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Archive for August, 2007

Being Qualified

A strong candidate is going to ask strong qualifying questions.  I mentioned earlier today a good qualifying and influencing move by one of our candidates interviewing at one of our clients.  Another strong qualifying position is for the candidate to ask about a company’s financial situation.

The candidate who wants to know about a company’s financial situation should not be off-putting to a hiring manager.  Interestingly enough, I have seen this happen in mid-sized, private companies.  Public companies are easily researched and smaller companies seem to be less concerned about this question.  But hiring managers at these mid-sized companies seem to bristle, at times, with these qualifying questions.

They are good questions – ones you would expect this salesperson to pursue in qualifying a prospect for your company.

A sales candidate who qualifies this information is often looking at the position in a higher-level manner than one who does not.  It is a strategic move.  If your company is privately held, it is wise of the candidate to seek this understanding.

The level to which you want to answer those questions is obviously up to you.  If you have a strong candidate, I would strongly encourage you to be as forthright as possible and observe how the candidate uses this information in the interview.

A Strong Candidate Shines

Great move from a candidate yesterday at his interview with one of our clients:

His first move: “What would you say is a profile of a good salesperson for this position?”

He followed that question up with: “How well do you see me fitting that profile?”

That is some straight influencing of a hiring decision.


Employees As Investors

From today’s excellent article Employees Are Not Assets:

Employees As Investors

One of our problems is that we think of employees as assets, or things we control and dispose of as we see fit. Unfortunately, this characterization leads to behaviors that are incompatible with reality. Employees cannot be owned, taxed, depreciated, or disposed of as machines or other tangible assets.

They are investors in our organizations and they freely choose to share their expertise and skills with us or not. Each employee has a built-in return on investment meter that is constantly sampling the atmosphere and deciding if she is gaining or losing from a continuing association with the firm. As long as employees feel they are gaining, they don’t look for different jobs.

But in this job market, whenever the balance shifts even slightly, employees become vulnerable to any offer that may present itself. That is why having managers who have a history of good employee loyalty and low turnover are so valuable.

I think the author makes a great point in the context of today’s talent demands.  He couches the article around the need to allow employees to have positional movement within your company.  It is a compelling argument.

The key here is to monitor your manager’s retention rate within his department and within the company (do employees want to stay with the company but get out of that dept.?).

About 5 years ago we worked with a large company who had many sales managers within its divisions.  It was quite clear which managers were adept at growing their people and retaining top talent.  There was one manager who was able to retain his “right-hand man” and nobody else – his department was a consistent turnstile.  After our first meeting with him, it became quite apparent why this was.

Why I Dislike Keywords In Ads

I posted on these automated response programs recently. Well, I just received a different promo email for a more “automated” program:

For the first time, there’s a service that finds 100’s of perfectly matched, available jobs & instantly applies to them FOR YOU, every day. It’s called __________ and it automatically: searches all the top career sites at once, finds all new jobs matching your criteria, applies with your resume to matching jobs, personalizes your cover letter for each application & provides a history report of jobs you’ve been applied to.

Keyword-driven connections – both in the ad and the resume hunt – lead to, well, candidate spam. At times I wonder if the attempt to automate resume submissions and applicant tracking systems dilutes the entire process.

I know it does for sales. We need to see the applicant’s approach, listen to his or her abilities and observe how they handle pressure. None of these tasks can be easily accomplished with an automated approach process.

Sales Traits Series – Internal Self Control

This week’s trait is one that measures a salesperson’s ability to remain detached from an emotionally-charged situation.  Sales requires a cool, level-headed approach even in instances where emotions are high.  We highly value salespeople who can keep their personal self detached from their work self.

Internal Self Control
This is the ability to maintain a steady and controlled level of internal emotion in a stressful or emotionally charged situation. Although it directly affects self-composure in a difficult situation, this capacity is more an examination of a person€™s tendency to allow the external environment€™s level of stress to affect their internal levels. If Internal Self Control deals with an ability to keep outside emotions out, Emotional Control deals with keeping internal emotions in.

A salesperson with strength in this capacity will be better able to keep his or her internal level of emotion (stress, excitement, fear, etc.) unaffected by external influence. A good example would be an emergency room physician. They must continually prevent the strong emotions of those whom they treat from interfering with their thought process. They must be able to separate themselves from the outside emotions involved and logically deal with the situation at hand.

A salesperson with weakness in this area may have difficulty accomplishing this separation.  Instead of isolating outside emotions as those of others, they over empathize and allow themselves to become emotionally charged in the same manner. They do not separate themselves well and may instead become caught up in the excitement, fear, sorrow, etc.

Benefits Are A Benefit

I think many Gen X’ers like myself grew up in the era of $10 copays and the assumption that health benefits were required of employers. Now that I am older and dealing with grey hairs, I have learned the truth about that topic. One thing we try to stress with candidates is the fact that health benefits are 1.) a perk since they are not required and 2.) a significant piece of the compensation pie.

This quick blurb is from the Career News newsletter (sorry, no link):

WASHINGTON, DC –The percentage of U.S. residents covered by employment-based health insurance declined again last year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

In 2006, 59.7% of the U.S. population received health insurance coverage through an employment-based plan. That is down from 60.2% in 2005 and is the sixth consecutive year of decreases in employment-based coverage. In 2000, 64.2% of the U.S. population had health insurance through an employer, the report shows.
While the Census Bureau revised its previous years’ health insurance estimates – showing that more U.S. residents have health insurance coverage than previously reported – the trend remains the same. According to the report, the percentage of people without health insurance increased to 15.8% in 2006 from 15.3% in 2005.

As a small business owner, I can attest to the incredible rising costs associated with health insurance. If you offer a strong (or “rich”) benefits package, make sure you spell out those details when making an offer to a sales candidate. What was once assumed is now being measured by candidates so use your benefits package to your advantage.

Dining At The Corporate Cafeteria

Ok, this may only interest me, but I am fascinated by the large corporate environment. So it is obvious that I had to read’s The Most Innovative Corporate Cafeterias. Of course is there is the obligatory Google mention to start the article:

Google’s Mountain View (Calif.) headquarters€”dubbed the Googleplex€”boasts 15 cafeterias, each with its own theme and menu. Options range from regional American cuisine to tapas to dishes emphasizing locally grown ingredients.

Ok, we get it – Google has unbelievable benefits.

Microsoft boasts 26 cafés at its main Redmond (Wash.) campus, with several more slated to open this year and next€”and that’s not counting the pantries scattered throughout the buildings and the more than two dozen coffee stands.

My heart stopped when I read 2 dozen coffee stands. My dream come true. And one last trivial piece of information (with my emphasis):

Not all seek outside help running their cafeterias. Take Hallmark Cards, for example. The Kansas City (Mo.) company has been providing meals for its employees since 1923, says Sally Luck, director of corporate services.

There, probably more than you ever wanted to know about corporate cafeterias. Now I’m off to buy a coffee.

Loyalty Amongst The Younger Generations

A quick read from – Younger Employees More Loyal.  Some excerpts:

In a survey of 2,469 adults nationwide, 56 percent said they feel appreciated by their employer, according to the latest Workplace Insights Survey by Adecco, a Melville, N.Y.-based workforce-solutions firm.

It doesn’t get any fuzzier than to use the words “feel appreciated.”

Three-quarters of respondents reported that they are committed to their employers, with members of Generation X — ages 30 to 42 — feeling the most secure in their jobs.

I suspect the Gen Xers are moving into management positions and are more confident.

However, the survey also found that feelings of company loyalty often vary by generation. Twenty-one percent of the oldest generation of workers — 65 years and older — do not believe that their company is loyal to them, compared to 13 percent of Generation Xers.

Interesting, but what’s missing?

How about Gen Y?  This is a quick news brief article, but I would think the results for Gen Y would be important (dare I say more important than the oldest generation staring at retirement?).  Retention is a mission-critical issue today so I am surprised that the upcoming generation is omitted.

Value Differentiation

We work with our clients in a variety of levels from simply assessing candidates to full-fledged sales management.  For one of our clients, we are hosting their weekly sale conference call for their geographically-dispersed sales team.  We are building this team by recruiting salespeople and a sales manager to take over the reins.

The chance to work with these sales reps every week has reminded me of the critical nature of value differentiation.  These reps are located throughout different states in the Western US and each one is chasing slightly different markets.  But one thing is clear, they all have focused in on their value and how it differs from their competition.

This is priority number 1 for any salesperson.

Unfortunately, some form of this phrase gets bandied about on a regular basis without clarifying why it is important.  Simply put, if the prospect cannot differentiate your value from a competitor, they will move their decision to price.  It is that simple.

If you offer the low-priced solution/option, you may be ok with this outcome.  However, this tactical position is one of the most difficult to successfully defend.  Eventually there will be a lower-priced option other than you.  Second, eventually a salesperson who knows how to sell value will enter your space and successfully compete against you.  And probably unhook the business from you.  Lastly, price-based customers tend to be some of the least loyal since there decision was made strictly on dollars.

The sales team we are working with each week understands this principle even though they are in an industry that can often be commoditized by prospects.  The salespeople have identified their value and are leveraging it in their qualifying.  Even better, they are adjusting which value point they use based on the prospect’s needs.

If you don’t clearly know the value you bring to the market, take the time today to list all the reasons why customers choose your solution.

Candidates’ Decision Making Process

I’m never sure what to make of these surveys about employment decision processes among candidates. Pay always seems like the obvious response but rarely the significant driver of the decision. Nonetheless, the results always catch my eye so I put it up here anyway.

From the most recent Workforce Recruiting Newsletter (sorry, no link) – the top attraction drivers by age group for U.S. employees in 2007:

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