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Archive for March, 2008

Women Sell Better

That isn’t my commentary, it is from the author of the blog Sold!.  His reasoning:

And there are some very good reasons why I believe woman are better suited for selling. Among them:

o In their personal lives and in business they tend to create relationships better.
o They tend to sell based on personal input and business input rather than just business.
o They listen.
o They don’t have a sales history that they are tied to, so “new” works for them.
o In many areas, women who are good in sales are still enough of a rarity to create a buzz.

Ok, it pays to be provocative when blogging so I give him credit.  You could start a spirited discussion about this topic, but I still think it is off target.  The key for hiring effective salespeople is to run a hiring process and objectively assess the candidates.

This approach means that gender is not a determining factor.  Skills, motivations, aptitudes, abilities and experience become the data used in the decision.  However, I do have to agree with the author’s final bullet point listed above.

The Essence of Sales Management

This is a tough topic because there isn’t a cookie-cutter sales manager template that fits for all companies.  Our experience has been that smaller-sized companies tend to expect the sales manager to carry a significant quota while larger companies expect the sales manager to manage without carrying a personal quota.  The department quota/goals are a different story.

Nonetheless, offers up a well-constructed guide to sales management titled Executive Guide: Improving Sales from Managers to Salespeople.

A point that often gets overlooked in companies is the essence of strong sales management.  This excerpt sums it up nicely:

4. Track where your management team members are spending their time. As previously stated, good managers let their top people operate and focus on turning their “B” players into “A” players, their “C” players into “B” players or managing them out. There should be signs of steady improvement of sales staffers.

That truly is the gist of sales management, isn’t it?  This area is a pitfall for which we have seen more than one sales manager fall into.  The team is not hitting their numbers and the sales manager is expected to close business himself.  If this manager used to be the top salesperson, he or she often will revert to closing their own deals to protect themselves.  The incredible downside to this approach is that the rest of the team continues to falter and fail.

Most of the time there is a culling of the herd when it comes to the salespeople.  The sales manager is usually insulated through a handful of terminations before the Turk comes for them (to borrow a football phrase).

It is for this reason that we encourage our customers to have the sales manager manage the team.  At the most, they should only have a handful of accounts.  Anything more and they will be dealing with customer items disproportionately to improving their sales team.

One last point from the article:

1. Provide managers with information on their salespeople that is systematic and both objective and subjective. It should give them actionable insight into what areas need to be improved and how to do it.

This is an area in which we can help.

A Reason To Web Commute

Is there a better anecdotal piece of information to support web commuting – $5.20 per gallon gas:

Five dollars and 20 cents for a gallon of gas. The number says a lot.

Yes, it may be the most expensive gas in America. But $5.20 doesn’t begin to explain essence — the rich, off-beat, some might say, eccentric, essence of Gorda, Calif.

Avoid Posting Job Descriptions

Part of what I do every day is hunt through the local sales position ads.  There are always some ads that contain more words than a doctoral thesis.  Posting an internal job description for a sales position is the wrong move.

One aspect of sourcing that we observer is the salesperson’s ability to qualify, in this case, the opportunity.  If we post all the information about the position, the salesperson doesn’t have to work to find specific information.  I’ve said this before, it is amazing how much you can learn during an initial 10 min. phone screen.  An overwritten ad negates this fact to some extent.

One other item we are researching is response rates to ads based on how much information is in the ad.  We hope to have more information about this later, but it appears that erring to the “too little” side is better than the “too much” side.

Assessments Shorten Interviews

I’ve read many sales technique articles recently that discuss how to approach a prospect.  Salespeople are expected to have a cursory knowledge of the company itself, it’s market and, to some extent, whether or not they have a solution that may be a fit for this prospective customer.  Gone are the days of cold calling a prospect and asking what it is their company does.

I think everyone can agree with that paragraph.  So why do companies still expect hiring managers to go through the added discovery of sorting out communication styles, motivations and skill sets?  Granted, most managers want to verify these items, but assessments provide a starting point that not only speeds up the process, they enhance it.

We assess candidates before the initial interview.  The first benefit here is that we actually screen out candidates that are not a strong fit for the position.  There is no need to interview them if they are completely misaligned to the position’s requirements.

Second, the assessment results provide a foundation to start the interview process.  Now that the hiring manager has some measurement of the unknown candidate to provide context immediately in the interview.  The discovery phase is shortened drastically and a focused interview can occur.

If we measure a candidate’s sales skills and find an underdeveloped area, we provide the hiring manager with specific questions to drill down during the interview.  These areas can be explored in the initial interview which allows the hiring manager to reach their decision faster with more objective data to support the decision.

The Video Game Generation

These definitions are from Selling Power’s Talkin’ about Different Generations:

  1. The Silent Generation
    Consisting of workers over the age of 60, these folks tend to follow traditional patterns; they take their work seriously, expect to do this job for the rest of their working life, and feel comfortable working alone, knowing that they are trusted to perform up to or beyond expectations.
  2. Baby Boomers
    Born between the years 1943 and 1964, Boomers currently comprise almost half the workforce in many organizations. They tend to be a bit more individualistic than their elders, and struggle with workaholism and work-life balance issues.
  3. Generation X
    Born from 1964 to 1981, Gen X-ers have been causing managers to run for the Maalox ever since they began entering the workforce a little over 20 years ago. Frequently more tech-savvy and resourceful than their forebears, these folks tend to value highly personal relationships, time with the boss, and the chance to explore volunteering opportunities.
  4. Generation Y
    Those born after 1981 are typically lumped in the Generation Y category – they frequently make less distinction between their jobs and personal lives, and often embrace 100 percent telecommuting. Money is not their prime motivator – what they’re doing and whom they’re working with tends to excite them. A better motivator than more money for Gen Y-ers is more time off, perhaps to take a three-day weekend for an outing with friends.

Ok, so those are some apt descriptions in general terms.  However, this is the pull quote from the article (emphasis mine):

While some might be quick to attribute this “slacker” phenomenon to an increased laziness and narcissism among younger people, Nelson argues that the real increase is in the need for immediate feedback.

From a behavioral standpoint, playing a video game, which all kids grow up on today, the amount of feedback averages 60 times a minute,” Nelson says. “You take the same kid who’s had years of that type of instant feedback, drop him into a job and tell him to say, ‘And do you want fries with that?’ – of course he’ll be bored out of his mind.

I haven’t heard that analysis before but it certainly makes sense.  We don’t own a game system so I am somewhat unfamiliar with them.  These systems definitely hold sway over my 8 year old son though.  The interaction between the game and the player is frequent so many years of this reinforcement would have some effect.  Interesting premise.

Web Commute

That is a term coined by Citrix and one I suspect we will see with some frequency.  If gas goes to $4/gallon, I suspect these articles will publish daily. offers up an article discussing the preference of today’s workers to have technological flexibility in their job.  The key here is the demographics of the results (emphasis mine):

…U.S. workers aged 18-34 prefer flexible working conditions two-to-one over other age groups.

In fact, 70% of survey respondents agreed that working remotely would be a welcome opportunity. In an era where acquiring and retaining good employees is a challenge, and the workforce is becoming increasingly young and mobile, offering the ability to Web commute can serve as a competitive edge for recruiters.

We encounter this fact daily in our sourcing activities.  In fact, we are seeing the web commute question coming up in discussion with older candidates too.  In sales, these tools are essential.  Sales has always operated outside of the company walls, but these tools allow outside salespeople the ability to have a completely mobile office which is a relatively new capability.

We have placed a handful of Gen Y salespeople recently and they all highly value remote tools.

Overall, the younger the respondent, the more apt he or she was to perceive value in online tools and services that enable them to work remotely.
The difference between the values expressed by younger workers versus others makes sense, given the proportionally higher familiarity with the Internet among Generations X and Y than among older workers. “As Baby Boomers retire, employers will be forced to compete for younger workers, for whom technology is a native tongue,” says Kellyanne Conway, CEO and president of the polling company, inc. “Offering the ability to Web commute is an easy way to provide a valued benefit to this age group.”

Today, it is difficult to compete for younger workers if you do not offer the technology that is their “native tongue.”  In the near future, you will not be able to compete at all for their services unless you offer these tools.

One item that often gets overlooked is that these younger workers use the tools at all hours.  We work with these salespeople to help get them onramped during their first few months at the new job.  I am always amazed at the hours I can reach them electronically.  They do not confine their work day to a traditional 8 to 5 schedule.  If you provide them the tools, they will use them well beyond your assumptions.

Retention Is The Toughest Challenge has a short article reporting the survey results of HR professionals that shows a shifting trend:

In a survey of 413 HR professionals, more than half identified talent management as their top priority, and were planning to improve their rewards and benefits programs.

Most employers cited employee retention among their five toughest challenges, ahead of health-care costs, the survey found. Last year, 80 percent identified health-care costs as their biggest challenge.

I fully expect retention will move into the top spot and stay there for quite some time (i.e. years) as the Boomers retire.

How To Run A Gen X Meeting

As a Gen Xer, this article caught my attention on the Selling Power website.  Some of the points from the article:

Do remember this group has an entrepreneurial spirit. “They are individualists,” says Fishman. “Treat them as independent agents. They like to be in charge of things. If you have 100 people at your sales meeting, you have 100 entrepreneurs there.”

Don’t hire motivational speakers. “This is not a group that needs to be motivated,” says Fishman. “They don’t like spin, hype, or touchy-feely. They want something that they can take back to the office that will help them sell. Sharpen their skills; that’s what they’re there for. Give them tactical information.”

We are not an easy generation to manage – I speak from my own experience.  I am not manageable, just ask Lee.  The entrepreneurial mindset is fairly prevalent amongst many of my Gen X friends so I think there is something to that statement.

We are a bit of a cynical group and spin does not play well with us.  However, I’m wondering if there is a generation where spin is enjoyed?  Motivational speakers are disdainful so I am with the author on that topic too.

Sweeping generalizations are always a bit risky when trying to categorize such a large sample (i.e. an entire generation).  However, I think these types of articles do help open up cross-generation discussions so there is value to them.  The greater importance is to understand selling/communication styles and to identify your own preferences.  This knowledge does more to open up communication than any other item we have found.

The Cleanest Cities In America

Maybe the list from (via provides some assistance in recruiting candidates for relocation?  The Twin Cities is ranked no. 9 on the list.  A definite advantage until weather (i.e. winter) is discussed.

    1. Miami, FL
    2. Seattle, WA
    3. Jacksonville, FL
    4. Orlando, FL
    5. Portland, OR
    6. San Francisco, CA
    7. Oklahoma City, OK
    8. Tampa-St. Pete, FL
    9. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
    10. San Jose, CA

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