have more "feet on the street" asking for orders. The longer you wait, the longer your road to recovery. I'm a firm believer that "top grading" a sales staff is best done in good times not lean ones. So start looking for top sales talent, proven winners in any industry, the time to teach product knowledge in far less than it is to teach sales knowledge.