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Archive for April, 2008

Executive Hiring A Challenging Priority

From the Herman Trend Alert newsletter (sorry, no link):

The economic slowdown here in the United States is not having the expected effect on the demand for qualified executive talent. ExecuNet’s “2008 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report” finds that increasing demand, along with a shortage of qualified talent and sustained economic growth overseas, are driving better than expected job growth at the executive level.(

The sectors with the highest demand are High Tech, Healthcare, Business Services, Pharmaceuticals/Biotech, and Energy/Utilities. The factors credited with the continuing demand for executive talent are an aging workforce and global economic growth, despite the looming threat of recession.

The report also finds, in spite of the evidence that the economy could continue to shed temporary and entry-level jobs, recruiting and retaining of executive-level talent will remain “a challenging priority” in 2008. More than 70 percent of search firms and corporate human resource professionals believe there is a shortage of executive talent, and two-thirds (67 percent) say the war for executive talent has intensified over the last year, amid increasing economic uncertainty. No longer is the United States economy the sole determinant of executive demand.

The global economy certain provides a bit more insulation to a slowdown in the U.S. economy.

Shortening The Sales Cycle offers a good article this week on a timely topic – How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle.  The author cuts to the quick on an issue we encounter frequently:

To begin with, many sales people just don’t know how long their sales cycle is, we ask and we hear things like “depends” (sometime it fits), “it changes” (it always seems longer during Daylight Savings Time), and the all time favorite, “well you know it’s different in our business”. Well it’s not really.

Underlying this is the fact that many reps and organizations do not know what their sale looks like, they have not deconstructing their sale, identified the basic building blocks to identify and truly understand what it should look like and when efficiencies can be had. One facet of this process is covered in “Working Backwards From Your Goals”

True.  We see this often when we start with a new customer by profiling their sale.  It is amazing how few salespeople can define their sales cycle.  Clearly it varies to some degree, but I always tell them their guess is better than mine.  So how do you fix it?  Simple:

While there are a number of ways to affect the length of the sales cycle, by far the easiest to implement with the highest rate of return, no technology required, is to always secure a next step with your prospects.

This approach really is simple – it just takes a slight bit more effort to accomplish.  Many salespeople end a call or meeting with some form of “I’ll call you next week.”  That’s it.  No clear next step, no future commitment, no clarity.  The better approach is to ask this way, “I’ll call you next week.  One thing, what topics should I be prepared to discuss?”  That short question will do more to qualify an early-stage prospect than any other a salesperson could ask at that point.  Yet, most do not use it.

The author sums up this approach nicely:

In most instances, a next step does not always have to be quantum leaps, just remember that even a small movement forward gets you that much closer to close. But if you don’t secure a next step, have you advanced at all?

More Wacky Lists offers up another list with “wacky” in the title.  For web purposes, wacky is a euphemism for link bait, but I’ll bite.  The list is comprised of the most unusual excuses provided by employees for being late.

    1. While rowing across the river to work, I got lost in the fog.
    2. Someone stole all my daffodils.
    3. I had to go audition for American Idol.
    4. My ex-husband stole my car so I couldn’t drive to work.
    5. My route to work was shut down by a Presidential motorcade.
    6. I wasn’t thinking and accidentally went to my old job.
    7. I was indicted for securities fraud this morning.
    8. The line was too long at Starbucks.
    9. I was trying to get my gun back from the police.
    10. I didn’t have money for gas because all of the pawn shops were closed.

As a manager, I would find #8 completely acceptable.

A Line For Every Sales Ad

A bullet point from a Business Development Sales Position ad:

Demonstrated ability to persevere and remain positively motivated when faced with negative response or rebuff from the customer

What they are describing is the ability to handle rejection.  I think there is no more important differentiation between average salespeople and sales superstars.  That quoted line could, or maybe should, be in every sales ad.

Telecommuting Is Old School, Nomadism Is New School

The modern workplace is shifting towards a more ad hoc approach vs. a scheduled interaction according this The Economist’s excellent article Labour movement.  This article defines nomadism in the current work world:

Today’s work nomadism descends from, but otherwise bears little resemblance to, the older model of “telecommuting”, says Mr Ware. That earlier concept became popular in the 1990s thanks to cheap but stationary telecommunications technologies—the landline phone, the fax and dial-up internet. Because it still tied workers to a place—the home office—telecommuting implicitly had people “cocooning at home five days a week”, he says. But people do not want that: instead, they want to mingle with others and to collaborate, though not necessarily under fluorescent lights in a cubicle farm an hour’s drive from their homes. The crucial difference between telecommuting and nomadism, he says, is that nomadism combines the autonomy of telecommuting with the mobility that allows a gregarious and flexible work style.

That is an excellent explanation, isn’t it?  This trend is already in place and growing.  Mobility has become the emancipating factor in the equation.  Large companies are jumping into the nomadic ways too:

At Sun Microsystems, a company that makes hardware and software for corporate datacentres, more than half of the workforce is now officially nomadic, as part of a programme called “open work” in which employees have no dedicated desk but work from any that is available (called “hotdesking”), or do not come into the office at all.

And one good outcome of this?

Mr Schwartz, like Messrs Boyd and Coburn, has also noticed that he is having fewer “flesh meetings”.

…With more than 100,000 customers, he finds that he communicates far more efficiently through his blog, which is translated into ten languages and “on a good day reaches 50,000 people.”

…But in general he finds that “face-to-face is overrated; I care more about the frequency and fidelity of the communication.”

The article is long, but well worth the read.

The Urgency Of Hiring has a terrific article about executive recruiting that applies to more than just executive positions.  Sales hiring mirrors the same issues from the article.

The pull quote:

Not surprisingly, corporate bosses usually want to play a role in interviewing and assessing top candidates’ experience, qualifications, and fit with senior leadership. The problem arises when those leaders just don’t commit to the executive recruiting process. Often they fail to appreciate its urgency, the fact that candidates may be weighing other offers, or that candidate interviewing can be a process that’s unpredictable, and one that isn’t completely in their control. Even the hiring of a top-notch executive recruiter can’t guarantee there won’t be bumps along the way. Yes, your company may be doing the buying, but you can’t assume it’s a buyer’s market.

Oh, we have seen that in spades recently.  Here is exactly why this is an important point:

If candidates for top executive jobs come away from interviews feeling the company’s senior leaders aren’t really prioritizing their potential hiring, they’ll look elsewhere, especially since the most sought-after candidates usually have a handful of other career options to pursue.

We have seen this first-hand with sales candidates.  It doesn’t take much effort to get a feel for what the company’s responsiveness to a candidate.  Whether it is the correct read or not, the candidate still will draw his or her own conclusions.

This issue is critical in sales hiring.  Strong salespeople are strong qualifiers.  Once they lock in on an opportunity, they use their qualifying skills.  Companies that delay, disappear or deflect for long stretches often lose the strongest salespeople.

Relocate Me

This post was no joke on April 1.

I give you my backyard this morning:

April 26 Backyard

Add to that 31 degrees and you may understand the overall somber mood up here.  Last weekend was sunny and 75 degrees.  One thing about living in Minnesota, we love to whine talk about the weather.

Now, perhaps, you understand why.

Misspelling Ads

Spelling errors in a resume are bad, but spelling errors in ads may be worse.  I’m looking through ads this afternoon and found an ad that spelled Minnesota this way – Minnasota.  Yeah, that isn’t going to impress the locals.  However, I think I have seen the worst error ever.  One company has the word “electrical” in their name…they misspelled it.  They misspelled their own company name.


Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid

The doom-and-gloom economic reporting continues and as a sales manager it is important to keep a pulse on your team.  More articles are being released on the topic of employees getting skittish about their future with the company.  Bob Rosner offers some good advice for these employees in his Working Wounded blog:

Be careful to not drink the Kool-Aid with coworkers by being hyper-critical about your company’s future. Get an outside opinion. If you work for a public company, talk to a stock broker. A search in our city listed 391 brokers who offer a free consultation. If you work for a smaller company, check with vendors to see if they’re getting paid on time. Don’t stop there — also get a read on your department. Is your budget increasing? Do you work with vital customers? These are great check-ups to see if a layoff could be in your future.

Do you like, love or just plain hate your job? If you’re really unhappy, try information interviews with people on a career path that interests you. Passionate people enjoy sharing career tips with others. You could also obtain a skills and personality evaluation to determine your vital signs. Your work decision-making shouldn’t just revolve around your company or region’s vitality — it should reflect your passions too.

There will be plenty of salespeople jumping ship if they find a more secure opportunity.  Now is the time when sales managers have to secure their top talent before they drink the Kool-Aid.  Take the extra time to interact with your team and get a read of their present mindset.

Warning: Dinosaur Title Writer

I just read an employment ad for a sales position that had this for the title:


Honestly, how out of touch can you be?

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