8 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring Your Next Salesperson

Sales Personality Personality TestWhen it comes to assessing a candidate’s fit for sales, one size definitely does not fit all.

Traits like assertiveness, criticism tolerance (ability to take a no), and resilience may be good enough to have when “getting past the gatekeeper”and “closing a sale” are the two most critical skills required. But selling complex products or differentiating a company’s services from its competitors require consultative and relationship selling skills that many salespeople do not have.

For example, transactional sales, especially those based on primarily on price, depend upon the ability to get people to accept your call, negotiate the best deal, and close quickly. More complex selling opportunities require extensive product knowledge, broad competitive intelligence, excellent relationship management skills, and resilience. Years of experience and a decade’s worth of President Club awards are not necessarily transferrable from one industry to another, one company to another, or even one territory or product from another.

Before hiring or promoting your salesperson, here are eight questions you must ask before interviewing and assessing candidates.

1. What product or services are you selling? Success in selling requires a lot more than a few years of experience and the completion of a sales skills training. Adding value and differentiating your company from the rest of a crowded market requires finesse and advanced skills.

2. To whom are you selling? Selling promotional products to a retail shop owner compared to selling an enterprise wide human resource information system require very different sales skill sets.

3. How competitive is the market place? If you are the only game in town, or at least considered the industry leader, salespeople can lean on the company’s reputation for credibility. But what if your company or product is unfamiliar to your prospects? The most important skill a salesperson might need is the ability to build endorsement.

4. Is this a new territory or a mature one? Similar to the competitiveness of the market place, developing a new territory or working a mature market require different selling styles and skills. You are likely familiar with “hunters” and “farmers.” It’s much easier to introduce yourself as the new account manager when a customer down the street has been doing business with your company for several years than trying to get the prospect to take a chance on an unknown.

5. How long is a typical sales cycle? The longer the cycle, the more skills are required. The longer the selling cycle, the more the salesperson will have to have a process and system in place to track and follow leads and referrals. The salesperson must be patient and resilient and equipped to stick it out for the long haul. Products or services will long selling cycles often have bigger rewards but many salespeople are more motivated and skilled at shorter cycle, faster rewards. That leads us to the compensation question.

6. How do salespeople get paid? This is a complex and complicated question. But the more commission based the compensation, the more money management skills the salesperson must have to deal with the ups and downs of income, especially for longer selling cycles. Few hiring managers take this into consideration before hiring the high potential candidate. Unfortunately many sales failures have nothing to do with sales skills but the short term income to pay the mortgage and put food on the table while waiting for the big commission check.

7. Who is responsible for lead generation? If developing new business is a requirement for the job, then assessing the sales candidate’s track record or potential for identifying new customers, cold calling, qualifying them, and developing new relationships must be part of the hiring equation. For the company that has a steady stream of warm leads, finding qualified candidates just got a lot easier. Do not assume however that the ability to contact warm leads and qualify them is a predictive indicator of the ability to identify new customers and cold call them.

8. Who is responsible for writing and presenting proposals? The ability to write and present are critical communication skills in today’s marketplace. Unfortunately few salespeople have mastered these skills at a level necessary to compete effectively.

Asking these questions is one thing. Getting this information quickly and accurately is another. Sales pre-employment tests are an excellent way to complement and enhance the interview and reference check process. The right combination of assessments can confirm if a candidate has the potential to learn or meet your job requirements as well as the resilience and motivation to persist through good times and bad.

 

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

 

 

What Jobs Should The U.S. Be Creating?

The news about jobs is getting better. The unemployment rate dipped for the fifth straight month to 8.3 percent. The number of jobs being created has been rising at a rate of 200,000 each month, topped by 243,000 jobs added in January alone. What Jobs Are Being Created In the US

That is great news for the economy and fuel for a surge on Wall Street, where the Nasdaq hit an 11-year high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a peak not seen since 2008.

Does this mean the U.S. economy has found a cure for the recession or a strategy to relieve and mask the symptoms of a deeper, more serious problem? The truth is that it’s likely a little of both. Unfortunately that means that sooner than later the problem will resurface, much like an untreated cancer eventually weakens and destroys the functions of the body.

Much of our unemployment since the recession has been the result of massive layoffs in construction and manufacturing. Creating new jobs in manufacturing, according to many politicos, bureaucrats, economists, and executives, are the key to our recovery. With more people working, more consumption will take place and more homes will be built and purchased, putting millions of unemployed construction workers back to work. That all makes sense.

Except (you likely knew that was coming)… that the manufacturing jobs we need to create aren’t the manufacturing jobs that existed pre-2008. We don’t need workers to just make things. We need workers who make the things that make things and then make those “thing-makers” work in seamless integrated systems.

And that’s the problem. We have a lot of people who are really good at making things. But so does the rest of the world…and they are willing to work more hours for less money. That’s one reason why the U.S. economy is struggling to create jobs. To compete, many of the old manufacturing jobs are gone forever. If those jobs exist, they have been automated, requiring maybe one worker to do the job of five or ten workers just a few years ago. In other words, we could have our manufacturing output humming at record levels and still employ a fraction of the workers that did the same job 10 years ago.

What the U.S. does better than anyone else in the world is make the things that make things. Unfortunately we don’t have enough of those skilled workers or the workers who can service those thing-makers. We need workers who can spot a faulty circuit board, not count nuts and bolts. We need workers who can design, troubleshoot and repair a defective robotic arm, not manufacture the components of the robot.

For politicians and especially low skill workers, that situation places job creation at a painful crossroad. For millions of workers over the past few decades, low skill jobs were the ticket to the middle class and upward mobility. But that has all changed. Good paying careers dependent on low skill workers are gone. That leaves tens of millions of past and future workers stuck in jobs that offer at best bare bone living wages and no future.

To create jobs that ensure workers can earn a living wage and entertain the possibility of moving up requires answers to three interrelated questions:

  1. What products should be made and supported in the U.S.?
  2. What jobs can and should be created that provide good living wages, upward mobility, and still keep the U.S. competitive?
  3. What needs to be done to train and re-train millions of low-skilled and under-skilled U.S. workers to do these jobs?

The order in which we answer the questions is critical. We first must determine what products (or services) should be made in the U.S. Unfortunately we seem to be attempting to solve the job creation problem in reverse order. We want to train and re-train for many jobs that might be obsolete or become low-paying in the very near future. And not all jobs that might be created help the U.S. become or remain competitive.

The U.S. is at the proverbial fork in the road. What road should we take? What products and services should be make and support?

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

How Many Job Applicants Does it Take to Find One Qualified Candidate?

While the question sounds like the preamble to a funny punch line, the answer is no laughing matter.

According to an article last week in the Wall Street Journal, it takes many more than most employers think (or at least want to accept.) I repeat – a lot more. The actual numbers are numbing.

For example, an infographic presented in the article revealed that it takes approximately 1,000 online views by candidates to get 100 candidates to complete the application. Out of that, 25 applications are selected for review, then 4 to 6 candidates are recommended for an interview. When all is said and done, companies may find their one diamond in the rough only after 1,000 candidates view the job posting. If those numbers hold up, it is clear that the impending war for talent is no longer imminent or pending. It’s here today.

Not one to rely only exclusively on hearsay, I was prompted by the article to review 25 jobs posted on our applicant processing system by clients during the last 3 months. The results don’t only confirm the findings presented in the Wall Street Journal but throw up an even bigger gauntlet to challenge employers. The best views-to-applicant scenario was 10 percent. But a more common scenario was as low as 1 percent.

Unfortunately for many companies, as good or bad as those results are, the job search does not always end when the one lonely qualified candidate is identified and offered the job. According to research presented by Talent Function Group, LLC, “the chosen applicant accepts the offer only 80% of the time.” That situation leads to two options – offer the job to your second choice (if there is one) or go back to the drawing board. Neither choice is desirable when a company’s productivity and competitive advantage are on the line and dependent on a minimum time to hire and high quality of hire.

To win the war for talent moving forward, nearly every employer will need to cast the widest possible sourcing net to attract, identify, and hire qualified candidates. In addition, operations and sales managers don’t have the time to waste interviewing candidates who can’t do the job.

The competition for recruiting qualified skilled workers poses a formidable challenge for most organizations. Management has a choice: deal with a “resu-mess” which will inundate recruiting and human resource staffs, which are already running lean; or insist on applicant processing automation to build a talent pool of qualified candidates, reduce the time-to-hire, and ultimately improve the quality of employees.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

 

Employers Need to Get in Touch with Reality: The Workplace of the Future Is Here!

The problem isn’t that 60 year olds still don’t talk – and even dream – about retirement. But a combination of lack of financial preparedness and mental readiness is keeping a lot of seniors working longer.

A recent article in Fortune Magazine, obviously written by a much younger reporter, wasted no time in drawing a dramatic picture of the workforce of the future might look like. She started the article with:

A man parks his bike and unbuckles his helmet to reveal baldness and salt-and-pepper eyebrows. A woman in orthopedic shoes makes her way into an office building, while another peers through her bifocal glasses at her smartphone, the font on the screen bumped up a few sizes for easier reading. No, this isn’t an ad for Celebrex. This is a glimpse at the workforce of tomorrow.

YIKES! This isn’t the future – it’s now! Worse, except for the bike and orthopedic shoes, it’s me! And I’m not alone. Currently 7.3 million American workers age 65 years and older are still working. (Fortunately I’ve got a few years before I’m included in that stat.) According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that number will nearly double to 13.2 million by 2022 as again Americans defer retirement, or as many futurists more aptly predict, they will re-define retirement. (In my opinion, these BLS statistics are grossly underestimated, just as predictions of a mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce won’t come to fruition. Yes, Baby Boomers may leave a job or career they held for several decades, but then many if not most, will start another.)

Contrary to the inferences of the article, the generational gaps between young and old are not distinct. It’s just as likely to see a young worker unbuckle his helmet and see a completely bald head as well as a “geezer” unleash a full head of hair, even a ponytail. Likewise, young and old workers now use smartphones, although it’s a foregone conclusion that most older workers can’t see a bleeping thing without those bifocals or large fonts. And in a digital typing race – or more accurately a keystroking competition – young workers will win hands down.

But regardless of how the similarities and differences between older and younger workers is portrayed, what the workplace looks like going forward will be undeniably different. Certainly a lot more gray hairs, bifiocals, and pictures of grandkids will be visible along with tube tops, flip flips, body piercings, and tattoos. Age spans of 40 and even 50 years will be common. This generational shift and age divide inherently will require every organization to address everything from healthcare benefits to ergonomics.

The major workplace transformation however will be driven by technology and globalization – and working with those conditions requires new skill sets. The definition of work has changed … and will change again sooner than later. Even basic workplace issues like accommodation for the physically impaired or disabled won’t matter because many jobs can function remotely -from a worker’s home, his winter domicile, and even a rehab or assisted living!

In preparing for the workplace of 2020, the reason to employ either or both young and old should have nothing to do with age. The critical criteria for hiring or retaining employees must be based on skills, experience, and knowledge. And in a world that changes so quickly and where change doesn’t always evolve as much revolve, age will become less of a reliable indicator of experience and knowledge.

Employers need to get a grip on reality and start planning for the future workplace. For many companies seniors will be an asset. For others it is young workers that will provide the horsepower and fuel to grow business. For most organizations, the blended generational workplace will be the right recipe. But it will take a lot more creativity to make it work than just saying “we hire regardless of age.”

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

 

DISCover How To Get People to Listen To You

DISC Personality ModelWhen people communicate face to face, they deliver messages on three channels. You need to listen to all 3 channels if you want to hear what the other person is saying. Likewise, if you want to gain the attention of others, you must be able to identify and tune into the right channel of your audience.

What are these three channels?

Verbal – words. Most people believe it is the words you use that differentiate good from bad communication. While important, the words used are only one channel. In fact, some research says that less than 10 percent of effective communication is driven by the words you use. A majority of people tune you out and never hear your words when you don’t first broadcast your message on the right channel.

Visual – body language. This is the most popular channel, especially in face-to-face communication. Body language is reported to determine nearly 60 percent of effective communication. Your posture, your facial expressions, your eye contact all determine how quickly another person will turn you off or engage with you. Body language also impacts non-face-to-face communication too. Just because your target can’t see you doesn’t mean he or she can’t “hear” the effect of your posture and facial expressions.

Vocal – how you say it. This is the second most popular channel, especially with so many people communicating long distance and telecommuting these days. Loud and soft, fast and slow speech all impact the impression you make on others and how likely they will want to listen to what you have to say. The vocal channel determines approximately one-third of effective communication.

Which channel is most important? That’s a great question and the answer depends on the channel that the customer uses. How can you determine quickly the preferred channel of your listeners?

If effective communication is broadcast on three channels of Visual, Vocal, and Verbal, then CriteriaOne DISC is the TV Guide. Each behavioral style has its communication preferences. By understanding the DISC model, presenters can quickly assess their audience and tune into the appropriate visual, vocal, and verbal channels so the intended listener tunes in and stays tuned.

For an example of how all this DISC stuff works, follow this link. Dr. Tony Alessandra does a great job of demonstrating how Visual, Vocal, and Verbal channels can change the meaning of even the simple word “oh.”

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.