The Hire Sense » 2010 » March

Archive for March, 2010

Throw Away Lines

I read a sales ad today that started with this line:

Are you a career-minded salesperson…

What does that mean?  I bet if I asked 10 people I would get 10 different answers.  I call sentences like this “throw away lines” because they do nothing for the ad.  It is vitally important when writing ads to only include sentences that describe the position and the type of person who will excel within it.

Anything else is wasted space.

2010 Hiring Trends

From the Herman Group newsletter:

According to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Surveys, the US will have a year-over-year increase of about five percent with a record-tying 73 percent of employers keeping staff levels stable. Twelve of the 13 industry sectors surveyed report positive net employment outlooks, meaning employers in most industry sectors plan to add staff during the second quarter.

The only sector expecting negative growth is Government, however with the passage of the recent healthcare legislation, we believe that may not be an accurate forecast. Moreover, among the 201 local metropolitan statistical areas surveyed, “94 percent indicate a positive or neutral net employment outlook, indicating cautious optimism is becoming more widespread geographically”.

I also believe that negative growth prediction in government “may not be accurate.”  In fact, I know it isn’t.  Anyway, it is a mildly optimistic outlook for the remainder of this year.  The US economy always comes back from a recession so the doom-and-gloom suggestion that we are in the next depression is overstated.  However, the anti-business disposition of this current government has definitely delayed the recovery process.

Nonetheless, we are starting to see some activity trickling in again in our business which is a great sign (at least for us).

Disappearing Telecommuters offers up tricks for telecommuters in this article.  There are some solid points like this:

5. Communication

It’s very easy to forget the outside world when you work from home. While you do get to avoid the intricacies of corporate politics, it also means that you have to be your own advocate.

Make sure there are multiple ways for your boss and colleagues to contact you. Check your email frequently, and respond as immediately as you can. Keep your phone at hand, and make sure you call if there’s an office meeting. An instant messaging service works well for open communication if something changes last minute. For more long distance projects, make use of free video conferencing tools like Skype.

This fact is mission-critical.  One of my customers has a remote salesperson who works in the same small town as the office, but she telecommutes.  I’m not sure why, but that is a topic for another post.  Anyway, one of the things she has expertly established is her lack of availability during the work day.  What I mean is that the office can never get her on the phone during the day.  Cell phone, home phone…it doesn’t matter, their calls always end up in voicemail.

I find this fact appalling, but my customer tolerates it.  What I believe this does is free her up to do other activities during goal time for selling.  The office has now become accustomed to not reaching her on the phone so they think nothing of it.

If you manage telecommuters, you must have a communication channel (cell, text, IM, etc.) that always allows access to them.

Introverts Make Great Salespeople

You heard me right, that is an indirect quote from this article.  This topic comes up often in our sales hiring activities as the conventional wisdom is that extroverts make better salespeople.  Not true.  Successful salespeople have a wide variety of abilities that go far beyond their communication style.  And that is the point here, introvert/extrovert is more of a communication style than anything else.  It is important to know a salesperson’s style, but it is not predictive of sales success.

Here is some excellent advice from the article (emphasis mine):

“When selling as an introvert, use your abilities as a good researcher to really know audience, know what matters to them, and figure out a product match before you go in. You’ll be meeting with people, so rest up before social interactions with those you are selling to or speaking in front of. Prepare and practice because as an introvert you will think before you speak – as opposed to extroverts who speak as they think. So having a few lines ready, or thoughts composed in advance will be beneficial. Rest, prepare and practice is the magic formula because of the way introverts are wired.”

Extroverts need to start talking to get to their point.  Introverts have to think of their response before they speak.  This point is never more obvious than when you are interviewing sales candidates.  When I sit in on interviews with my customers, I always make sure to tell them if the candidate is more extroverted or introverted.

My experience is this – an introverted hiring manager will be unimpressed by an extroverted sales candidate in terms of communication.  The hiring manager has a tendency to comment on the candidate’s rambling answers, long-windedness and tangential topics.  At this point I explain that the candidate is extroverted and needs to start talking to get to his or her response.  If they are strongly extroverted, they will have to rev up their answer a bit before delivering the point.  This isn’t necessarily a weakness, it is simply a style issue.

I have seen a recent rise of the introvert in one key sales area – relationship selling.  The reason is this:

Introverts do well with deep relationships and conversations rather than chit-chat.

If you have a relatively long or extended sales cycle, an introverted selling style is probably a more natural fit for your sale’s requirements.  As sales move away from one-call closes and on to relationship-based deals, introverts will play a prominent part in a sales team’s success.

The Two-Pizza Rule

Full confession – I despise meetings.  I have spent much of my career sitting through insanely inefficient meetings – I prefer to call them “boil the ocean” meetings.  The topics in these meetings usually lacked clarity and focus so the meeting would drift…badly.  Of course, when your boss is sitting in the meeting (or worse, was the one who called it) it is difficult to exit early.

But alas, I have found an inspiring article with a fantastic idea.  This is from (emphasis mine):

“Interaction should be constant, not crammed into meetings once a week. You just turn around in your chair and bounce an idea off one of the other 10 people in your office. Keep the floor plan open so people can talk to each other. As the company gets bigger, keep dividing it into smaller and smaller groups. Follow Jeff Bezos’s two-pizza rule: Project teams should be small enough to feed with two pizzas. At Hunch, we don’t have meetings unless absolutely necessary. When I used to have meetings, though, this is how I would do it: There would be an agenda distributed before the meeting. Everybody would stand. At the beginning of the meeting, everyone would drink 16 ounces of water. We would discuss everything on the agenda, make all the decisions that needed to be made, and the meeting would be over when the first person had to go to the bathroom.”

Caterina Fake is the co-founder of the photo-sharing site Flickr. Her new start-up is Hunch, a website in New York City that takes user input to make recommendations on thousands of subjects.

“When I used to have meetings…” – fantastic.  If I were there, I would drink a pot of coffee myself before heading into that meeting.

Hiring Like A Detective

Yes, the title is a bit quirky, but it is true.  A significant portion of successful hiring involves being a good detective.  I have always taken that approach when helping our customers find the right salesperson for their position.  To be a good detective, you need to be a bit skeptical.

Sales candidates blow sunshine.  Few have ever missed quota, most state their primary weakness is being a workaholic and all have earned everything they have accomplished.  Right.  In reality, most have missed their sales quota at some point, many have real weaknesses discussing money and handling rejection and most have benefited from somewhere be it marketing, territory, company market share, etc.

Sales hiring is the most difficult hiring in which to succeed in that the candidates have interpersonal skills that disarm hiring managers.  In a way, this is a good thing since you want your salespeople to have this ability when qualifying prospects.  However, the hiring manager needs to focus like a detective during the hiring process.

I’m an old Hill Street Blues fan.  I watched almost every episode of NYPD Blue (it got weird at the end).  Even Magnum PI had some interesting tips.  Here are a few tips based on techniques incorporated by these detectives:

Drill down – do not accept the candidate’s first answer as the complete answer.  Too often I see hiring managers accept theoretical answers to direct questions.  Ask for specific examples and then ask follow-up questions that require more detail from the candidate.  This approach will be most enlightening in regards to understanding if the candidate is being truthful or not.

Interrupt – ok, don’t be a jerk, but interrupt the candidate gently.  The goal here is to shake them out of a canned, memorized response.  Prospects do this in sales calls.  I always do this in an interview.  Interviews should not be easy for sales candidates because selling isn’t easy.  This approach will show you how quick the candidate is on their feet.

Wait – there is nothing quite like an awkward, pregnant pause to add some pressure to a discussion.  Silence is fine as it forces the candidate to work.  Their job is to impress you enough to continue in the hiring process.  Your job is not to make them completely comfortable.  At ease, yes; comfortable, no.  Use silence at times to force the candidate into a longer answer.  This approach will reveal how disciplined they are at controlling a conversation.

These are just a few techniques I incorporate.  Of course, one great tool for guiding you through an interview is a sales assessment.  If you aren’t using any such tool today, please contact us at your earliest convenience.  We’ll show you just what you are missing in making your hiring decision.

Doctor Dollars

This article is fascinating, at least to me.  A doctor opens up about his clinic/practice in terms of the financials of it.  As a small business owner, I have a complete appreciation for the decisions he has to make in terms of his business.  At the end of the day, it is a business.

If you think your business has to fund some extraordinary insurance policies, wrap your mind around this information:

Fixed costs for a private practice also include malpractice insurance. He pays about $7,000 a year for himself and $2,000 each for his two nurse practitioners. Schreiber admits that his cost for malpractice insurance is relatively low, compared to specialists such as ob/gyns, who pay upward of $100,000 a year.

I just about did a spit take that would have showered my laptop with coffee.  Anyway, it is an interesting read.

Bou Branding

Being a coffee addict, this news is huge for me.  Caribou is rebranding itself with a new logo an some drinks/products (I’m in it for the coffee so these ancillary items are inconsequential to me).

The logo change:


Here is the part of marketing/branding that catches my attention:

Alfredo Martel, Caribou’s senior vice president of marketing, said that the new logo focuses on “optimism and an optimistic outlook on life.”

Don’t you love that?  That is a pretty heavy analysis of what seems to be a simple logo.  I was more intrigued by the fact that the new logo uses a coffee bean for the caribou’s body.

I’ve read some articles commenting that recessions are good times to rebrand your company.  I think that is a sound principle.  Once I see the new logo hit the street, I will be more likely to stop in and check out the changes.  However, $4 coffee drinks best have a solidified hold as a needed “comfort food” to survive the tightening of the American wallet in this recession.