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Archive for February, 2009

Impending Movement

In sales there has always been career movement.  Most successful salespeople have a “hunting” ability for closing deals.  They also use this ability to close new deals for themselves in terms of a new job.

I believe this approach is intensified in the younger generations – Gen X and Gen Y.  This current economy is going to erode much of their loyalty as they watch companies shed employees.  This downturn is far worse than that of 2001, but it is two career-altering downturns in less than 10 years.  That has to have an effect on younger workers.

Some of this movement can be seen in this article from

Even though it is a lower number than in years past, 16 percent of sales employers plan to increase the number of full-time employees on their payrolls in 2009, indicating that there will be movement in the industry this year.

That movement will be happening despite the market conditions. One-in-five sales workers said they will actively look for a new job in 2009, citing better pay and more career advancement opportunities as their primary motivators for hitting the pavement. In addition, 81 percent of sales workers said that they are passive job seekers, those that are not actively seeking a new opportunity, but would be open to one if they came across the right opportunity.

I always laugh at “passive job seekers.”  Who wouldn’t be open to the right opportunity?

Back on topic – I think we are heading for a tremendous jump in jobseekers once this economy recovers (in spite of what the media says, the economy will recover).  Retention is going to be far and away the top topic for all companies as they face the prospect of losing their top salespeople.

It’s All About Leads

Ask any salesperson and they will likely tell you that good leads are the most important aspect of successful selling.  I’ve worked for companies at all different levels on this topic – from absolute garbage leads (the company thought they were good) to golden leads (that were often ignored!).  The golden leads are money if you have salespeople who can effectively qualify.

To that point, Miller-Heiman has released their annual Sales Best Practices Study (h/t  One of their many interesting findings:

Organizations in which sales and marketing are aligned
regarding their target market, customer profile, and lead
definitions are in a much stronger position to produce
quality leads. Maintaining a consistent and highly visible
process to qualify opportunities will be critical in the
coming year when resource allocation will be highly
We found that a company’s ideal customer profile will
likely change as market conditions change. New criteria
may emerge or current criteria can increase in importance.
Strong sales and marketing alignment supports lead
quality by preventing marketing from focusing on targets
that are no longer a priority.

Many truths in that small excerpt.  Clearly companies will be hunting smaller deals in order to keep revenue flowing.  This economy can dry up revenue streams in a matter of weeks so constantly turning over rocks and looking for any deal will be critical.

As they say, read the entire thing.

There Are Still Open Positions

You never quite know what you are going to receive from the Herman Trend Alert which makes it one of the more highly-anticipated newsletters in my inbox.  This week the topic is how many job postings there are presently – over 1.8 million.  Granted, there is far more to hiring than just the quantitative aspect, but the number surprised me.

Here is their intro (sorry, no link):

While job postings between January 2008 and January 2009 have declined in all industries, there are still almost 1.88 million jobs that require skilled workers. According to a release by last week, the industries that experienced the least contraction were Education and Healthcare. Job postings in these industries declined by nine and eight percent respectively.

And the bad:

Looking at job seeker trends in 12 major industries,’s assessment reflects major losses in the numbers of postings in most of the major industries. Not surprisingly, the greatest losses were in Real Estate (58 percent) with Accounting second at 53 percent. The numbers of postings in the other major industries Construction, Banking and Finance, Hospitality, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Media and Newspapers, Retail, and Transportation all dropped by between 43 and 48 percent.

The last point they make is indicative of the change towards information-based positions in this country:

The other side of this picture, often overlooked except by employers in need, is the demand for skilled workers. In fact the numbers of postings in this report totals to over 1.87 million. The recently unemployed will fill some of those jobs. However, others will continue to be vacant because we simply do not have the trained workers to fill them— even with a national unemployment rate of 7.6. Employers would do well to take this opportunity to reinforce their pipelines, through the schools or colleges.

That is sound advice.  I find it difficult to believe that in this economy there are still positions that will go unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.  If you are looking for a new opportunity, these vacancies would be a good place to start analyzing your skill set to their need.

Hiring A System

If you have noticed a decrease in hiring topics of late there is a reason why…few companies are hiring.  We have seen it affect our business too.  We had an early glimpse of it last year around Q2 as our assessment business started to decline gradually.  That is a painful path to go down as you try to figure out a way to counteract the trend.

At any rate, companies are still purchasing assessments and some are still hiring.  Yes, it is true despite what you see in the media.  As you might imagine, there is some serious talent available to companies that have the wherewithal to hire right now.

One item I was contemplating was a sales candidate’s selling system or lack thereof.  When hiring salespeople, you are best served by hiring candidates who have a selling system.  It may not be your selling system, it may need adjustment, it may frighten you – whatever the case, you are wise to weigh this factor when making your hiring decision.

Generally speaking, salespeople who have some semblance of of a selling system think strategically when dealing with prospects.  This approach helps to neutralize the stereotypical desire of salespeople to schmooze.

Have you ever interviewed a sales candidate who believes they are a strong salesperson because of their rapport-building abilities?  That is an important ability, but it is painful when it is the end of their skill set.  You ask questions and never receive clear answers.  I’ve seen interviews degrade into pure frustration.

This economy requires greater skill, not greater schmoozing.  Prospects are slow-moving and price sensitive.  If you are hiring salespeople, ask them specific questions about their system for approaching, qualifying and closing new customers.  You will learn volumes.

Best Companies To Work For

I think in this economy you could simply state “any” as the best.  Well, that may be a bridge too far, but you get my point.  Fortune magazine released their annual list of the top 100 companies to work for.  Here are the top 10:

10. Nugget Market
9.  Goldman Sachs
8.  Methodist Hospital System
7.  Genentech
6.  Cisco Systems
5.  Wegmans Food Markets
4.  Google
3.  Boston Consulting Group
2.  Edward Jones
1.  NetApp

How about this excerpt on the number 1 company NetApp:

Typical of its down-to-earth management ethos, NetApp early on ditched a travel policy a dozen ­pages long in favor of this maxim: “We are a frugal company. But don’t show up dog-tired to save a few bucks. Use your common sense.” Rather than business plans, many units write “future histories,” imagining where their business will be a year or two out.

I’m green with envy over that travel policy.  Oh, and the company has over $2 BILLION of cash on hand.  It is a new employment world these days and I would say the management team at NetApp has it figured out.

The Most Important Innovations

…of the past 30 years is a topic I posted on last week.  The top 30 list was unveiled this week.  Here is the video link to the story regarding the top technical innovations.  And here is the overall list:

30. Anti retroviral treatment for AIDS

29. SRAM flash

28. Stents

27. ATMs

26. Bar codes and scanners

25. Bio fuels

24. Genetically modified plants

23. RFID and applications (e.g. EZpass)

22. Digital photography/videography

21. Graphic user interface (GUI)

20. Social networking via internet

19. Large scale wind turbines

18. Photovoltaic Solar Energy

17. Microfinance

16. Media file compression (e.g., jpeg, mpeg, mp3)

15. Online shopping/ecommerce/auctions (e.g., eBay)

14. GPS Systems

13. Liquid Crystal Displays

12. Light emitting diodes (first real devices in 1960s; in products in mid-70s)

11. Open source software and services (e.g., Linux, Wikipedia)

10. Non-invasive laser/robotic surgery (laparoscopy)

9.  Office software (Spreadsheets, word processors)

8.  Fiber optics

7.  Microprocessors

6.  Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

5.  DNA testing and sequencing/Human genome mapping

4.  E-mail

3.  Mobile phones

2.  PC/laptop

1.  Internet/broadband/WWW (browser and HTML)

Ok, the push here for alternative energy is a stretch in my opinion.  Bio fuels?  Please!  I live in an ethanol state (MN) and I can tell you that it is an inefficient waste of food.  That shouldn’t be anywhere near this list.  Wind turbines and solar power?  No, not top 30 material.

However, I will agree completely with the top 10.  That is a solid list.


It is a travel day for me – back to the cold of Minnesota – so may I suggest a thought-provoking article from the Killian BrandAid email newsletter?  Finability:  Catch The Fourth Wave is a must read.  First a taste:

Buyers, not sellers, control all transactions.

That’s a sweeping generalization, but let’s sweep together: Your prospects feel entitled to do their own research, given that they believe they have the information resources to find you (and, of course, find your competitors). Since a brand’s first duty is visibility, it’s essential that every organization with competitors (let’s spell that out: You) must engage in findability engineering. Your future depends on it.

Provocative, don’t you think?  The gist of the article involves branding as you might expect, but it is an excellent read on the fundamental change that has occurred recently in the business world.  Salespeople need to have a general understanding of this sea-change.

30 Most Important Innovations

We receive many media alerts at Select Metrix, but this one caught my eye.  PBS’ Nightly Business Report is airing the 30 Most Important Innovations from the Last 30 Years.  Here is their description:

In 1979, the first spreadsheet software was introduced, Sony rolled out the Walkman, ESPN began broadcasting sporting events to cable TV companies, and on public television, Nightly Business Report made its debut.  To celebrate their three decades on the air, PBS’ Nightly Business Report has teamed up with Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, to select the 30 most important innovations from the last 30 years.

The criteria upon which the innovations were judged:

1.  Did it have a direct and/or material effect on quality of life?

2.  Did it address a compelling need?  Did it solve a compelling problem?

3.  Was it a fresh, new breakthrough?   Was there a “WOW” factor?

4.  Did it change the way business is conducted?

5.  Did it increase the efficiency of how resources are used?

6.  Did it spark an ongoing stream of new innovations on top of the original innovation?

7.  Did it lead to the creation of a vast, new industry?

The first spreadsheet was introduced in 1979?  I was going to vote for Microsoft Windows, but now I suspect that may have existed in some early form before 1979.  The list will be revealed tonight in a special 30 min. program and I already have my TiVo set to record it.

Was there a cell phone in 1979?  I can’t remember.

Never Out Of Office

I’m traveling to Palm Springs, CA today for a trade show.  Let me just say that a California trade show is a blessed thing to a Minnesotan in February.  Anyway, I didn’t put an email message saying I will be out of the office.

Why even use that feature in Outlook?

Here’s my rationale, I receive all of my emails on my cell phone.  They are pushed to me so I actually get notified the moment they arrive.  I have my laptop with me and the hotel has wireless internet which is to be expected these days.  I may be physically out of the office, but I am still connected.

I am never truly out of the office.

One thing that has changed drastically in sales today is the fact that customers and prospects will not wait for me to get back in the office.  Business moves faster than that.  Companies operate on a JIT basis.  Delaying something 3 days today is similar to 3 weeks just a couple of decades ago.

Now that I have written this post, I am certain that I will get nailed by a few people (Benidt, I suspect) for my sloth-like email response times.

Hiring Without Knowledge

Selling Power’s Hiring One of the Team focuses on finding superstar salespeople that will fit into your existing team.  Clearly that is the goal for all sales hiring and this article supplies some sound advice.  Other parts of it I will leave to your judgment.

Here is a quote I enjoyed (emphasis mine):

“Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.“– Dee Hock, founder of VISA Credit Card Corporation.

That is spot on, especially the experience piece.  If you have read this blog for any length of time you know that we battle experience-based hiring.  A sales candidate with a well-crafted resume and industry experience often blinds the hiring manager.  The hiring manager becomes enamored with the experience and does not focus on the fit, ability or potential of the candidate.

“A true team player has to be able to set aside his or her ego and be able to do things for the benefit of the team,” says Gregory. “Use behavior profiles to assess this and then during the interview process ask questions such as, ‘Give me an example of when you felt you were not a team player. What did you do once you realized it?’ Look for sincerity in their answers. Did they admit they were wrong? Did they apologize?”

I like the approach and agree with the assessment part (not surprising, is it?), but behavior profiles alone are not as effective as a full assessment.  The behavioral assessment needs to be part of a motivational, aptitudes and skills assessment.  Simply hiring extroverts will not lead to a cohesive team.  A noisy team yes, cohesive, not necessarily.

Lastly, I wouldn’t recommend this:

Other members of the team (it doesn’t have to be everyone) should also interview the candidate. Gregory suggests that each of them ask the candidate the same question to see how the candidate responds. Meet with everyone to see if the person’s answers correlate. Then find out if the candidate was enthusiastic through all of the interviews or did he or she get irritated being asked the exact same question?

I don’t see that serving any purpose.  If you want to see how irritated they become, interrupt them during the interview.  Pressure them, confront them mildly, ask “why” questions – this approach will reveal more to you than a repeated question that will probably generate a canned response.

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