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Archive for September, 2007

Termination By Voicemail

A couple of days ago I put up a post about the rise of email terminations and how inappropriate I thought that practice was. Well I must say I have now learned of one example of a termination that does this one better (or should that be WORSE!). I talked with a salesperson this morning and would like to pass along his story of his termination experience.

The President of his division was going to be in town and wanted to meet with him so they scheduled a time to meet in the morning. When the day came the salesperson was in bed with the flu so he called his manager to inform him that he would not be able to make the meeting with the President.

The manager said not to worry and to stay home to get some rest. Here is were it gets interesting. Later in the day the salesperson was feeling a little better so he decided he should check his cell phone voicemail to see if there was anything that may need immediate attention.

He had this message from the President:

“Being as you failed to make your meeting with me today, you leave me no alternative but to inform you that you are fired. Please bring your equipment to the local office as soon as you get this message.”

As I write, I am still taken aback and at a loss for words. Bizarre, cold, wow, I just don’t know how to describe this behavior.

This is not the whole story.

The salesperson is waiting on his last payroll check which is a week late and an expense check that is 8 weeks late. Obviously the company has some serious issues. Again, I am at loss for words in describing these actions.

More Surprises In The Economy

From’s headline:

Jobless claims post surprise fall

New applications filed for unemployment benefits fell by a sharp 15,000 to 298,000 last week; economists expected claims to rise to 320,000.

We continue to see great activity in our own business. At some point you have to wonder if the media is attempting to “talk down” the economy. I give you this sentence from another article titled Economy shows growth, but misses forecasts (emphasis mine):

A deepening housing slump and a painful credit crunch since the spring has darkened the mood of individuals and businesses alike.

Stephen King would be proud of that writing especially in light of a 3.8% growth in GDP last quarter. The economy is going to slow down at some point, but I think the eagerness of that expectation is clearly evident within some mainstream media outlets.

Further, at what point do you fire your current crop of economists and get some new ones? I wish these present economists were in my weekly football pool – I’d be rich.

A Good Way To Handle Degrees

Reading through sales ads this morning, I came across this line:

Bachelor€™s degree preferred but not necessary with qualified experience.

I think that is a good way to frame the requirement.  I would not want to prohibit a strong sales candidate from applying because of a degree requirement.

Who Doesn’t Like Interview Questions?

I found a pile of papers on my desk that contained a few sheets of interview questions.  I don’t know where they are from, but I found myself reading them today.  Aren’t interview questions interesting to read?  I think most people like to see if they can find a good question to take for themselves.  At least that is my approach.

Some standard questions:

Why do you want to work here?

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

What good books have to read lately?

Why should I hire you? (I despise this question)

That is all pretty standard fare.  But I did find a few more interesting offerings:

Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?

Would you lie for the company?

What changes would you make if you came on board?

Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?

Tell me about something you did – or failed to do – that you now feel a little ashamed of.

Where could you use some improvement?

Tell me something negative you have heard about our company.

On a scale of 1 to 10, rate me as an interviewer.

That last questions would cause me to blow a gasket.  That is tough.  If the candidate isn’t sincere, they will appear to be either cocky, angry or schmoozy.  I’m not sure that is a word, but you get my point.  Some good, tough questions there.

Defining Experience

Quick hitter – say a candidate has worked at a particular company for 5 years.  When phone screening and interviewing them about that experience, it is important to determine if they have 5 years of unique experience or 5 years of the first year over and over.

That is a twisted sentence, but I hope you get my point.  We’ve run into this issue with salespeople in previous positions.  Did the salesperson grow in the position over their tenure or did they simply perform the same tasks repeatedly over their tenure.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this distinction.  We’ve seen decent salespeople go “stale” over time and, in most instances, it has been due to a lack of development in their position.

Sales Traits Series – Gaining Commitment

Sales managers need to focus their team on specific objectives.  This requires the manager to gain commitment from each salesperson…on a regular basis.  It is an important aspect of successful coaching and empowering the employee.

Gaining Commitment
This ability develops and invokes a self-starting attitude in employees in their pursuit of goals. It is the capacity to motivate employees to do their best and to provide them with concrete, practical ideas and methods by which they can achieve their goals.

A sales manager with a strength in this trait will be able to effectively use empathetic ability, communication skills and leadership ability to create a sense of personal motivation to be successful in a given task. This motivation is instilled within the employee; therefore, they are acting on their own drive as opposed to simply responding to outside supervision.

A sales manager with a weakness in this area lacks the ability to effectively inspire another with the internal desire to succeed. They might fail to recognize the importance of such inspiration and rely instead on direct supervision to accomplish goals through employees.

Termination By Email

Over a year ago Derrick posted on Radio Shack’s faux pas regarding the emails they sent to their employees telling them that they had been terminated. If you would have told me then that this trend would be on the rise, I would have never believed you. Unfortunately, a recent survey of 752 people found that 75 of them had experienced or knew someone who had been terminated/laid-off via email.

Maybe it’s me, but does anyone else out there think that this is beyond inappropriate? Firing or laying off an employee is never a fun thing to do and I have had my share to do, but emailing some one this kind of news is really cold.

The Right Perspective From Customer Service

I interviewed a customer service manager candidate this past week who had a good approach to her job.  I asked her as a manager how she wants her reps to handle customers.

Her response, “Like eggs.”

She went on to explain how she would personally handle the difficult customer situations and so forth, but I thought that initial, quick response was quite good.  And obviously memorable.

Sales Managers Must Set Expectations

I had a sales manager many years ago whom I really disliked. We had little in common, he went out of his way to annoy and he was cheap. I mean really cheap. Anyway, he did one thing that changed me as a salesperson – he asked me for qualified information on any prospect I put on my forecast.

It sounds simple, but trust me, it was effective. He wanted to know why they were on the forecast, who was the decision maker, what was their budget, what was their time-frame and who was our competition. I was selling high-tech, capital equipment so this information was crucial to advancing a sale.

I remember my first few forecast meetings where I tried to shine him on with my jewel of a forecast. I was quickly shredded in front of the group. Being slow-witted, I tried one more time in the next forecast meeting. Shredded again. Then I decided to qualify prospects which I soon learned was far more lucrative.

In that vein, SMT’s Trainer Talk enewsletter provides an excellent article for sales managers titled Coaching Sales Strategy: A Cornerstone for Improving Sales Productivity. The article provides 6 tips to sales managers for coaching your salespeople through a complex sale. All of the points build upon the previous one, but this one stands out to me:

Establish Expectations. There is no such thing as a generic winning strategy when selling in a complex market. For an effective and efficient strategy coaching session, Sales Managers must establish the expectation that the Account Executive will, at a minimum, come to the strategy coaching session with a foundational business understanding of the customer. The Account Executive should have an understanding of the business environment, the account€™s business objectives, and a good sense about the buying process and players €“ plus some initial thoughts about the value proposition. Capturing the business is not about selecting a strategy; it€™s about formulating a strategy. And formulating a winning strategy is all about having a comprehensive understanding of the customer.

As a salesperson who has been on the “coached” side of that advice, I can promise you that having a “foundational business understanding of the customer” is mission-critical to successful selling.

You Need To Know Skills

The resume discussion rages on. Today’s ERE article by Dr. Williams is an excellent discussion about why skills are important in hiring. Resumes cannot clearly display a candidate’s skills so you have to do more digging. Here are a couple of excellent excerpts from the article (emphasis mine):

Once you get past an executive’s glowing resume, dig for details. Most important, try to understand the skills and motivations he or she will bring to the job. Often these will not be evident in the resume, nor will they be evident in the interview. Both usually address results, but “results” are often not the same as skills. Think of results as the score at the end of the game and skills as how the game was played. You need to know skills.

And this one:

Always remember first-line managers are cited as employees’ greatest source of stress. And stress can be a significant reason for turnover. Incoming and first-line management promotion decisions are the easiest to tackle. Simply forget about “promotions as a reward” and focus on “promotions based on job skills.”

As they say, read the whole thing.

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