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Archive for May, 2006

Reading the (Non-Verbal) Signs

How to Read Your Prospect Like a Book! by John Boe is a quick read article from Sales Vault with some great tips on understanding the nonverbal cues a prospect/client is sending you. He states:

…that one of the easiest and most effective ways to close sales is to be aware of the prospect’s “buy signals.”

The article gives clues to look for in reading body language, mainly head and facial gestures. For an example:

Head Gestures

    • Tilted back = Superior attitude
    • Tilted down = Negative and judgmental attitude
    • Tilted to one side = Interest

For those of you that know this information already, it is a nice 5 minute refresher. If this topic is new to you, it is well worth the time to read it, print it off and provide a copy to your salespeople. This information can also be used when interviewing candidates.

How to Win the Talent Wars

From Sales & Marketing Management’s e-newsletter (sorry, no link available):

How to win the talent war:

* Assess current strengths and gaps. Review the talent on hand and what your future needs will be.

* Create a vision and strategy. Identify the tools, processes, and technology you will need to fill your talent gaps. Create a vision that can be embraced by a those who will be asked to do the recruiting work.

* Complete a readiness assessment. Is your organization ready to jump into the talent wars? Is the culture prepared to support the impact of a new talent vision?

* Build the business case. Identify the benefits to following your talent strategy. Be prepared to articulate these as the strategy is rolled out.

* Create an implementation plan. What will you do with talent when you get it? Craft a plan to integrate and measure your acquired talent. Establish metrics that determine whether or not your talent goals are in line with the company’s overall strategy.

The 3rd point and the last point seem to go hand-in-hand. They are both well worth mentioning in that we have seen the lack of these approaches cause tremendous headaches. Most companies want to hire sales superstars and we assist them in that endeavor. The issue materializes when the sales superstar arrives in their new position.

Strong salespeople usually do not blend well into a culture that has adapted to mediocre (or worse) sales performance. The strong salesperson tends to aggressively pursue opportunities and expects the company to be supportive in their quest to secure new customers. Often a company that is not accustomed to this activity tends to undervalue the strong salesperson’s efforts. The most common grievance is a lethargic apathy from the company. Nothing demoralizes a strong salesperson faster than the realization that the culture they are now immersed in does not match their high-powered drive for success.

When to Follow Up

Application Etiquette from Sales & Marketing Management briefly provides some stats about when applicants should follow up after submitting their resume.

How long should a job applicant wait to follow up with the hiring manager after submitting a resume?
* 37 percent said one week or less
* 45 percent said one to two weeks
* 9 percent said two to three weeks
* 3 percent said three weeks or more
* 5 percent said don’t follow up at all
* 1 percent said they didn’t know

What’s the best way to follow up? E-mail is the preferred follow up method, followed by telephone, and a handwritten note.

We see hiring through a sales perspective and have some distinct thoughts about this topic. First off, our preference is to see salespeople pick up the telephone and call to respond to an employment ad. This is good sales behavior. It shows that they are confident in using the phone and, hopefully, are calling to qualify the position.

Second, I am shocked that 2 weeks is the preferred amount of time to wait before following up. I would say that 1 week is long enough. Again, we like to see good sales behavior in their follow up. Are they timely? Is their follow up professional? How do they approach the reason for their call or email? These are all valuable questions to address when searching for strong salespeople.

Updated RSS Feed Information

2 pages have been added to The Hire Sense to assist readers who prefer to use an RSS feed. We have explained the 2 most popular options for receiving our postings.

What is RSS? – provides an explanation of an RSS feed and provides you with some software options.

What is FeedBurner? – explains the email RSS option we also offer on our site if you would prefer receiving 1 email a day with all of our previous day’s postings.

I hope that information provides a couple of good formats in which to receive our postings. Of course, you can always choose to simply visit our site via your web browser. One final note on that topic – we have set up the domain which will bring you right to this blog.

Thanks to all of our readers for helping us grow this blog on a daily basis.

Embellished Resumes

“We know what employers want”

Yet another reason to read resumes with a grain of salt. Especially sales resumes.

How To Answer Any Interview Question

Well, so much for focusing on the interviewer-side of face-to-face interviews. CareerJournal has come out with a new article that is the title of this post. There is nothing groundbreaking in the approach outlined in the article. Yet, I did enjoy this bit of cryptic strategy:

He suggests when answering job-interview queries applying the formula Q = A + 1: Q is the question; A is the answer; + is the bridge to the message you want to deliver; and 1 is the point you want to make.

“If you take the ‘+ 1’ off the formula, then the interviewer is controlling the session,” says Mr. Braun.

I’m not sure what to write about that excerpt. Of course, math became quite confusing to me once letters replaced numbers in the equations. I make no bones about that fact.

I close with one quote from earlier in the article that basically sums up the thesis:

These trainers say you can deliver the message you want to an employer, regardless of the question you’re asked.

Uggh. For the antecdote, may I suggest an approach we use called drilling down.

Motivating a Sales Force

I’m catching up to some older articles in my RSS feeder and came across this article – Managing and Motivating Salespeople. We have an appreciation for tactical management articles. What I mean is articles that take a “how to” approach to management. There are plenty of strategic, mile-high articles out there so we enjoy a good hands-on read.

First off, all sales managers need to motivate their sales force in some manner. Even the most self-starting salesperson will need an occassional injection of external motivation from their sales manager. Many sales managers tend to ignore or deny this fact at their own peril.

Next, the author’s suggestions are spot on. I’ll list them here quickly but the author does expand on each point in the article:

    • Set goals.
    • Encourage and listen to input.
    • Offer training.
    • Provide feedback.
    • Offer opportunities for growth.
    • Avoid pressure tactics.
    • Build trust.

Of course, I would add “Assess your team.” to the list. Assessments provide the manager with information that may take them 6 months or more to sort out. And that is just the communication piece. The other areas of the assessments are too deep for any person to measure through interaction. Providing an in-depth profile of your sales team gives your sales manager the tools to do their job in the most effective manner possible.

Finally, I take slight umbrage with one point – “Avoid pressure tactics.” Here is the author’s full explanation behind that point:

Some managers try to motivate through intimidation and fear. This management style can produce short-term results, but it actually increases stress for employees, makes work an unpleasant place, and ultimately makes people less productive and more likely to leave.

Sales is a high-pressure position which is why most people are not successful at selling. Salespeople need to be able to handle stress and rejection. That being said, as long as the manager is coaching, encouraging and connecting with the salesperson, fear can be an excellent motivator. Granted, an overuse of fear will lead to a mass exodus amongst the sales team. (I have worked for sales managers whose only tool was fear and it was a dreadful experience each time). However, the proper, limited use of fear will always be one of the most effective tools in the sales manager’s toolbox.

Finally Some Interviewer Tips

We are back after a scorcher of a Memorial Day weekend here in Minnesota (record highs this past weekend). Instead of overheating as I read more candidate interview preparation articles, finally chimes in with some tips for the interviewer with Top 10 Interview No No’s. We do enjoy top 10 lists here at the Hire Sense! Good fundamental advice in this column that are always a good refresher. (You cannot ask about race, age, religion, etc.).

Point #3 cannot be stressed enough:

3. Avoid Closed Ended Questions – The first type of question to avoid is one that can be answered by a “yes” or “no”. Even if you think “yes” or “no” is your desired response, rework the question to allow for a more thorough response. Unexpected, beneficial information is often revealed when your questions allow the interviewee to elaborate with his/her response.
– EXAMPLE – Poor: Do you have experience in customer service?
– EXAMPLE – Good: Tell me about your customer service experience?

Yes/no questions lead to dead ends and you have to work hard at formulating your next question without getting a detailed answer on your previous question. All – ALL – of our interview questions are structured in an open-ended structure. We do not use yes/no questions in phone screens or face-to-face interviews.

As an aside – this advice is also crucial to salespeople who are qualifying prospects. You should not hear yes/no questions coming out of your salespeople’s mouths in front of a prospect.

Anecdote – Fast Talkin’

Here’s one for the long holiday weekend.

We were interviewing an internal candidate for a sales manager position and were sitting across from a pegged out High I. He spoke at a frenetic pace and at great length. To top it off, he rarely offered a cogent thought.

So you can imagine there were many moments of silence as we sat there stunned at his performance. During one of those moments, out of the blue the candidate states, “I may talk fast, but it’s slow in my head.”

He didn’t get the position.

Interview Questions continues their interview prep series with Interview Questions, Part 4 (I wonder when it will end?). I think most people who hire have an affinity for interview questions. There is one question that we use extensively:

What is your management style?

Intent: This is a classic question for management-level candidates. The interviewer’s intent here is threefold: to find out if your management style fits, to determine if you have management ability and to probe how much you understand your own work style.

The author is insightful here. We use this question in a different manner in that we have already assessed the management candidate using our online tools. We ask this question to see how well they know their own style and we cross reference their answer to the assessment results. The candidate knows we have assessed their style and this question almost forces a brutally honest answer. Normally, that answer leads us to many other questions pertaining to specific examples/experiences that back up their claims.

Another question:

Give me proof of your technical competence.

If I were to ask that purposely vague question to a sales candidate, I would expect them to reverse on me with a clarifying question. The author suggests answering strongly without qualifying the question. Mistake. Better for a sales candidate to ask for a question like, “I have a fairly broad technical background. What specific technical area should I address to best answer your question?”

I would give high marks for a response in that realm. As a reminder, observe how well prepared a candidate can be for an interview by just spending an hour or two on the web. We can’t stress it enough – you, as the interviewer, must thoroughly prepare for the modern-day interview to match the level of the candidate’s preparation.

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