Here is a problem I have seen developing in sales over the past 10 years – shorter attention spans in salespeople having to deal with longer sales cycles.

First, some background from a quick American Management Association:

Whenever I teach students, I tell them, “Your chance of being successful has gone up exponentially because all you’ve got to do now is actually try to pay attention for more than five minutes.”

Ok, that is disconcerting.  You can see where this is going.  The integration of the Internet into our lives has provided prospects with a unique ability to research your company, and more importantly, your solutions.  We often talk about how prospects approach your sales team today.  The prospects have probably been to your website, at a minimum, and have pursued social media information regarding your company and solution.  The prospects are well-informed.

The control of information used to be a tool of the salesperson but no longer.  Instead, the salesperson has to focus on being a guide to the prospect.  The Internet’s ability to dispense information has moved many transactional sales to automated orders.  Think Amazon here:  people do their own searching, determine the “best” solution, and then place their order without any human interaction.

Salespeople now have to nurture these types of sales.  More often, they have to move towards complex sales and their longer sales cycles.  There is a certain type of salesperson who struggles with this long-term, relationship sale…the classic High-D hunter.

High D’s are quick-pace, aggressive and, well, not relationship-driven.  They are task-driven and short which makes them powerful in new business development roles.  It does not make them powerful at relationship sales.  If more sales are moving to a relationship base, what will happen with these classic hunters?

I think we are observing a fundamental shift in sales.  The classic hunter is either adapting to a modified hunter with relationship-sales focus or they are slowly exiting the sales world.  I am seeing this first-hand during phone screens and during face-to-face interviews.  The High D hunters are learning to temper their drive to mold into the modern day sales world.  Those that successfully make this transformation will survive this new world.

Test Drive an Assessment

Maybe I am aging faster than I will admit, but I have seen a trend in the professional workplace that is unsettling.

Decorum.  As defined by Webster, it is “correct or proper behavior that shows respect and good manners.”

One of the things I tell hiring managers is that the initial candidate interview is as good as it will get.  The candidates’ behavior, manners, etiquette, communication, etc. will never exceed their level as observed in that first interview.  Therefore, the candidate’s decorum should be exemplary in that interview to the point where it is memorable.

Sadly, I simply am not seeing this exemplary decorum nearly as much as I used to 15 years ago.  Perhaps as a society we are simply becoming more crass.  Nonetheless, the interview should be treated as hallowed ground and respected in such a way that crassness does not permeate it.

I have noticed this change not only in the younger generation, but also the Boomer generation.  I have observed aging leaders, who have become out of touch with the younger generations, find a connection (earning laughs) by being crassly provocative.

Younger generations communicate in…how shall I say…in an overly casual manner.  Cursing comes to mind and I have experienced it an multiple phone interviews recently.  The expletives have come out in face-to-face interviews also.  I’m not talking about shockingly blue language, but still language that simply does not fit in a high-level sales position interview.

Professional salespeople need to possess an impressive level of professionalism, or decorum, when approaching prospects in today’s business world.  A lack of this decorum being exhibited in the initial interview, when they are allegedly at their best, is a big red flag for me when considering whom to move to the next level in the hiring process.

I’ve written about this before, but it keeps coming around – tattoos hurt your chances of landing a job according to this salary.com article.  I am a bit old to participate in the tattoo craze so I probably come across as a stodgy old man on this topic.  However, the millennials seem to be enthralled with tattoos even in open sight.  To give you proof:

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found nearly 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo…

Think about that stat – 40%!  That is more than a fad.  But here is where the problem develops:

The biggest takeaways from our survey include a whopping 76% of respondents feel tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired during a job interview. And more than one-third – 39% of those surveyed – believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly on their employers. Furthermore, 42% feel visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work, with 55% reporting the same thing about body piercings.

I don’t care for tattoos and I don’t understand the appeal.  If they have this significant drag on hiring success, I would strongly encourage people to avoid them.

Call me old-fashioned.

From the Herman Trend Alert email newsletter (sorry, no link):

Agile Thinking Skills. In this period of sustained economic and political uncertainty, and, agile thinking and the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is vital. In industries that face significant regulatory and environmental challenges, including life sciences, and energy and mining, the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is especially important—72 percent and 71 percent respectively, compared with 55 percent for the overall population of respondents. To succeed in the changing marketplace of the future, HR executives also placed a high premium on innovative thinking (46.0 percent), dealing with complexity and managing paradoxes (42.9 percent).

I couldn’t agree more with them – “agile thinking” is critical in the today’s world.  Everything is moving faster which inevitably leads to change.  The best candidates we assess have strong scores in these agile areas – Practical Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Using Common Sense, Intuitive Decision Making – these are all measurable traits that help identify the strongest candidate.

So much has changed over the past decade that it is problematic that companies continue to use outdated hiring models.  There are better tools today, tools that will provide more insight into an external candidate that what you may know about an existing employee!  May I suggest you test drive one of these assessments to see the power behind them?  Contact me if you would like to see what is available today.

I grow tired of these comparison articles that look at pay for positions based on the median.  It is almost impossible to compare roles across companies, markets, industries, etc.  However, there is always one position within a company that takes the main blow…CEO.  I’ve been fortunate to work with quite a few highly-skilled CEO’s and been provided the opportunity to see their typical day.  The CEO position is extremely difficult even in the “easiest” of positions.

So here comes Salary.com with The 8 Most Overpaid & Underpaid Jobs.  And, of course, CEO’s are one of the overpaid positions.

A good CEO helps an organization meet its goals, improves profits, makes shareholders happy, and is worth his or her weight in gold. Unfortunately, bad CEOs seem to be worth their weight in gold too. And the really, really bad ones are paid astronomical amounts for the inconvenience of being fired. With this sky-high median salary, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect pay-for-performance.

Really?  Pay-for-performance isn’t in play for CEO’s?  How about news anchors on failing networks?  Or movie actors involved in multiple flops?  Those are huge salaries for people who do not head up companies that employ 10’s, 100’s or thousands of people.  Most are adept at what they do and are handsomely compensated for it.  I’m not sure why that is a stumbling block for so many people.

From today’s Herman Trend report (emphasis mine):

The other highlights of the study are fascinating: the least happy of the generations is the Baby Boomers. They expressed the strongest discontent with their employers and the greatest frustration that their loyalty and hard work have been neither recognized nor rewarded. “Almost one-third (32 percent) of Baby Boomers surveyed say a lack of trust in leadership is a top turnover trigger—the highest ranking by any workforce generation.”

Employers are most vulnerable to lose their Generation X workers. Lack of career progress is their top exit trigger (65 percent). Only 28 percent of Gen X employees surveyed expect to stay. This intention to leave is a clear signal to employers to expect a significant exodus by employees viewed as future leaders.

For the Millennials, their employers’ commitment to "corporate responsibility/volunteerism" was very important. Millennials are also nearly three times more likely to say a "fun work environment" is important than their Baby Boomers counterparts.

On the other hand, “employees who plan to stay with their current employers (35 percent) say their companies have strong talent programs, characterized by clear career paths, leadership development initiatives, trust and confidence in corporate leadership, superior programs to retain top talent, and effective communication.”

Did you catch that last topic?  Communication – this is almost a free move for any company, but it requires commitment.  The Gen X’ers are a generally skeptical bunch as I can attest – I am one.  I value all of the programs listed, yet it all starts with effective communication within the company and specifically within the manager-employee relationship.

As is so often the case in this economy, the market is sending mixed signals.  From one article on abcnews.com:

The economic strength, both in U.S. and international markets, plus cost cuts, higher rates and fuel surcharges led to a 33 percent increase in first-quarter profit. UPS boosted its full-year outlook when it pre-released its earnings two weeks ago.

And one paragraph later:

UPS Inc., also known as United Parcel Service, restructured its business over the last 18 months, cutting jobs in the process. The shipper doesn’t plan any significant hiring anytime soon, at least until the recovery is on more solid footing.

Jobless recovery anyone?  The difficulty is that hiring is a lagging indicator and it does appear that 2010 will be a slow hiring period in spite of a potential recovery in process.

From the indeed.com blog:

For the first time in 2010, our Job Market Competition report shows all major metropolitan areas have fewer than 10 unemployed persons per job posting – a notable lessening of job competition since our last report.

Washington D.C. has only one unemployed per job posting, maintaining its first place position as the city with the least competition for jobs.  At the other end of the scale, Detroit moved up one place from the bottom position: it now has nine unemployed per job posting, an improvement from 13 earlier this year.

The post contains the top 5 and bottom 5 metro markets based on number of unemployed per job posting.  No surprise that D.C. is number 1 considering the ever-expanding government.  Did you ever think we would be at a point where moving below 10 unemployed people per opening was improvement?

No surprise here but the Career News is reporting that candidates are negotiating for higher starting salaries in this current market (emphasis mine): 

Job candidates are more apt to ask for higher starting salaries this coming year, and companies may have to up the ante to attract them. That’s according to an annual study on employment and compensation trends by Robert Half International (RHI) and CareerBuilder.com titled The (EDGE) Report.

Fifty-seven percent of hiring managers polled for the project said it was difficult to find qualified candidates 12 months ago; 91 percent said recruiting is equally or more challenging today. More than half (52 percent) of hiring managers who are having trouble recruiting cited a shortage of qualified professionals.

As the competition for skilled labor has become more pronounced, 58 percent of workers polled said they are more likely to negotiate a better compensation package today than 12 months ago – double the number from last year’s poll.

We are seeing this negotiating approach in our day-to-day activities also.  Candidates know it is a tight market and they have other opportunities.  Keep this fact in mind if you are entering an offer discussion with a top candidate.

We’ve been on the telecommuting trend for quite some time this year as it continues to grow.  I think it is safe to say it is more than a trend now.  As we source for sales positions, it is quite apparent that the younger candidates almost always address this issue early in the process.  They want to know what tools are in place and what the office expectations are.

We only work in the sales arena so our data may be slightly exaggerated to that end.  Nonetheless, telecommuting is a hot article topic as you can see from CareerJournal.com’s Good News for Professionals Who Want to Work at Home:

A growing number of employers, from UnitedHealth Group and Safeco to Capgemini, IBM, American Express and Sun Microsystems, are hiring skilled new employees to telecommute right from the start. These aren’t the piecework, independent-contractor gigs or commission-only sales jobs that have characterized at-home “employment” in the past. They are full-time corporate jobs with benefits, available without the prerequisite of working for the company for a few years first.

I’m always of the belief that once you see large companies incorporating a trend, that trend has truly grabbed hold.

Safeco has hired 91 new home-based employees so far this year, including claims examiners, adjustors and managers; about 1,500 of its 7,000 employees now work away from corporate offices, dramatically expanding Safeco’s talent pool. “With technology as good as it is,” Mr. Diana says, “there aren’t many jobs that can’t be done remotely.”