The Hire Sense » 2010 » June

Archive for June, 2010

Impulse Drive

No, I’m not talking about Star Trek but rather a common drive amongst leaders that can get them in trouble.  I’ve seen this drive recently in a couple of different business-owning customers.  My definition of it is a fast-acting, emotionally-driven decision.

I think there is some value to it especially in the early, entrepreneurial stages of a company.  Start-ups certainly need to be nimble to compete against larger, established competitors with deeper pockets.  However, the impulse drive can outlive its value if the owner/founder overuses it as his/her company grows larger.

One example is an owner who developed an idea for a new service offering and went full out to establish it.  He paid lawyers to help formulate the legal side of the offering, operations people to put it into practice and advertising people to promote it.  Unfortunately, he pursued these expensive resources before getting any market feedback or sales feedback on the viability of the offering.  Once he reached out for that information, he received data that didn’t support his impulsive decision.

He rejected the feedback and pressed on anyway.  He felt this offering would be wildly successful.

It wasn’t.  In fact, he sold zero.  It has now disappeared from his service offerings.

That is a painful lesson in costs, time, effort, etc.  The impulse drive has to be tempered has companies mature and grow.  Owners have to cede some control to the people they have hired to take the company to the next level.  Resist the impulsive decisions that masquerade as entrepreneurial initiatives.

Take This Job And

shove it…apparently.  The Herman Trend offers up some stats that may catch you by surprise (emphasis mine):

It is interesting to note that in the United States more people quit their jobs in the last three months than those who lost their jobs. After 15 straight months of time in which layoffs exceeded voluntary departures, it appears that the job market is finally shifting.

In a related development, one-quarter of our business community’s most promising employees are increasingly disengaged and many are actively seeking new employment opportunities. A recent study on employee engagement, conducted by the Corporate Executive Board’s Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), found that 25 percent of the “employer-identified, high-potential employees” plan to leave their current companies within the next year. Compare that figure to the one from 2006 and we have seen an increase of 250 percent.

Moreover, 21 percent of today’s employees identified themselves as “highly disengaged”. This group has increased nearly 300 percent since 2007.

The mass movement of employees is on the horizon, but I think there will be limited movement until the economy rebounds.  In spite of what the government says, the economic situation is still tenuous at best.

Social Skills vs. Sales Skills

If you’re talking you’re not selling.  That is an old axiom I learned early in my sales career and it is always true.  Talking does not equal selling.

Unfortunately, people not experienced in sales hiring often have the opposite view.  Their stereotypical belief is that the best salespeople are the ones who are perceived to be the best talkers.  This misguided view often leads to bad hires.

Here is where the mistake occurs – hiring managers assume that social skills are equivalent to sales skills.  Ok, maybe that is too strong, but the assumption is that the social skills are the key to successful selling.  Social skills are a component to selling, but they are not indicative of sales skills.

Social Skills

Social skills are important to sales and certainly are not to be ignored.  However, my experience has been that the truly terrible sales hires usually involved bad salespeople with good social skills.  These salespeople had excellent empathetic skills – they could read body language, adjust their tonality, find common ground with the hiring manager.  Again, all valuable skills.  However, they had next to no sales skills which became evident once they were on the payroll torpedoing good prospects.

The danger here is that these social skills are quite disarming.  They can be used to get the strongest of interviewers off their game.  I have seen many sales candidates who possessed remarkable social skills but little in the way of sales skills.

Sales Skills

These skills are the ones that lead to profitable revenue generation.  The main skill set involves qualifying.  If there was only one ability you could have in a salesperson, qualifying would be it.  This skill involves asking the right questions to learn about a potential customers’ budget, need, time frame, decision process and more.  This skill is where salespeople earn their keep.

Other sales skills areas are prospecting, influencing, closing and presenting.  These areas are also important to successful selling.  In terms of sales candidates, these skills are more difficult to discover.  The best approach is to assess for these skills and then follow up a face-to-face interview with the candidate to probe the information you have gathered through the assessment.

Objectivity is key and it is critical in making a hiring decision.  The strongest sales candidate isn’t necessarily the most talkative, humorous or outgoing.  Pay close attention to the questions they ask and the answers they provide to your probing questions about their sales skills.

And be sure to assess them.

Fundamental Attribution Error

Warning – psychology babble coming your way from Fast Company.  I encounter this effect often with clients:

That judgment is what’s called, in psychology, the Fundamental Attribution Error. Meaning that we tend to attribute people’s behavior to their core character rather than to their situation. So when somebody cuts you off in traffic, you think, “What a jerk!” You don’t think, “I wonder situation he’s in that’s causing him to drive so crazy.” Even though in those times when YOU have driven crazily, it was almost certainly because of the situation you were in—you were late for a job interview or a date.

May I make a suggestion?  The use of assessments introduces objective measurement into the situation which helps to limit fundamental attribution error.  Limiting subjectivity generally leads to better hiring especially with salespeople.

Employment Still Lagging

The latest employment numbers are out and it doesn’t look good (emphasis mine).

US employers added 430,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in May, but 411,000 of those were temporary census workers. That number was also well short of the more than 500,000 economists had expected. The unemployment rate, however, fell to 9.7 percent from 9.9 percent in April.

I still don’t expect to see significant hiring gains until Q4 of this year at the earliest.  My highly non-scientific polling (talking to customers) shows that most are still in a tentative mode.  Perhaps some more enlightened analysis will surface later today.

Hiring Stunts

Here is a quick read from Yahoo Hot Jobs about desperate hiring moves from candidates.  The examples are entertaining – I suggest you read the article to see the different extremes some candidates will go to for a job.

My favorite line from the article (emphasis mine):

Career coach Bettina Seidman advises sending little “extras” when they are relevant to the job: “If a graphic designer sends a fabulous storyboard or another example of his or her work along with a resume, then that can work. If a labor-relations expert sends a copy of a new collective bargaining that he or she negotiated, that’s good. However, stalkers or flower senders or applicants who send their resumes in a huge envelope–none of this works. If a candidate shows signs of over-the-top actions or mental illness, they lose.”


Getting Back To The Basics

I’ve been assessing many existing salespeople over the past couple weeks and have seen many different levels of abilities.  The ones that stick in my mind are the salespeople who are presently struggling with their revenue production.  Sales is one of, if not the most stressful positions within any company.  The overt issue with a lack of sales performance is that everyone in the company can see it.  The numbers are very visible.

One underperforming salesperson I talked to recently has hit a true low point.  He’s not certain where to start.  I thought about that discussion for quite some time afterwards.

The lack of performance becomes a spiraling nose dive like those old WWII videos of planes with one wing shot up.  The salesperson senses the spiral and over adjusts.  This is the pattern I have seen – the salesperson starts attempting to be someone they are not.

Generally, here is what I have seen in these salespeople:

-Less aggressive
-Less empathetic
-More data-driven
-More pessimistic
-More uncertain

These salespeople become unsure to the point where they do not move like they used to when qualifying prospects.  Instead, the salesperson requires larger amounts of data to make decisions.  They become uncertain in areas where they used to be decisive.  They tend to be less empathetic – they switch off their ability to read others as they become more robotic in attempting to close quickly.  They lose the natural aggressiveness that comes from being successful.

The key here is to get the salesperson back to their natural state.  This activity is supported by assessments.  In each of the instances I encountered recently, the salesperson’s assessments revealed a highly stressed state.  None of them were operating in their natural state.  This overshift was causing large amounts of stress and gross underperformance.

Each of the salespeople are operating well outside of their natural style which is neutralizing their abilities.  They are using energy to be someone they are not in an attempt to preserve their job.  Unfortunately, that approach is counterproductive to success in most cases.  My recommendation to each of these salespeople was specific actions to move them back to their natural style.  This has to be the first step in rejuvenating an ailing salesperson.