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Archive for January, 2007

You Can Ask Me Anything – Just Email Me.

I am currently sourcing candidates for a customer with these requirements: technically savvy, results oriented, efficient sales skills with good phone & writing skills. My interaction with this candidate started via email, which is great because I could get an idea of his written communication skills.

His first emails were to find out a little more about the company and a lot about the position responsibilities. We emailed back and forth several times in which he asked some great questions. After I had answered his questions, he sent an email stating that he was interested in the position and would like to take it to the next step. I emailed him back telling him I had some questions for him and that we would need to set up a time for a phone discussion.

I received this response from him:

That’s great, go ahead and send me your questions and I will be more than happy to answer them for you.

Okay . . . I thought maybe I was not clear or that because he is currently working that it may be difficult for him to get time during the day to talk. So I responded to him by emailing that I would like to talk with him and if needed I could make myself available in the evenings.

I received an email back almost instantly from him stating that:

No, it would be easier for him to do this via email and that I should just fire off the questions to him via email and he would get them back to me in the next day or so.

Remember, this position requires a fair amount of phone activity. Amazing. I have never encountered a sales candidate who would not get on the phone. Needless to say, I passed on the candidate.

The Top 5 + 1 Reasons Why Candidates Say “No”

I found this article in a recent Selling Power Newsletter that piqued my interest. After reading it, I found that the author touches on some very good points to remember when making an offer to a candidate. It is a very short read and well worth the time. The author, Craig Silverman gives these 5 reasons you will get a no:

  1. Need – If your message isn’t compelling enough, they won’t feel the need to make a change.
  2. Motivation – You have to understand what motivates the candidate before you offer the position. Once you find out, build it into your offer.
  3. Compensation – Most salespeople don’t want to make a lateral move but tend to be open about telling you what dollar amount they want before accepting your offer.
  4. Trust – The candidates start forming opinions about trust in three different areas, the interviewer, the company and the industry.
  5. Urgency – Qualifying candidates to find out their levels of urgency is necessary because if they aren’t ready to make a change, it’s going to be hard to convince them to make one or don’t make them jump through hoops if you take too long, they may find something else by the time you’re through with your hiring process.

Urgency is extremely important. We have seen numerous hiring companies miss out on strong candidates because they were unwilling to adjust their schedule to keep the process moving along. We have posted on this topic several times but it needs to be mentioned again. Chances are if you have identified a strong candidate so has another hiring company. You may have other important tasks at hand, but don’t assume the candidate will wait for you.

I would like to add one of my own points to the above list:

  • Format – How does the candidate prefer to have the offer presented? Adapt how you deliver it depending on their communication style, motivations and rewards. Understanding this preference and then adapting to it can give you a leg up on other offers that they may be entertaining.

For example, if the candidate is personable, talkative and engaging, I would recommend making the offer in person. We know of a company that emailed an offer out to a candidate who was people-oriented. The hiring manager didn’t even call to tell him they would like to extend him an offer, nor did the hiring manager follow-up to see if he had any questions. Needless to say, the candidate turned the offer down due primarily to the lack of personal interaction at the offer stage.

Onboarding Executives

From BusinessWeek online’s How To Take The Reins At Top Speed:

In today’s era of increasingly activist investors and boards, a heightened focus on fast results is making the first few months feel more like a trial by fire than a honeymoon.

“Many senior executives feel they have a much shorter time frame to prove themselves.”

This accelerated productivity demand is common to almost all positions within a company. I am appreciative of CEOs finally having this demand placed upon them also. In sales, it has been this way for years . . . maybe decades.

Despite having a name only a consultant or HR professional could love – onboarding is also known as management integration or, worse, assimilation coaching – the practice is taking off. Headhunters Egon Zehnder International and Heidrick & Struggles International (HSII ) both report rising levels of interest from companies for their onboarding services.

We are making adjustments to our sales offering also. One thing we learned years ago was that good salespeople still can fail in a new role if there is not a plan for onboarding (that is an awful word). Hence, we now include our Sales Development Plan for all sales candidates our customers hire. Since incorporating this approach, we have seen a drastic reduction in the new salesperson’s ramp-up time. The goal with any new sales hire is to get them up to speed on revenue production as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many companies hire a salesperson, train them on the product/service offering and then put them out in the field. I’m always amazed that a company would spend so much money acquiring and hiring an important piece to their business and then almost neglect them once they are in place.

At a time when CEO failure rates are running at 40%, after all, helping executives “stick” makes sense. “It’s like an insurance policy for your placement,” says Rich Rosen, a partner in Heidrick’s leadership consulting practice.

I’m not sure where that 40% number comes from, but it is noticeable. I wonder what sales position failure rates are? In sales, I would deem a failure to be a salesperson who simply performs at an average revenue level or below. I suspect it is greater than 40%.

Executive search firms counter that where coaching relationships exist they’re careful to make leadership teams off-limits to recruiters. And they note that headhunters aren’t necessarily trying to double as coaches. “We’re training our search consultants to recognize a need,” says Joseph E. Griesedieck, Vice-Chairman of Korn/Ferry International. “And then they bring in the people who are experts.

We are working on a similar model at Select Metrix and hope to have more to report on this topic soon.

Lastly, a quick excerpt from the article that caught my eye:

For Citrin, who co-wrote the new-leader guide You’re in Charge – Now What? with fellow kingmaker Thomas J. Neff, onboarding can be as simple as giving a client a copy of his book and sharing insights over a leisurely breakfast.

I have a general disgust with this approach. I have worked with consultants in the past who believe their book is the definitive authority for a specific topic. I prefer consultants who roll up their sleeves and get down in the mud with their clients.

Job Offer Etiquette

Call first, email second. There is no other way to do it safely. This article – Hiring Companies Should Show the Love – got me thinking about this topic. The article is written to the candidate’s perspective, but it holds good advice for hiring companies too.

For starters, if a company calls you with a job offer, they should have all the details ready to explain to you, including title, reporting relationship, compensation (salary, bonus, 401(k), etc.) and amount of travel. Now, much of this may have gotten sorted out during the interview process. But because the processes are often so fragmented, you may only have one shot with the hiring manager and the HR person.

Even this author assumes the company will call with an offer. But…we had a customer who simply emailed an offer without calling the candidate. They liked the candidate and he was most interested in the job. However, he was taken aback when the offer simply arrived in his inbox. He hadn’t even been told he was the top candidate! Not surprisingly, he passed on the opportunity.

The author is correct in that the call should be made to the candidate once the offer is completed and ready to be emailed out to the candidate. The hiring manager or HR person should be able to speak generally about the offer. This approach also helps to prep the candidate for what they are going to see when they open the offer.

Later in the article:

You should be given plenty of time (at least four business days) to consider the job offer before it expires.

That seems a bit long in our world, but we specialize in sales recruiting which slants our view. Strong sales candidates qualify the compensation plan (especially the commission) before getting to the offer stage. The presentation of the offer should be nothing more than confirming the discussions that have already occurred.

If compensation is a “surprise” at the offer stage, go find a new sales candidate.

The Selling Sales Manager Paradox

We here at The Hire Sense are diehard hockey fans so pardon my analogy. Jacques Lemaire is the head coach of our Minnesota Wild. As head coach, he is obviously in charge of running practices, developing players, coaching during the game and, ultimately, winning games. He does all this without ever scoring a goal for the team. He does it by coaching his players and holding them accountable. It is a full-time job.

Now imagine if the owner of the Wild decided he was going to measure Lemaire’s performance by how many goals he scored in the games. Lemaire would have to change his whole strategy to allow himself to score as many goals as possible. Other players would be needed simply to fulfill his personal goal of scoring. There would be a benefit to Lemaire coaching them along, but his top priority would be to his own goal production.

Do you think the Wild would be a better team with this approach? No, of course not. Yet this approach is one that is often taken by companies in regards to their sales manager. For the sales manager to have value, he or she has to carry a full quota (or more). All things being equal, the sales manager must focus on his or her personal sales first and the team’s sales second. This approach is greatly flawed, yet again, we see it often in companies.

We take a different perspective on the sales manager role. Their value is not determined by their personal sales. Jacques Lemaire is valuable even though he does not set foot on the ice and score goals during a game. His impact is upon the entire team, not just himself. The same is true of an effective sales manager – they are a force multiplier.

The most effective sales managers we see are the ones who focus on their team. By focus I mean they know each individual’s skills, they help coach them to expand their abilities, they step in and motivate them when needed and they do the one thing many sales managers avoid – they hold their people accountable to their actions. By taking this approach, the sales manager’s influence is broad and deep within the team. The team is on the same page when it comes to sales process. Their forecasts are accurate. Their quotas are reached. Their profits are strong.

These successes require a full-time manager/coach and not a glorified salesperson with a big title. I realize in some smaller companies the sales manager is asked to work with some customers. I am all for them having a customer or two so that they can stay informed of the present-day realities within their market and their company. However, if the sales manager is expected to sell at the same level as their salespeople, the sales manager role needs to be redefined.

Sales managers are most effective at selling when they don’t sell.

6 Body Language Clues offers this article – Express Yourself – to provide salespeople with 6 easy reads of their prospect.

  • Nose or face scratch implies dislike.
  • Head tilted to the side implies interest.
  • Eye rub implies deceit.
  • Hand or finger blocking the mouth implies lying.
  • Thumb tucked under the chin with index finger pointing up on the cheek implies a critical attitude.
  • Chin stroke implies making a decision.

All of them are good reads for observing prospects’ subconscious take on the discussion. However, how do you affect a change in the discussion?

One tool we provide salespeople is our Selling Style sheet which provides salespeople with a quick, 1 page reference sheet to help them communicate more clearly with their prospect or customer. For instance, if you have a “High S” salesperson, they tend to be steady, personable and potentially slow to close a deal. If they are interacting with a “High D” prospect, they better adapt their style to move faster than normal, be strong and friendly and not get overpowered.

These are adjustments that will open the communication channel and put the prospect/customer into a comfort zone for the discussion. Adapt to match their communication style and you won’t have to rely on poker-like tells during a discussion with a prospect.

The Right Way To Share Profits

Andersen Corp. (window makers) is a well-known employer up here in the Twin Cities whose business has slowed down greatly with the housing slow down. Nonetheless, the company is still issuing profit sharing checks for all of its eligible employees (22% of their salaries!). The part that caught my eye:

Andersen announced in early December that it was cutting 400 manufacturing positions at its Bayport plant and an additional 40 at a plant in Menomonie, Wis. The company cited a dramatic downturn in housing construction as the reason for the job eliminations. Those workers’ last day on the job was Jan. 2.

In that same December announcement, Andersen officials said that the employees losing their jobs would still get their profit-sharing checks for 2006.

Good for Andersen – that is the right way to do it. Unfortunately, I think there are many companies that would not be so exemplary in their approach.

I’m reminded of a different example. A salesperson friend of mine worked for a family-owned and run company for 8 years with a profit-sharing plan. Despite increasing revenue in those years, the non-family employees only received a single, small profit-sharing check one year out of the 8 he worked there. Strangely, each improving year saw increased expenses . . . expenses that were never explained nor revealed to the employees.

A Misguided Sales Ad

From a sales ad for an Account Executive role (emphasis mine):

This person will play a critical roll in the sales process to help educate and market product offering to prospective customers.

No. Please don’t do this. Here is what that one sentence implies – features and benefits selling. That approach to selling should be buried at the bottom of a tar pit with other dinosaurs.

From a post last week – “people don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” In other words, your ad should speak to salespeople who know how to sell solutions. This company would be better served speaking to the salesperson’s ability to qualify a prospect and creatively formulate a solution within a typical prospective deal.

Finding Dream Jobs offers this article – Workers Want Fun More Than Money When it Comes to Dream Jobs. This CareerBuilder survey states that fun is more important than money:

“That fun was more important than, that was reassuring when you’re looking at the workplace and what defines happiness for people in their jobs,” said Jennifer Sullivan, spokeswoman for

Overall, 84 percent of respondents said they are not in their dream jobs, the study found.

“Dream job” is certainly an emotionally-loaded phrase and one that most likely elicits a longing response. What I mean is most people believe there is a better opportunity out there. This longing explains why they keep looking for the next career move.

But some people do find their dream jobs:

Among professions, police and firefighters were most likely to say they have their dream jobs, at 35 percent, followed by 32 percent of teachers, 28 percent of real estate professionals and 25 percent of engineers.

Questions Often Reveal The Skills

We’re working through some sales candidate sourcing activities this week for some new customers and uncovering some strong salespeople. There are many reasons why we incorporate a screening step in our recruiting process, but one of the most important reasons is the questions posed by the candidates.

A crucial component of selling is asking the right questions. I laugh as I write this because a saying my father uses came to my mind – “If you want a better answer, ask a better question.” The question content, the question pattern and the follow-up questions are all highly revealing of the quality of sales candidate.

A real-life example from one candidate this week:

What markets do they pursue and where are they positioned in those markets?

Why this company vs. the other competitors in their market?

What niches/verticals are they looking to expand into?

Why is this position open?

What abilities are needed to be successful in this position?

What are the benchmarks for success in this position (including timeframe)?

Some of these questions were offered up by him during an initial email dialogue and the rest on a subsequent phone screen. You can see that he is qualifying the position, the market and the company. Remember the context – we are questioning him on specific topics and his experience in a somewhat stressful situation (for him). There are few moments for him to ask his questions while we are controlling the discussion topics. This type of questioning ability is usually indicative of sales skills that will be every bit as strong.

(We assessed him later and indeed his sales skills were extremely strong)

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