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Archive for January, 2010

A Steakhouse Ad

From a sales employment ad I read this morning:

Proven, world-class technology with plenty of sizzle

I can’t decide if I like that last turn of phrase in an ad or not.  For software sales, it sounds positive.  For slick-talking salespeople, it sounds like a negative stereotype.  I would recommend leaving the “sizzle” for steak.

Rudeness At Work

From Shine on Yahoo comes one of those surveys that makes me think we are over-surveying (emphasis mine):

…96% of Americans report experiencing rudeness at work, and 48% say they are treated uncivilly at least once a week.

This kind of manners meltdown can have a direct effect on the bottom line. According to surveys conducted by Pearson and her colleagues, 48% of poorly treated employees have intentionally decreased their productivity and 12% say the boorish behavior compelled them to quit. Workplace rudeness costs employers an average of $50,000 per worker. “There are very high costs associated with even seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and actions,” adds Pearson.

Insert yawn here (maybe that was “boorish behavior” on my part).  $50K per worker due to rudeness?  Where does that number come from?  I have a hard time believing that one.

Social Networking Series

I received a PR email notifying me of a 3-part series starting tonight on Nightly Business Report. Here are the details:

“Social Networking”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Similar to the introduction of TV in the 1950’s, social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are rapidly becoming a core component of many Americans’ daily lives.  But where businesses could easily impact the American consumer through TV advertisements, the road map for marketing through social networking is a bit more complex. The rules are certainly different, but as NBR’s Scott Gurvey finds out: the rewards may be even greater.

Tuesday 1/26: Pt. 1 – In part 1, NBR reveals some of the basic ground rules for companies participating in the world of social networking.

Wednesday 1/27: Pt. 2 – Businesses large and small use social networking in different ways.  In part 2, NBR digs deeper into the unwritten rules of social networking by examining recent campaigns from Pepsi and Fetch Pet Care.

Thursday 1/28: Pt. 3 – In part 3, NBR examines the multiplier effect of social networking along with some helpful advice on dealing with consumer complaints.

I have the DVR set and may I suggest you do the same?  Perhaps this short series will change my perspective on Twitter.

Fastest Growing Employment Industries

I received a press release from IBISWorld with some interesting data about where the employment growth will occur over the next 4-5 years.  Of course, I would be a bit skeptical about number 2 considering the recent announcements from the White House concerning the banking industry.  Nonetheless, still an interesting picture:

Rank Industry Employees 2009 Employees 2014 Annualized Growth 2009-2014
1 Voice Over Internet Protocol Providers (VoIP) 17,110 34,850 15.3%
2 Private Equity, Hedge Funds

& Investment Vehicles

35,200 58,700 10.8%
3 Single Family Home Building 435,000 655,000 8.5%
4 Car & Automobile Manufacturing 50,756 73,950 7.8%
5 Environmental Consulting 122,922 176,519 7.5%
6 Multi Family Housing Construction 60,000 86,000 7.5%
7 Search Engines 29,530 40,850 6.7%
8 New Car Dealers 750,825 1,033,679 6.6%
9 Court Reporting Services 271,843 370,993 6.4%
10 Mining, Oil & Gas Machinery Manufacturing 45,169 60,716 6.1%

Tone Deaf Management

Remember back a few years ago when Radio Shack fired employees via email?  Well, here comes another tone-deaf approach by retail management.  I think the title of the article explains it well – PetSmart Fires Employee Who Brought Dog to Work.

Here it is:

Eric Favetta, a 31-year-old PetSmart employee, was fired for "theft of services" after bringing his dog to work during an overnight shift he’d picked up as a favor to his manager, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Favetta – a former military dog handler who’d worked at PetSmart for 18 months – didn’t want his 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, Gizmo, to be home alone all day and night. So he put Gizmo in the Secaucus, New Jersey store’s doggie day care facility. The store was empty, and Favetta checked in on his pet every 15 minutes.

Two weeks later, store and district managers requested a written report of his overnight shift. He complied – and promptly was fired for "theft of service."

“I was shocked,” Favetta told the Star Ledger. “It makes me sick that because I brought my dog to work with me when the store was closed to do the company a favor, I was called a thief and terminated.” "Theft of service" was just a convenient excuse to axe him because he didn’t get along with his manager, he argues, noting that he opened the store and handled money without incident.

Astounding.  In all fairness to PetSmart, they did change course and offer Mr. Favetta his job back and a transfer to another store.  I am still amazed that the corporate people did not see the irony and idiocy of this situation.

I Don’t See The Point Of Twitter

I know the Twitterheads are going to flame this, but I have to agree with Ricky Gervais:

But after composing only five Tweets, Gervais gave up on January 9, telling his 13,000 followers he was going to stop his updates because “I don’t see the point.” He followed up with an explanation on his blog, calling Twitter “undignified.” (As opposed, say, to David Brent dance.)

“I just don’t get it, I’m afraid,” Gervais wrote. “I’m sure it’s fun as a networking device for teenagers but there’s something a bit undignified about adults using it. Particularly celebrities who seem to be showing off by talking to each other in public.”

I have not invested much time into Twitter so I have probably a comparable amount of knowledge regarding it as Mr. Gervais.

Flame on.

Loan Out Your Employees

Now this is something I have not seen yet – loaning out your employees during slow periods. provides the article:

How it works: On the StaffShare website the “seller” company lists the employee’s skills, daily rate, and availability. The cost is £50 (roughly $81.70) a year per candidate. The “buyer” company searches the database, uses the website’s message system to vet candidates and iron out details with the seller, and then a contract is sent electronically.

The background behind the idea:

“The companies had these redeployment pools of 1,000 people who needed to find other work within the company,” Flaxton says. “So we thought, ‘What if there was a service where they could find it at another company?'”

Conceptually, I think it is a tremendous idea.  Logistically, I’m not sure how this approach would work for retention.  Still, I believe there will be major transformations once we finally come out of this severe recession.  Employees moving to a contract agreement seems to be a natural progression.

The movement of health insurance payments from the employer to the employee (inevitable based on rising costs) will remove one of the incentives of traditional employment agreements.  A contractual (1099) agreement could become the more standard arrangement.

The Key Word Is Hiring

You don’t have to look far to find disconcerting news about the present economy.  This AP story from one of our local papers lays out numbers that paint a vivid picture (emphasis mine):

There were nearly 6.4 unemployed workers, on average, for each available job at the end of November, according to Labor Department data released Tuesday. That’s up from 6.1 in October, and a record high.

There were 1.7 jobless people for each opening in December 2007, when the recession began.

Job openings fell sharply to 2.42 million in November from 2.57 million in October, according to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

That may sound like a lot, given the depths of the recession, but it’s the lowest number of job openings since July and the second-lowest since the department began tracking the data in 2000. It’s also about half the peak level of 4.8 million, reached in June 2007.

It will turn as our economy is almost constantly in a state of expanding or contracting.  The real issue on the horizon is retention as I have written about in the past.  Hiring is the key.  There are many salespeople today who are “corporate cocooning” until hiring picks up again.

Earlier this week I spoke to just such a salesperson.  He is stuck in a development position where the company is eager to talk about supportive changes but reticent to act on them.  He is simply performing in the role as best as he can with the internal company factors working against him.  He basically said he is ready to leave once there are signs of expansion in the economy.

There is probably a ratio in the above quoted article that flips the exit light on for salespeople.  I won’t hazard a guess, but I suspect it won’t have to get back down to 1.7 jobless people for each opening to open the floodgates to job jumping.

Interview Myths

This article from Yahoo’s Hot Jobs contains 5 hiring myths designed to help candidates perform better in an interview.  Myth #1 is excellent for the hiring manager:

Myth #1: Be prepared with a list of questions to ask at the close of the interview.

There is some truth in this common piece of advice: You should always be prepared, and that usually includes developing questions related to the job. The myth here is that you must wait until it is “your turn” to speak.

By waiting until the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, “it becomes an interrogation instead of a conversation,” says Greene.

Greene recommends that you think of an interview as a sales call. You are the product and you are selling yourself to the employer. “You can’t be passive in a sales call or you aren’t going to sell your product.”

How true!  We always treat an interview (either phone or in-person) as a sales call.  As a hiring manager for a sales position, the interview is a natural sales situation.  The interview is the perfect opportunity to play the role of the prospect to watch how the sales candidate qualifies and closes you.

This approach, using the interview to see the sales candidate in action, is the foundation for repeatable, successful sales hiring.  Salespeople are naturally good at…selling!  Granted, some are not, but they eventually get broomed.  The problem is that many hiring managers are not adept at being the disinterested prospect in an interview.

Many hiring managers (including many sales managers) are inexperienced interviewers.  Their preparation may consist of nothing more than pulling out a resume 5 min. before the interview and then asking the candidate to walk them through their resume.  This approach reveals nothing more than the candidate’s pre-canned talk about their mostly unverifiable past.  We’re they really the top salesperson?  Did they truly turn around an under-performing territory?  Did they close 50 new accounts?

No, the better approach is to treat the interview as a sales call and put some pressure on the candidate – see how they handle it.  Interrupt them (graciously, of course) and change topics quickly.  Can they move with the discussion?  Question some of their statistics and look for visible signs of emotions.  These unexpected moves knock them off of their script and if you have been in sales you know it is impossible to script a sales call.  Ideally, the candidate can handle your “objections” and respond with good qualifying questions.  Now you can actually see the candidate in action which will reveal more about their abilities than any resume.

A Bad Place To Be In Sales

I do some IT consulting work on the side as a hobby/pastime.  Call me a geek.  In that arena, I have a customer who has been battling to get some information from a prospective vendor.  He wants to use their services but has had trouble getting a response.  Finally, today he got a response.  His summation was filled with wisdom:

Coming in obnoxiously late and extraordinarily high priced is not a good place to be.

I couldn’t agree more.  And I’ve been there myself in previous sales roles.

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