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Archive for November, 2008

Giving Thanks

It is already looking like Thanksgiving here at Select Metrix so it seems like an appropriate time to say thank you to all of our customers, our associates, our friends and our readers.  Many of you span more than one of those categories.  Thank you for your support through this year of change.

May all of you have a happy, safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

Fragrance Follies has a post regarding an overuse of perfume and cologne by employees.  The author asks a good question:

Apart from sharing the story, I’m writing this to ask how you think managers should handle “strong fragrance” issues in the workplace. It seems like a sensitive issue because people wearing the cologne or perfume must not realize that it is SO noticeable for the people around them.

Let me be a little crass – I heard a funny story from a sales manager we met with yesterday.  He used to work for a company where he was a sales manager for one territory and there was another gentleman who handled the other territory.  This other sales manager had a relatively cold office so he tended to keep his door shut to warm it up.

Well, one day our guy is interviewing a woman for a salesperson position and when he is done, he walks her down to the other sales manager’s office so that he can interview her too.  The door is closed so our guy knocks and then walks in with the sales candidate.

It took a second, but then the overwhelming funk from the other sales manager’s flatulence hit both our guy and the woman candidate.  They both stopped in their tracks while the sales manager turned beat red.

Our guy, ever quick on his feet, said, “Ok, let’s do this interview in the conference room.”


Odd Resume Inclusions

In first reading this I thought I was reading a line from one of Jeff Foxworthy’s jokes, “You know you are a redneck if you write on your resume, “hobbies include sitting on the levee at night watching alligators.”  Nope, this is one of many odd resume inclusions from an article on CareerBuilder.  If you have ever run a recruiting process you probably can come up with your own list, but CareerBuilder has put together some beauties:

  • Candidate included that he spent summers on his family’s yacht in Grand Cayman.
  • Candidate attached a letter from her mother.
  • Candidate used pale blue paper with teddy bears around the border.
  • Candidate explained a gap in employment by saying it was because he was getting over the death of his cat for three months.
  • Candidate specified that his availability was limited because Friday, Saturday and Sunday was “drinkin’ time.”
  • Candidate included a picture of herself in a cheerleading uniform.
  • Candidate drew a picture of a car on the outside of the envelope and said it was the hiring manager’s gift.
  • Candidate included the fact that her sister once won a strawberry eating contest.
  • Candidate explained that he works well nude.
  • Candidate explained an arrest by stating, “We stole a pig, but it was a really small pig.”
  • Candidate included family medical history.

Job Change Motivators

I like to say that people are the ultimate variable – there are almost limitless possibilities, variations, surprises, etc.  One aspect of hiring that often gets overlooked is motivation.  In sales, money is the common, assumed motivator.  In many cases this is accurate, but money motivation can manifest itself in different forms.  Our website illustrates some subtle differences between motivators.

Selling Power has an article that speaks in slightly more general terms.  I think these 4 are quite accurate in terms of my own interviewing of candidates.  The second one is quite prevalent amongst Gen Y:

  • Situations. This usually doesn’t have anything to do with the actual job, says Radin. It’s something outside of the job that creates the need to make a change. Situational motivators could be a long commute, a spouse transfer, or that the company dropped its health benefits.
  • Opportunity. If a candidate is at a job and there is something that she really wants to do – a new responsibility or working with a new technology – and it’s not and will never be available at her present job, it could be a motivator for change. Ask, “What is it that you want, that you will never get at your job now?” and you’ll discover an underlying motivator.
  • Dissatisfaction. If there is something happening at work that’s driving a candidate crazy and it won’t change, it could be enough to prompt a job change. For example, if the owner of the company is the driving force behind something that is bothering the person, it may never change and the candidate has to realize that and move on. However, if the candidate had his proposal refused or doesn’t get along with his officemate, this person could be looking for a new job out of impulse. This is where the hiring manager has to recognize that the motivator isn’t real, as it’s something that could be resolved, and therefore isn’t a real reason to change jobs. The hiring manager’s job is to figure out the real motivators.
  • Money. On a professional level, money typically doesn’t come into play unless it materially affects a person’s lifestyle or self-esteem, says Radin. “Offering professionals more money to take your job is usually a losing proposition,” he says. “The incumbent company can just match that and 95 out of 100 times, the person will stay where he is if there aren’t other considerations motivating him. When it comes to money if you get in a bidding war, it’s not going to make the difference. I’ve worked with candidates who have taken pay cuts because the new job addressed other needs.

That last one is a bit foreign to us in sales recruiting and assessing, but I think it is still valid.  I also believe that money discussions are more smoke than anything else in an employment discussion.  Typically there is more to the decision than just money whether the candidate reveals that information or not.

A New Green Initiative

Here is a good Friday anecdote – I was doing some research on a company and I came across this line on their website:

Expansion of our business recycling programs to include employees

What in the world?  This is a fairly sizeable company so I am surprised no editing occurred on the site.  However, it is rather humorous.  I’m not sure I want to know how they recycle employees.  It certainly seems to take “green” to a whole new level.

Keep The Perks

The Herman Trend Alert has a surprising report on a survey looking at employee perks for 2008.  The economy may be tanking, but employers are aware of the need to retain talent.

In spite of the drastic effects of the economy on the labor market with announced workforce reductions up 30 percent, a surprising majority of companies (66.7 percent) have chosen to preserve their employee perks. Ten percent of those employers said they had considered trimming perks, but decided to leave them at current levels.

Despite their need to reduce their expenses, almost 55 percent still plan to distribute year-end bonus checks this year (2008). Only 20 percent of the companies surveyed said they had cut or eliminated perks to contain costs. At the same time, 35 percent reported they had to cut these extras to save jobs.

The destabilized economy has led to major reductions in force. According to Challenger’s estimates, through September 2008, employers have announced plans to cut a total of over 750,000 jobs. Yet in spite of the softer economy, another survey conducted by a business research firm in Arlington, Virginia and ADP, the payroll provider, found that 34 percent of their respondents reported “recruitment and retention” as their top priority.

Looking at the findings from both of these studies, we can infer that a large percentage of employers understand the value talented workers provide to the organization. They know that if they do not take care of their employees during this difficult time, when the economy improves, those employees might leave.

Wise employers will hunker down and engage their associates to help them streamline processes, market smarter, and cut expenses. They will continue to resist reducing bonuses and perks, because they know the future dangers and choose to think long-term.

Remember Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation receiving his Christmas bonus of a one-year membership in the jelly-of-the-month club?  I guess that would not be a good option in this instance.

10 Ways To Help Out Your Employees

ManageSmarter has a good article that provides 10 ways that you can help your employees through the economic crisis.  There are some simple ideas on the list that a manager should do regardless of the economy.  What better way to retain your employees than to show your appreciation for their efforts?

  1. Shortening the work week to four days with extended work hours will increase productivity and give a welcome break for people.
  2. Consider giving turkeys to employees for Thanksgiving and accompany the gift with a card expressing appreciation for what everyone is doing.
  3. Facilitate a car pool, coordinating rides or give a gas cards.
  4. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with employees to learn of their financial situation and their stress levels.
  5. Giving employees movie passes or restaurant certificates for excellent work.
  6. Boost morale by having senior leaders conduct regular communication meetings with all employees to share what is going on with the company and to solicit ideas on how to help each other deal with economic uncertainties.
  7. Bring in childcare services or set up a day care opportunity close to the office to lessen child care travel time and expenses for employees.
  8. Make exercise programs and gym equipment available so they can stay trim and fit without paying monthly membership fees.
    Work with your downtown business association to see what after-hours shopping discounts can be arranged to assist employees with saving money.
  9. Take some time now to write an individual thank-you card to each employee expressing sincere gratitude and appreciation for sticking with the company and thank them for their contributions.

Know Your Customer

If a salesperson’s customer relationship is based in the purchasing department you have trouble.  It is difficult to build a strong relationship with purchasing in that they are incented to cut your margins, shop your competition and demand ever-improving terms.

Clearly you have to have a good relationship with purchasing if your typical sale goes through that department.  However, it is high risk to base your customer relationship on that department.

Selling Power offers up an article that discusses the importance of knowing your end customer – the one who actually uses your product or service.  Consider this statement:

Once you know your core customer as a person and not as a statistic or market segment, you’ll be able to make decisions that better address the needs of that customer.

I couldn’t agree more.  The author continues with a good example from his past:

Consider, for instance, Bloom’s encounter years ago with Stanley Marcus, founder of Neiman Marcus. Bloom, then a young ad rep, met with Marcus to get his approval of a special print ad that, like almost all retail ads, included the store’s address just below its logo. Marcus asked Bloom to remove the address, explaining, “When you are Neiman Marcus, you don’t need an address.” Omitting the address communicated upscale exclusivity and let his core customers feel a bit elitist in matters of taste and style. And Marcus knew how important this was to them. Marcus “was an absolute master in the art of knowing and understanding customers,” recalls Bloom. “He knew what his customers preferred and he understood their aspirations. He built a store environment, created a merchandising philosophy, and cultivated a worldwide reputation with their needs and desires in mind.”

I know you can get caught up in the positioning of Nieman Marcus, but the story has much wisdom in it.  Some things are difficult to learn if you are only dealing with purchasing.

Are You Really Running A Behavioral-Based Interview?

Behavioral-based interviewing has been the buzz in hiring for the past few years and rightly so.  This technique brings real-world clarity to a sales interview as opposed to theoretical, positional answers.  Selling Power provides a good article to assist you in your interview strategy.

In order to ensure you are using a behavioral-based approach (emphasis mine):

“A lot of people think that they are conducting behavioral-based interviewing when they’re really not,” says Wolf, who defines behavioral-based questions as questions that allow candidates to relate real situations and demonstrate how their strengths and weaknesses are exhibited on the job. “Many times hiring managers are asking theoretical questions, such as, ‘How would you handle this situation?’ Or, ‘If you were faced with this situation, what would you do?’ A behavioral-based question is phrased differently, such as, ‘Can you tell me about a situation where you…’ A true behavioral question may not even be a question. For example, ‘Tell me how you handled a client objection.’ The whole premise that past behavior predicts future behavior falls flat unless you are really getting examples of past behavior.”

I am partial to using a statement as opposed to a question in the interview.  I find this approach focuses the candidate and allows less room for theoretical answers.  Here are a few suggestions from the author:

Wolf shares a few best practices of behavioral-based interviewing to help you garner the most information from your candidates:

  1. Have a valid interview guide. “Start with a job analysis because every question you ask in an interview has to be job relevant,” says Wolf. “Questions have to be linked to the tasks performed on the job – that’s critical. For example, if the job requires the ability to overcome objections, you need to specifically ask about a time when a candidate overcame an objection.
  2. Be familiar with your information. “Just like you wouldn’t go into a sales call without researching the company, don’t go into the interview without some knowledge about the candidate,” says Wolf. Review the resume, check out social networks, and review the candidate’s company Website.
  3. Be a practiced interviewer. Seek training and role-play because interviewing is a skill, says Wolf.

“The most difficult things about doing behavioral-based interviews are balancing the timing and pace of the interview, while managing the experience that the candidate is getting,” says Wolf. “You need to get the information by getting enough detail, but not too much. At the same time, you need to get that detail without making the candidate feel as if you are drilling them – you need to have empathy. It takes a lot of practice and training.”

That last paragraph is filled with wisdom.  If you overdo it the interview becomes something of a scene from a crime drama interrogation.  One thing we always remind our hiring managers – you are selling the candidate also…don’t forget that fact.

However, we always recommend that you model the interview after a sales call.  You can be a little standoffish and disconnected to see how the candidate handles the situation.  The best way to see a salesperson’s talents is to see them selling.  You can model your hiring process after your typical sale to see which candidates can handle the different situations, pressures and processes.

If you need help in this area we would welcome the chance to talk to you about your sales hiring process.

8 Things Not To Do On A Sales Call

I read this post on Bnet and got a chuckle out of a couple of the points and thought I would share this article by Geoffrey James with you.  I especially laughed when I read don’t flirt with the admin…who does that?!  Anyway, here are the 8 things not to do:

  1. Flirt with the admin.  It may seem tempting, but unless you’ve got soap-opera-quality looks, chances are you’re only going to annoy (or even alarm) the admin, who will tell the boss.  Fix: Stay polite, friendly and respectful.
  2. Talk more than you listen.  Initial sales calls are all about relationship building and gathering information, which you can’t do if your mouth is moving. Fix: Get curious about the customer and ask questions.
  3. Comment on the memento. The last 372 people who came into that office remarked about the signed baseball on the desk.  Ho-hum…  Fix: Research the prospect and ask about the prospect’s job.
  4. Pretend to drop by.  Who are you kidding?  Do you think that it’s going to cushion the rejection if you pretend that it’s not a sales call?  Fix: Have something important to say or sell that justifies your presence.
  5. Answer your cell phone.  Ouch! Ouch!  What were you thinking?  How could any telephone call be more important than a real live prospect?  Fix: Turn it off and leave it in your briefcase.
  6. Overstay your welcome. Your prospect has hundreds of other things that he or she could be doing, rather than spending time with you.  Fix: Set a time limit for the call.
  7. Let the meeting meander.  This isn’t the time for a wandering conversation that slowly gets to the point or a long series of complicated questions.  Fix: Provide brief agenda of how you expect the call to proceed.
  8. Argue with the customer.  If the customer doesn’t agree with an important point, arguing is only going to set that opinion in stone.  Fix: ask the customer why he holds that opinion; then listen.

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