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Archive for December, 2009

Sales Stories Of 2009

I, for one, am ready to say good riddance to 2009.  This year was the most difficult I can ever remember in terms of revenue, business and the economy.  I suppose the one good thing is that it can only get better!

However, it is the end of the year and of the decade so I am enjoying the retrospective stories that permeated the media this week. offers up the top 5 sales stories of 2009.  One of them stood out to me:

The sales world lost one of its best this year with the death of Billy Mays. One of TV’s most famous pitchmen, Mays was known for his enthusiasm, loud voice, and boisterous demeanor. Mays allegedly died from a lethal arrhythmia of the heart, brought on by heart disease,which was partly caused by cocaine use.

Mays, famous for selling products such as OxyClean and Orange Glo, helped sell over $1 billion in merchandise during his career. Just three months before his death, Mays and his partner, Anthony Sullivan, starred in a show called Pitchmen on Discovery Channel that followed their exploits as sales professionals.

True confession, I watched that Pitchmen show on Discovery and was fascinated by it.  It did provide a behind-the-scenes look at sales and marketing.  Granted, it was for television pitches of new products, but it contained some intriguing, real-world scenarios.  It contains a tragic ending with Mays’ early death.

I hope all of you are looking forward to turning the page on this year and jumping into the new decade.  It is surely one filled with promise and possibilities. All the best to you this new decade!

Merry Christmas

This video is making its way around the net and I found it quite funny.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Select Metrix and The Hire Sense.

2010 Predictions

This is from the Herman Group as they make their predictions each year.  I can attest to the first point being valid – I have talked to a handful of salespeople who are waiting out the economy to jump from their current position.  These guys have a wonderful grasp of new words and phrases.  I always learn about some relatively new word from them.  I have taken the liberty of bolding some of them in the pull quote below.

1. Cutbacks and Re-Engineering will continue into 2010 Expect ongoing reductions in force as some employers continue to optimize their workforces and eliminate “redundancy”. We caution these employers to be very careful, because we know that 54 percent of today’s employees are ready to jump, as soon as the economy improves. They are currently “Corporate Cocooning“.

2. Shortages of Certain Skill Sets will become More Acute As the economy begins to recover, certain skill sets will be more critical and difficult to find. These high-demand workers will be more demanding about their work schedules, environment, etc. The wisest employers will embrace not only flex-time, but flex-place as well.

3. Employers will embrace Innovative Ideas to Reward their Valued Workers This innovation will include non-financial ways and even non-reward (recognition only) ways to add value for their top talent; these innovative ideas will come from the employees themselves. Employers that do not mine the collective intelligence of their workers will find themselves unable to optimize profits.

4. Fear and Apprehension continue to reduce Productivity A significant percentage of employees continue to worry about the future. These negative feelings will persist, unless addressed. Transparency, besides being one of those elements employees seek, will be imperative.

5.More Employers will invest in a Variety of Healthcare Cost-Cutting Strategies Besides wellness programs to address expensive unproductive behaviors (like smoking and over-eating), more large employers will embrace ideas like onsite clinics and health coaches. For some candidates, the cost of not complying with the prospective companies’ wellness programs will change their employee value propositions so drastically that they will choose to work elsewhere.

6. Focus on Engagement will replace the Focus on Retention Recognizing that with engagement comes not only retention, but greater productivity and profitability, too, employers will change their focus. We will see Directors of Retention morph into Directors of Employee Engagement. The next step (coming much later than 2010) will be to recognize the importance of the total “Internal and External Customer Experience”.

7. Increasing Attention to Succession Planning Around the globe, we see an increasing attention to succession planning and management. However, the issue of succession preparation continues to take a backseat to succession planning. This big mistake will begin to be felt in 2010, when Baby Boomer retirements combine with the lack of trained people becomes a critical problem. Succession management continues to be critical to long-term success.

8. Employers that did not build Bench Strength will pay More to hire Experience Organizations that did not take the opportunity presented by this business slowdown to send their people for more training, will have to pay more to hire trained, experienced people.

9. Some Employers will eliminate Reward Programs Misunderstanding Dan Pink’s new book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us”, some employers will abolish their reward programs altogether. This ill-advised shift will cause significant, negative, unintended consequences.

10. Burned out Employees will begin Leaving Employers Over 80 percent of today’s employees feel overworked and under-appreciated. Too many organizations have survived and maintained some level of profitability by over-loading their long-term employees. Once we begin to see positive job growth in the second half of 2010, some employees will feel confident enough to leave their companies.

11. Employers will accommodate Older Workers like Never Before The exodus of their long-term employees will challenge some employers to get the work done, without resorting to hiring expensive contract help or paying high fees to recruiters. Enlightened employers will mine the rolls of their retired workers and hire them back on a part-time, temporary, or seasonal basis. These seasoned professionals will be welcomed back, in spite of the fact that they will dictate their own terms.

Christmas In The Sales World

This is from

Twas the end of the quarter, with my Blackberry dead
Not a prospect was stirring, my dashboard pure red.
The managers were wringing their hands with despair,
With thoughts of their bonuses vanishing into thin air.

The VP of sales sat awake in her bed,
While visions of mortgages danced in her head.
And the CFO in his office, and I on a plane,
Were bracing ourselves for the oncoming pain.

When there in my Inbox appeared a new subject line,
I sprang from the seat with a feeling divine.
“Reconsidering Vendors – You’re Still in the Race”,
A 400-user license was still mine to chase!

The head of the project had reopened bids
The original victor had costs they had hid.
Please be there on Friday to talk with the team,
My value proposition had found new esteem.

With well-rehearsed banter, and names memorized
Internal champions gave credence in my quest for the prize.
My travel all set, accommodations in place,
I practiced and researched, all to meet face-to-face!

“Now HR! now, Sales Group! now, Accounting and IT!
On, Biz Dev! on, Admin! on Marketing and EVP’s!
From clerks in the mailroom to the C-Level suite!
I have a solution, your needs it all meets!”

As handshakes were tendered and details were smoothed,
A lone IT director suddenly came into his groove.
“It’s not an on-premise, I don’t know if I trust,
Security is foremost, an end-all, a must!”

And then, in a flash, my hopes came to rest
On a man with a Linux logo sewn on his chest.
“Let me talk to your guys,” he said with stern voice
“I have to say SaaS is never my first choice.”

The meeting then ended without pen put to paper,
I’d have to sit tight, waiting as my hopes tapered .
Talking in 1’s and 0’s and data encryption,
The IT director held up the decision.

His questions were cutting, his mind sharp and agile!
He wanted the details, how robust? how fragile?
His stream of questions were insistent and loud,
As our CTO talked proxies, permissions and clouds.

The stub of a pencil held tight in his teeth,
He looked at me sideways and to my relief
Broke into a smile and announced “I’m convinced”,
Your platform meets all our base requirements!

An agreement was drawn up, signed the next day,
And with a few pen strokes the quarter was saved!
A good sleep I had on my direct flight back,
On Monday the office gathered ‘round in a pack.

They asked “How did you do it?”  “Who did you know?”,
My secret was Landslide and its sales process flow!
And then I heard the CEO’s assistant,
“Mr. Brown wants to see you, right this instant!”

I received a promotion, right on the spot,
And two weeks PTO for the business I brought.
I decided to vacation well south of the border,
“Happy selling to all, and to all a good quarter!”

Worst Hiring Trends From 2009

This story is from and is filled with great points.  The first “bad trend” speaks straight to me:

Labyrinthine Job Application Systems

If there’s one thing I hear more job hunters harrumph about, it’s the maddening online application tools so many companies use. No one’s suggesting employers do away with online job applications altogether, just that they bring their systems up to twenty-first century computing standards.

“Not only do most of them have the job seeker input all of the information from their resume — redundantly at times — but half of them shut down, crash your computer or steer you into dead ends,” said Dick Barnes of The Freeland Group…

I hear the exact same thing from many candidates to the point where I experienced it first-hand.  Some of these systems are absolutely ridiculous.  My background is in sales and sales hiring so I am underwhelmed by most talent management software.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like to look at a resume and talk to a candidate.

And if you read this blog regularly, you will know this is one is near and dear to my heart:

Overly Demanding Job Listings

Once upon a time, a person could apply for a job as a plumber, software programmer or public affairs officer. Now we have job listings calling for programmers with marketing experience, plumbers with a project management background and publicists who have a knack for accounting, mediating personnel issues and troubleshooting a leaky toilet.

Deirdre, an executive assistant in Los Angeles who didn’t want her real name used, said she has seen a rise in such demanding, kitchen-sink job listings during the 16 months she’s been looking for work.

How true.  The need to spell out every little detail, to insert every little criteria, to require every bit of experience…this approach can actually derail the hiring process into the undesirable task of recycling mediocrity.

Salespeople need to have the ability to hunt down information.  If you provide every detail in the ad, you forfeit the opportunity to see their qualifying skill in the initial stage of the hiring process.

Good For Nothing Compensation

Great article from Yahoo Finance.  I think I have worked with some salespeople in the past who had this same compensation program:

Anthony Armatys is facing up to six years in prison for his dumb move. But he’s not the only dummy in this story.

Armatys accepted a job in 2002 with telecom equipment maker Avaya but then changed his mind before he started. He was already in the payroll system however, and the company started depositing his six-figure salary into his checking account.

For five years, Armatys did not notify Avaya of its error, but his attempt to make an early withdrawal from his 401(k) prompted an investigation that led to his arrest.

In October Armatys pleaded guilty to theft and was ordered to repay the $470,995.53 in compensation he received. He faces full sentencing in January.

A Fantasy Football Firing

As a long-time fantasy football player, I am terrified by this story of a termination that occurred in Texas (one of the football capitals of this country).  The quick details:

Pettigrew and three other Fidelity employees were fired for playing fantasy football.

“Firing a guy for being in a $20 fantasy league? Let’s be honest; that’s a complete overreaction,” said Pettigrew, who lives in Grapevine and has an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington. “In this economic time, especially. To fire people over something like this, it’s just cold.”

Said Fidelity spokesman Vin Loporchio: “We have clear policies that relate to gambling. Participation in any form of gambling through the use of Fidelity time or equipment or any other company resource is prohibited. In addition to being illegal in a lot of places, it can also be disruptive. We want our employees to be focused on our customers and clients.”

Yikes.  That is some draconian policy they have, but I’m not sure Mr. Pettigrew is completely innocent in this situation:

Pettigrew, who was the commissioner of his league, knew Fidelity had a policy against playing fantasy football at the office. But he said the policy was poorly communicated and ignored by leadership. Pettigrew said there were at least 10 fantasy leagues in which leaders and managers played.

But the story has another turn:

Pettigrew, though, said he never sent any fantasy football e-mails at work or using his work e-mail address. But the investigators found two instant messages that had fantasy-football-related material.

“One of my buddies sent me something about how bad Trent Edwards was playing or something like that,” Pettigrew said. “So they called me in and talked to me for about 90 minutes on everything I ever knew about fantasy football. They interrogated me as though I was some sort of international gambling kingpin. Then they released me for the day, and I was like, ‘OK.’ I never thought they’d fire me for this, but, the next day, I get the call saying I had been terminated.”

No way this guy should have been terminated.  Clearly his analysis of Trent Edwards play is spot on, in my opinion.  In all seriousness, this does seem quite harsh in this economy during the Christmas season.  I would say some sort of reprimand was in order, but a termination without warning is over the top.  One of the often discounted items is the effect this type of leadership has on team morale.  Upper management could have gotten their point across without sacrificing team morale with an overreach.

Swamped By Applicants

I am hearing more discussions about incredibly large responses to sales job postings in this present economy.  Some of the companies I talk to are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of resumes they receive.  I went back to look at an old article we wrote back in 2005 when the economy was in a much stronger position.  In today’s economy, the points are even more applicable:

If your ideal sale starts at the VP level, state in your ad that a needed skill is the ability to communicate at the VP level.  If your sale involves many competitors, state in your ad that the successful candidate is able to close deals in a competitively crowded market.  You get the idea – stay focused on the successes you desire from the salesperson in this role.  The primary goal of the ad should be to move the sales superstar to respond.  They should see themselves, or better yet their abilities, in the ad – the skills they possess today, their motivations to succeed and the parameters for success in the position.

The key is always to write the ad with the ideal salesperson in mind.  Often I read ads that are clearly just job descriptions posted my HR on a job board.  Some are amazingly bad – listing amount of weight one has to lift, detailed dental insurance plans, obtuse software references.  There is a time an a place for these things, but not in the approach ad.

I always tell our clients to view the hiring process as a sales call.  Imagine a salesperson cold calls you and starts doing a detailed data dump about a product or service.  The salesperson doesn’t even qualify you for need, they just start rolling.  I find overwritten sales employment ads elicit the same response from me.

The better approach is to think of your ideal salesperson when constructing the ad and write the ad using the most salient points to illustrate the position.  This will keep your writing to a minimum while staying on topic.

And the reason why this is important is defined in this article:

Such employees are taking a “scattershot” approach to job hunting, sending resumes for openings whether they are qualified or not. That can create headaches for an HR organization. One executive I met with recently told me he had received 200 resumes for a top managerial position. Twenty of them were excellent, but the rest were well-crafted resumes of people who were in no way qualified for the job. Better filtering systems are going to be essential to streamline the hiring process and keep time and costs in check.

Write a better ad.

Salespeople – Born Or Made?

The nature vs. nurture debate is one for which I am most intrigued.  My Bachelor’s degree is in psychology and this topic was a popular debate topic in my courses.  Yesterday I came across this article from – Are entrepreneurs born or made?  As I look at the stats, I tend to interpret the result as saying entrepreneurs are made:

Shane and his fellow researchers compared the entrepreneurial activity of 870 pairs of identical twins — who share 100% of their genes — and 857 pairs of same-sex fraternal twins — who share 50% — to see how much of entrepreneurial behavior is genetic and how much is environmental.

The mathematics behind quantitative genetic modeling are rather complicated, but the upshot was fairly straightforward: Entrepreneurs, the researchers concluded, are about 40% born and 60% made.

The 40% is a significant number; one that ties into salespeople also.  The article contains an excellent example as to where it derives its significance:

But he doesn’t totally dismiss nature’s role. “For someone without aptitude, I don’t think those things can be taught,” he says. “I can’t make a librarian into a Broadway performer.”

I believe strong salespeople are nurtured and developed within the right sales environment.  Yet, there is a nature/born component to strong salespeople also – the 40% born and 60% made split seems accurate to me.  The critical factor in the “40% born” side is their aptitudes.  We describe aptitudes as intrinsic talents. These are talents that salespeople possess – they are not learned.  They can be refined, but they cannot be created.  Salespeople either have these intrinsic talents or they do not.

For instance, it is difficult, almost impossible, to make a successful salesperson out of someone who lacks the aptitude Handling Rejection.  Few territory reps are successful without having a strong Personal Accountability aptitude.  Hire a remote salesperson with low Initiative and you will have trouble.

One facet of our assessments is to measure a salesperson’s aptitudes in comparison to their present sales skills.  This comparison reveals areas where they may have underdeveloped sales skills today, but they possess the aptitude…it simply needs to be refined into a skill.

A Forecasted Position

Here is an ad item I have not seen before:

**** is A Forecast Positing for Minneapolis, MN area ***

Do you get the feeling that line was an internal communication?  With a spelling error?  Whatever the reason, it single-handedly derails the ad…and wastes the money spent on it.  Any sales candidate who sees “forecast” for the position instantly knows that it is unqualified.  My guess is that the funding for the position is not approved yet.

The fact that I can make that assumption neutralizes the ad.

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