The Most Dangerous Sales Weakness

Sales is a difficult role, I would argue the most difficult role, in any company.  The skill set and mind set required to be successful is rare in the general population.  Yet, strong salespeople are out there and hopefully on your team.

However, most teams that we assess have a salesperson (or more) who is not performing up to expectations.  This salesperson seems to have the tools, but something is holding him or her back.  The concern I always have, in this situation, is that they possess the most dangerous sales weakness.

Fear of rejection.

For sales, this is the big one.  This weakness can single-handedly neutralize any strengths the salesperson possesses.  The powerful issues with this weakness is that it can stop the salesperson before they even start.  Their fear of getting a “no” will paralyze them in difficult situations.

The key is simple, yet utterly difficult to overcome.  The salesperson must learn to separate their value from their performance.  Imagine an actor playing a role in a movie, the actor’s portraying someone else (i.e. a performance).  Sales requires a similar mindset – it is a performance that does not tie directly to their value.

I know, we want genuine salespeople, not fakes.  The separation of role vs. identity can be achieved while still maintaining an authenticity to the sales role.

The best advice I can provide – assess for this ability before you hire them.  We can help.

3 Tips To Hire Salespeople

From the Harvard Business Review Tip of the Day email:

Most companies spend more on hiring in sales than they do in any other part of the organization. With an average annual turnover rate of 25 to 30%, and direct replacement costs ranging from $75,000 to $300,000, there’s a big opportunity for improvement. Here are a few places to start (emphasis mine):

  1. Focus on behaviors. A primary cause of turnover is poor job fit. Consider ramping up assessment tools, simulations, and interviewing techniques to help identify the right people. Or, try temporary positions to assess people on the job before offering a full-time position.
  2. Be clear about the relevant “experience” needed. Make sure that a candidate’s previous experience really aligns with your own market, geography, culture, customer groups, and technologies.
  3. Conduct on-going talent assessments. Salespeople need to constantly adapt their own skills to changing markets and buyer motivations, and managers need to vigilantly track those skills.

If you make only 1 adjustment to your sales hiring process, make the change to using the right sales assessment.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with sales assessment tools for the past 15 years and the reason they are effective is this – they neutralize hiring bias.  Every one of us has natural biases towards ourselves whether we are aware of it or not.  This bias can corrupt a hiring process especially if we are sitting across from a sales candidate with highly-developed people skills.

The beauty of assessments is that they are objective.  When you use them earlier in the hiring process, you maintain objectivity longer which is fundamentally important.  The hiring decision will ultimately come down to a human-based decision which introduces bias.  There is not avoiding that fact.  The key is to limit the bias to candidates that you have objectively assessed and are certain that they have the right blend of behaviors, skills, motivations and aptitudes to be successful in your specific sales role.

If you want to learn more about our unique process, please contact us here.

25 Fastest-Growing Job Titles for 2016

From Monster.com, I doubt you would guess what is number 1…Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers.  Seriously, there are 13% more of them now than 1 year ago.  Number 2 you might actually get – Registered Nurses which makes sense with the aging Baby Boomer generation.

Sales Managers made the list, but you will have to follow the link to find out at what spot they landed.

Best Notes Are Hand-Written?

This is a good Monday morning topic – note taking.  I am a Microsoft Surface user and happily so.  It is an amazing tool that allows you to switch to tablet mode and take hand-written notes.  But let me add this bit from Harvard Business Review (emphasis mine):

Few people bring a pen and notebook to meetings anymore. Instead of taking notes by hand, more and more of us take them on a laptop or tablet. This change makes sense: Digital devices just seem more convenient, plus they let you multitask during the meeting. But research has found that there are real benefits to taking notes by hand. Studies have shown that typing encourages mindless, verbatim transcription of what you’re hearing, but writing by hand helps us take both fewer and better notes. Longhand’s slower pace forces us to record ideas more succinctly and in our own words, which boosts our ability to recall those ideas later. After all, notes should help us quickly remember the most important points, not the entire meeting. So try bringing a pen and notebook to your next meeting – your memory will thank you.

You can see where I am going with this…you can take notes on a tablet.  And those notes are not digitally stored on your device so you never have to find the paper you used for your notes.  Anyway, I did find the part about typing to be most interesting, and true.

Don’t be a stenographer.

Write succinctly in your own words.  That is sage advice to follow beyond note taking.

One Third Of CEO’s Are Worthless In Sales

Those aren’t my words but rather the findings from a Selling Power survey.  From the article:

A recent Selling Power online survey found that 29 percent of sales leaders judged their CEO useless when it comes to creating a sale.

Almost one third and I think I have worked for all of them!  The savvy sales CEO is a rare bird indeed.  Of course there is more to the article than just this survey.  The author focuses on the customer experience as seen through your salesperson representing your company in the market.  This representation is critical in making a successful sales hire – you have to envision the salesperson selling for your company.  Will they represent your company well?  Do they convey the right image, manners, professionalism?  These are not trifle matters when dealing with sales.

The same can be said for you CEOs.  The company’s culture flows from the CEO downward into the entire team.  CEOs who undervalue sales often struggle with teams that follow suit.  I’ve seen these companies first-hand…they have an engineering culture, a finance culture, a manufacturing culture…everything except a sales culture (which I would argue is the most important of them all).

I leave you with a prime example from the article:

A CEO whose company credo states, "We believe in candor and open communications" complained about how hard it is to communicate with salespeople. He said, "I can’t rely on their forecasts, I can’t rely on their data in our CRM system, and I can’t make strategic decisions based on their input." What happens when the CEO responds to salespeople with doubt or skepticism? The CEO’s doubt impacts the salesperson’s experience with the company, which inevitably echoes back to the customer.

It’s All About Their Career Path

LinkedIn recently surveyed over 10,000 people who changed jobs in 2015 to find out why they made a change.  Some interesting findings:

#1 reason they left – Lack of advancement opportunities (45%)

#1 reason they choose their new employer – Career path & opportunity (59%)

I’m convinced that there are always a myriad of reasons behind a job change, but the primary reason is simply the most interesting.  I’ve been beating this drum for some time, but it warrants repeating – you must provide a general career path to all new hires today.  Many times in sales the thought process is to simply hire a strong salesperson and let them develop their own success.  Their monetary success will be enough to keep them satisfied for years to come.

For some, yes.  For many more, no.

The younger generation is looking for growth in their own skills and their career development.  This desire for growth is present in most people, the difference with the Millennials is that they will simply leave a job after a short tenure to find a new opportunity.  They are not “constrained” by the…traditional mindset of staying at a company for 5 years even if it gets to be repetitive.  I think this is one of the most fundamental changes I have seen in the marketplace over the past 15 years.

Job Interview Mistakes That Will Make You Cringe

If you have done some level of interviewing, you have certainly come across some interesting characters.  Monster.com highlights a few:

Wearing a tuxedo to an interview. I told him to dress nice and professional for his interview, but he definitely went overboard and crossed the line of dressing business professional. Needless to say, the hiring manager also thought it was a crazy move and the candidate did not get the job.

I caught a candidate lying in his resume. He had made up so much of his previous experience that he then forgot a company name where he said he had worked. The candidate actually asked me to look at the resume I had so he could see what he wrote.

This is one I have encountered a few times in sales interviews:

I had a candidate incessantly tell me they were “the best in the market” over and over again. This phrase was added to every sentence as a punctuation mark. It made for a very awkward interview. Confidence is good; arrogance is not.

Then there is this old favorite from CareerBuilder:

Candidate answered cell phone and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a “private” conversation.

Amazing how unaware some people are in today’s world.

Simple Writing Tips

Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Day covers 7 common writing mistakes.  This may be the most helpful thing you read today:

  • Affect/Effect: Affect is a verb; effect is a noun. It affected him. The effect was startling.
  • All Right/Alright: Although alright is gaining ground, the correct choice is still all right.
  • A Lot: A lot is two words, not one. Allot means “to parcel out.”
  • Between You and I: Nope. Between you and me is the correct phrase.
  • Complement/Compliment: Things that work well together complement each other. Compliments are a form of praise.
  • Farther/Further: Farther is for physical distance; further is for metaphorical distance. How much farther? Our plan can’t go any further.
  • Lay/Lie: Subjects lie down; objects are laid down. He should lie down. Lay the reports there.

The On-Demand Economy

More and more workers are moving away from traditional jobs and towards the “gig” economy of on-demand roles that have a finite time frame.  Some of the startling trend from the Yahoo article (emphasis mine):

The report said the number of independent workers in America is expected to grow from 30.2 million to roughly 37.9 million in 2020, in part due to businesses seeking flexibility and also because young adults are more comfortable in the lifestyle.

Adding occasional independents, the projected number of US adults working independently will grow to an estimated 54 million or nearly 45 percent of the private, non-farm workforce, the group said.

I’m not sure what this effect will have on sales positions.  Perhaps the distributor/rep model that has been prevalent in certain sales for decades will become a common structure for companies.  I find it difficult to outsource a customer relationship especially if you are in a service sale.  Perhaps the development will be salespeople who have specific relationships with large companies and provide the channel to those decision makers?  Again, this is the distribution model that has been in manufacturing for decades and it would appear this model has the potential to expand in the very near future.