Do Not Clone Your Style

This Forbes article addresses one of the most important aspects of an interview – the communication style alignment between the hiring manager and the candidate.  The article is written from the candidate’s perspective, but offers great insights into the hiring manager’s mindset.

A supervisor isn’t going to hire someone that he doesn’t believe he can work with. Managers come in all shapes and sizes–some are hands-off and expect their employees to do what they need to do with little or no supervision. Others like to receive daily updates, religiously review timecards and schedule regular check-in meetings with their staff.

This style topic is important in hiring, but should never be the deciding factor in a sales hire.  The reason is this – one of the worst hiring mistakes is for the hiring manager to clone themselves in their hiring.  The outcome of “clone hiring” is a team that shares the same communication approach in the marketplace and, more importantly, contains the same group weaknesses.

The strongest teams have a wide variety of communication styles to match the wide variety of prospects’ styles.  You can learn more about styles here.

A Mission-Critical Sales Metric

Seems simple, but here it is:

Connects to Close

Let me offer up some definitions of each box:

Connects: Cold contact from a list or similar resource

Suspects: Contacted and have general need or use for your product/service

Prospects: Qualified for need, budget & buying time

Quotes: Formal proposal to do business

Close: Completed order in response to quote

Again, this is a simple concept, but it is of great consequence when hiring salespeople.  We call it the Connects-to-Close ratio and it defines many of the parameters you need to use in your hiring efforts. 

There are many layers to the ratio that impact the sales skills, selling style and aptitudes to measure in any candidate.  Instead of getting lost in those weeds, let me boil it down to the essence of why you need to know this ratio:

You cannot ask a new salesperson to do something 10, 50, 100 times without first being able to explain it one time.

One Third Of CEO’s Are Worthless In Sales

Those aren’t my words but rather the findings from a Selling Power survey.  From the article:

A recent Selling Power online survey found that 29 percent of sales leaders judged their CEO useless when it comes to creating a sale.

Almost one third and I think I have worked for all of them!  The savvy sales CEO is a rare bird indeed.  Of course there is more to the article than just this survey.  The author focuses on the customer experience as seen through your salesperson representing your company in the market.  This representation is critical in making a successful sales hire – you have to envision the salesperson selling for your company.  Will they represent your company well?  Do they convey the right image, manners, professionalism?  These are not trifle matters when dealing with sales.

The same can be said for you CEOs.  The company’s culture flows from the CEO downward into the entire team.  CEOs who undervalue sales often struggle with teams that follow suit.  I’ve seen these companies first-hand…they have an engineering culture, a finance culture, a manufacturing culture…everything except a sales culture (which I would argue is the most important of them all).

I leave you with a prime example from the article:

A CEO whose company credo states, "We believe in candor and open communications" complained about how hard it is to communicate with salespeople. He said, "I can’t rely on their forecasts, I can’t rely on their data in our CRM system, and I can’t make strategic decisions based on their input." What happens when the CEO responds to salespeople with doubt or skepticism? The CEO’s doubt impacts the salesperson’s experience with the company, which inevitably echoes back to the customer.

Do Great Salespeople Make Great Managers?

That is an age-old question, isn’t it?  You can insert your favorite sports example here which typically involves a superstar/Hall of Fame-caliber athlete who fails as a coach because the game came too easy to him.  But does this analogy work in the sales arena also?

This Sales & Marketing Management article approaches the topic with aplomb. The pull quote (emphasis mine):

Sometimes great salespeople aren’t as good at coaching and managing other people – they’re excellent at being individual contributors, they’re great at building relationships with customers and working deals from start to finish, but they lack the patience or coaching ability or intangible interpersonal savvy to be responsible for other people’s performance.

Intangible interpersonal savvy is a long way to say empathy.  In assessing sales candidates for over a decade, some patterns become evident.  Top salespeople are typically “hunters.”  These hunters hopefully have some empathetic skills, but they are often used solely as tools to get to a close.  And in so doing, the hunters will usually dial down their empathy to achieve their goal of winning the deal.  This ability is what makes them so effective as a salesperson.  They drive themselves to succeed and use their empathy, when needed, to simply get a read on the prospect before closing.

Now place that profile into a sales leadership role.  This hunter may have some empathy, but they use it within a limited scope.  When it comes to coaching their team, they drive on them – pushing the salespeople based on the inner drive they possess as hunters.  Sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t.  I’ve even seen other hunters push back against this leadership.

The author of the article offers 3 strong ideas to assist in finding the right sales leader.  I like his summary from the first point:

Many of the best salespeople love to work alone – they pride themselves on being great individual performers and goal setters who hold themselves accountable for excellent results. However, sales management is not an individual job – it’s all about coaching and communicating and helping other people reach their goals as part of a larger team.

Sales leaders have to work through their team.  What often happens is that the hunter turned sales leader will accompany his or her team on sales calls and actually end up doing the close for them.  They insert their drive into the deal since that skill is more familiar to them than the coaching skill.  I evaluated an entire sales team once that had a hunter sales leader who behaved this way.  The sales team learned to simply get appointments, softly qualify them, then bring in the hunter sales leader to close the deal for them.  This is an unsustainable model as was eventually born out at this company.

One closing thought – you do not have to guess at this behavior – it can be assessed with our tools.  If you are interested, please contact us today to learn more.

9 Phrases Emotionally Intelligent People Don’t Use

This list will make you cringe, especially if any of these phrases are in your common parlance.

1. “You look tired.”

2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight.”

3. “You were too good for her anyway.”

4. “You always…” or “You never…”

5. “You look great for your age.”

6. “As I said before…”

7. “Good luck.”

8. “It’s up to you.” or “Whatever you want.”

9. “Well at least I’ve never _______.”

Ha! How good is that list?  As a father of teenagers, I am constantly correcting them for using #4.  I was a little surprised by #7 so I’ll close with the author’s explanation (which is a good one):

This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed.

Instead say: “I know you have what it takes.” This is better than wishing her luck because suggesting that she has the skills needed to succeed provides a huge boost of confidence. You’ll stand out from everyone else who simply wishes her luck.

Does Job Jumping Matter Anymore?

I would answer no.  I have the opportunity to look at many resumes on any given day and there is a definite sea-change in the job jumping area.  Millennials are far less loyal to their employers than any generation before them.  In fact, I would say “job” jumping isn’t accurate, they are actually “skill” jumping.  These employees are often looking for personal skill development and once they sense they have tapped out their growth curve in their current role, they leave.

I spend a fair amount of time explaining this skill jumping behavior to old-school hiring managers.  Companies must have a plan for ongoing development of their Millennial workforce otherwise they will look for skill development at a different company.

This somewhat new trend is well documented in this Harvard Business Review article.  From the article:

Sullivan says that employers have become more accepting of brief periods of employment. As many as 32% of employers expect job-jumping. “It’s become part of life,” says Sullivan. In fact, people are most likely to leave their jobs after their first, second, or third work anniversaries. Millennials are especially prone to short stays at jobs. Sullivan’s research shows that 70% quit their jobs within two years. So the advice to stick it out at a job for the sake of your resume is just no longer valid.

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Did you catch that…2 years!  I suspect that fact is due to companies being slow to provide development paths for these new employees.  The days of pension-earning careers with one company are long gone.

The Millennials are skewing the tenure number lower, but other generations are catching on also:

The average length of time a worker stays in a job these days is 4.6 years.

Have a plan to grow your direct reports’ individual skill sets.  Put milestones out there for them to achieve.  Have a plan and share it with them.  If you need help, we can help.

The Importance Of Accountability

I harp on this topic frequently, but it is a foundational need for all strong sales leaders.  You must hold your people accountable to reach goals, close deals and follow your system (a broad word that entails your requirements for performance).  The key is to simply do it…you don’t have to be “good” at it, but you do have to do it.  Many sales leaders miss this important point.

So I give you this Selling Power article with a comprehensive view of this accountability need for all sales leaders.  The author makes a significant point that often gets overlooked by sales leaders who like to use the stick before the carrot.  First the accountability piece:

3) Hold your team and each member accountable for goals.  You don’t have to threaten your team members to remind them that they’re responsible (to you and to one another) for meeting the goals they set.  Instead, inspire their best effort by reminding them of their importance to the team and company.  Tell them you’ll hold them accountable for succeeding because you have faith in their ability to get the job done.

Well said.  And to go further, you will have to discipline the underperformers.  Do not skip past this requirement.  Now for the part that I have seen some overzealous sales leaders dismiss (emphasis mine):

4) Be supportive.  Meeting sales goals is a team effort, and you’re an important part of that team.  You can’t make the calls for your salespeople, but you can give them every chance to succeed by providing your support and guidance.  Remind your salespeople that you’re on their side, and that you’ll be available to help them in any way you can.  If you’re going to hold your salespeople accountable for meeting their goals, you have to hold yourself accountable for helping them.

Absolutely spot on.  You have to help them in the manner in which they need help to develop and succeed.  Don’t close deals for them.  Don’t read them the riot act and not help them.  Don’t go silent with the underperformers.  You have to be a coach right in the middle of the huddle helping call the plays that will lead to their success.  Anything short of that and you are not holding up your end of the leadership equation.

Tracking Sales Reps 24/7

A sales executive was fired for deleting an app on her cell phone.  The details from the Fox News story:

A sales executive was fired after she deleted an app on her phone that tracked her every move, allowing her employer to know where she was 24/7.

It was only a matter of time until this type of issue surfaced.  My personal take is that tracking her 24/7 is an incredible invasion of privacy and her actions were the same ones I would have chosen in that situation.  However, let me throw this at you from the former Judge quoted in the article:

Judge Andrew Napolitano said that in the case of this traveling saleswoman, her employer had a legitimate interest in knowing where she was going, and that was the reason for the app.

Judge Napolitano added that she had no right to delete the app, but she could have disabled the phone while she was at home, on vacation or otherwise on her own time.

Ok, he is familiar with the legality of such things.  I am still shocked, but I suspect this isn’t the last case we have heard regarding this topic.  For now, here is a very interesting, if extreme, workaround from the article:

Where do you put your phone when you don’t want anyone to know where you are? Gretchen Carlson asked.

“You ready for this? A refrigerator,” Judge Napolitano said. “No signal can get in and no signal can get out.”

How GPA’s Matter In Hiring

They don’t.  That is the conclusion from Google based on their own internal research.  Some info from the New York Times article:

“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

Mind you, this is research from inside Google – they know a thing or two about data analysis.  I’ve told many hiring companies that GPA’s just don’t matter in the real world, especially for sales hiring.  Give me a street savvy, strong qualifying salesperson any day over a book smart, ivory tower salesperson.  It is best to find candidates that fit both criteria, but GPA is not a reliable predictor of future success.

The feedback from Google’s research on the best strategy for successful hiring (emphasis mine):

Bock said it’s better to use questions like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” He added: “The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Yes, drill down is what we like to call it.  I believe it is the single most important interview skill – you must be able to drill down on responses to peel back the veneer and get to the core of the candidate’s response.

5 Tips For Hiring A Sales Manager

This Selling Power article is a quick, solid read.  The 5 tips are all on point with this one being my favorite:

2) Metrics without context. Your candidate noted that his or her team closed $2 million in sales last year. That’s great. But what was the quota? What were the expectations? Was this half of what your potential new hire and the team were expected to do? Or did they not only exceed quota, but also outperform every other sales team at the company? Don’t rely on metrics alone; your candidate should provide context that tells the whole story.

So much of resume information is devoid of context yet many hiring managers buy into the information.  Every candidate seems to have some remarkable numbers/statistics/results in their resume, but far fewer provide the context to define the success they claim.  Always look for this information in the resume.  If you have a candidate that you would like to pursue, it is certainly a good practice to contact that candidate and ask for clarification.