Company Culture Revealed in the Executive Interview

A colleague of mine was recently interviewed for an executive role with NewCo, a global corporation. The structural specifics of the company are not relevant to the story. 

After several rounds of interviews, the company gave him the big stall as seems to be common once they really like some else sufficiently more than they like you. Not that they don’t like you, they do, yet they seem to feel it is good risk management to stall you, waste your time creating false hope, while they go further down the path with their number one. Love to play poker with these people. 

So nothing new here, atypical shenanigans of executive hiring managers. 

What this story is about though is simply this. My colleague sold his business a few years ago for a strong profit, not retirement level cruise ship money, only enough for a nice comfortable cushion. 

What happened in this interview is of interest. Upon learning the story of the very successful sale of his company, the key hiring manager was adamant to know:

  • how could we possibly motivate you?, and
  • why would you ever work in sales then?

And in that moment, the hiring manager blew the entire interview. 

How is that?

Without knowing it, this senior manager communicated two critical pieces of information that would turn any self respecting sales professional off.

  1. Instead of expressing a strong desire to work with a real ‘A’ Player, someone with proven success, and who knows how to get the job done, he expressed a preference for less successful people 
  2. He also expressed an underlying disdain for sales as a real profession, a carryover from the old British aristocratic perspective of the merchant as common peddler. In other words, that sales was not truly a worthy profession of equal stature to other more credentialed professions, replete with shoulder salad or alphabet soup.

When the offer came, naturally my colleague turned down the job.

 We frequently hear about sales people being terminated as not a good fit with  company culture, yet this almost always means they were not competent. Firing ‘A’ Player performers is as tough as getting the rifle out of Charlton Heston’s now cold dead hands! Times out of ten, its not gonna happen. 

I believe we have a situation here where an ‘A’ player refused to work for a ‘B’ manager; and that company culture is getting in the way of building a highly successful sales culture.  

btw: another company made a much stronger offer within 2 weeks. It *was* accepted.

Please share your experiences, lessons learned, or how you’d deal with this situation if it happened to you.

 

Design – Build – Enable – Motivate – Control

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The New Quotas are UnFair

At one time or another, and hopefully not too often, the sales quotas will need to be reset. Typically this happens every year to meet changing company goals, yet it does not happen in all companies, or in all offering lines.

When it does happen though, regardless of how much expectation setting you do in advance, you can count of a few things:

  • someone will not ‘get it’
  • some will get it, and find every loophole and unintended consequence of plan oversight
  • a bunch of people will not like it
  • someone, or many someones will declare it to be unfair

Many companies use relatively simple over/under metrics to calculate their payouts. Smarter companies use more integrated techniques that include performance against potential in categories such as volume, growth rate, margin, churn rate, new product introduction and more.

Back to our base case.

You are a new to the company in the role of First Line Sales Manager, responsible for 8 – 10 sales people.  A group of reps are jumping up and down about fairness, or rather the unfairness of their quotas. While you’ve anticipated some resistance, this group is particularly vocal, persistent, and in fact down right ornery about it.

It would be easy to lean on the authority of your position, and simply push back – “my way or the highway”. Your spidey sense is telling you to look before you leap.

  • What are the measures you would use to assess their claims? 
  • How do you really know if they have a point or not, whether their claims have any merit? 
  • How would you construct your case once you are clear? 
  • If they had merit, how would you deal with Corporate? 

Please share your experiences, lessons learned, and how you’d deal with things now.

Design – Build – Enable – Motivate – Control

DeliberateSelling.com

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Why New Sales Hire Definition Determines Success

There’s a common belief amongst those who hire sales professionals that past success predicts future success. Its not wrong. At the same time, its not all that right either. A corollary might be from Don Shula, coach of the ’72 Miami Dolphins, the NFL’s only team ever with a perfect record for the season and playoffs. 

Shula would say that practice does *not* make perfect. Rather he would be inclined to say “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect! “

What gets missed by many when they hire is the notion of success under similar conditions. If you we’re raised selling into a boom market, and have plenty of success to show for it, there is no doubt you have the drive for success. Yet you may not have the necessary skill to overcome the considerable resistance most sales people encounter in today’s generally down market.  

The amendment needed to the past predicts future aphorism is that past success under similar market conditions predicts future success in comparable market conditions. 

Other conditions matter. For sales people with considerable success with big brands, selling success with lesser knowns is not as likely. Sales people with success selling to Small-Medium-Co often struggle with the timing and cadence of BigCo or MegaCorp.    

Definition matters. 

All salary sales people tend to flounder when they enter the land of all or mostly commissioned based sales. Not all, just most of them. 

When the experience has been margin rich and market share is all important, selling for essential profit margin will be tough since discounting for closing is not available in most cases. 

Thee are many more examples available where the definition matters considerably, and they can include Sales Culture (not company culture), Ticket Size, Pressure, Management Style, Length of Sales Cycle, and others. 

Definition matters

Its not that owners and Front Line Managers (FLM) can’t select, they generally just do not know how to define an excellent fit, other than an OK-Fit.        

This is what makes it scary when a recruiter tells you “I provide the people they ask for”. And they do. 

Domain expertise counts, but after 9 months those with it are 1% better than those without it. Not much considering the negative impact on candidate pool size.   

As in my first posting on the Business Owners are like Front Line Sales Managers, here are 5 sales effectiveness drivers to focus on.      

Define what you need in terms of people, roles, structure, territories and more. No definition, no chance of success – its your blueprint for success. 

Build the team you need through recruiting, training, coaching, and leading them in the right direction. Shape the Sales Culture you need by emphasizing key qualities a sales culture must have based on internal and external drivers.    

Enable the team using informational supports, typically in the form of Customer Research, Social Media software, sales process optimized CRM software (most isn’t), and powerful Ideal Customer Profile definitions.   

Motivate the team using deep understanding of your sale people’s personal goals, company goals, and the Customer’s goals. If you don’t know what they are, you’ll have a tough time leading your team towards them. Goals should not ignore financial compensation, yet must not prioritize greed and selfishness as the path to success.

Control and Accountability are typically the least fun of any business owner’s or FLM’s day in the life. Expect what you Inspect meaning you must set targets and hold people accountable to meet them.  Most people really do want to do good works each and every day, some do not. Even for those who do, holding people accountable for achievement shows them what matters and is important. 

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Why Business Owners are like Front Line Sales Managers

You are a small business owner, an entrepreneur, an idea machine, a market maven, and more. You’ve built a pretty good little business, covering your nut, eliminated the burn rate, and now its time to grow again.

So you do – you’ve hired some sales people(from 1-n) and then bingo, you hit the wall.

All of a sudden there is never enough time, service issues become all consuming, and as you discover, sales people have needs.

They have need of direction, territory definition, compensation, tools, software, messaging, activity management, value propositions, sales process, ‘demo-ware’, conferencing support, and more. They need guidance. And just like telling isn’t selling, telling is neither leading nor managing. It takes more.

Now what? You thought you’d hired the best you could get for the budget you had, and that as sales professionals with track record (so the resume said), none of this would be needed.

How did this happen?

You’ve just crossed the threshold from business owner to front line sales manager (FLM), a specialist role if ever there was one. With none of your other duties abating, the days are getting longer and longer, and productivity is going down.

In the software development business, we’ve all become aware of the mythical man month – the notion that as you add complexity, you create friction and drag that reduces productivity. So too in businesses that are weak on sales management policy, procedure, infrastructure, systems, and professional sales management practices that will rationalize your life.

So what works?

If you can afford it, hire a professional sales manager to straighten things out. This can be done on an interim or full time basis depending on your needs and resources.

Define what you need in terms of people, roles, structure, territories and more. No definition, no chance of success – its your blueprint for success.

Build the team you need through recruiting, training, coaching, and leading them in the right direction. Shape the Sales Culture you need by emphasizing key qualities a sales culture must have based on internal and external drivers.

Enable the team using informational supports, typically in the form of Customer Research, Social Media software, sales process optimized CRM software (most isn’t), and powerful Ideal Customer Profile definitions.

Motivate the team using deep understanding of your sale people’s personal goals, company goals, and the Customer’s goals. If you don’t know what they are, you’ll have a tough time leading your team towards them. Goals should not ignore financial compensation, yet must not prioritize greed and selfishness as the path to success.

Control and Accountability are typically the least fun of any business owner’s or FLM’s day in the life. Expect what you Inspect meaning you must set targets and hold people accountable to meet them.  Most people really do want to do good works each and every day, some do not. Even for those who do, holding people accountable for achievement shows them what matters and is important.

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4 Things Sales HR & Recruiters Won’t Tell You (and why it matters)

A DeliberateSelling Perspective

Recruiting for sales talent is a challenging business, but then again what business isn’t these days. Too much capacity chasing too few opportunities to make it easy, and arguably it never was, simply degrees of easier. Yet, never easy.

The same is true for your sales people – its tough out there. Which means they need to be sharp, competition resistant, and capable at all times. There are some good reasons to use recruiters for sales people, yet not that many. Another article. Let’s look at a 4 things you need to know most sales recruiters won’t tell you:

Hidden Weaknesses that Neutralize Strengths

In short, what is wrong with this candidate. There is no perfect sales person, and its foolish to pretend otherwise. Everybody will tell you how ‘right’ they are, yet few recruiters can identify, let alone report what’s ‘wrong‘ with this sales person. It matters.  

Trainable or Not

Every new hire goes through a ramp up period, and its length, and shape is determined by the candidate and the on boarding program. Most recruiters don’t even contemplate this dimension, while over focusing on past success. A million dollar a year quota is worth $83,333 per month in sales productivity. Knowing someones probable ramp up time and potential adds up quickly. It matters. 

The Degree of Difficulty for Prior Success

Many hiring agents focus on domain expertise and the ‘logos‘ the candidate has worked for in the past. Moving a candidate fro Rogers to Telus to Bell at a corporate level is simple stuff. What often gets missed is the degree of difficulty and resistance the sales person faced in the past, and must be able to over come @NewCo. It matters.

Desire and Commitment Level

A lot of people are driven to be successful, yet only a few of them really want to be successful at selling. Some people in sales have the gift of gab, are persuasive, and personable – all useful traits until the going gets tough. Then it takes something else – Desire and Commitment. Given a choice between candidates with these attributes, and those only with a past to sell, which would you choose? It matters.

Now its not that sales recruiters won’t tell you what you need to know, the truth is that they can’t. Few of them know how to get this information, let alone invest the time money and effort it takes to learn the necessary.

Traditional sales recruiting methods are based on the same practices used for clerical, administrative, and professional roles.  These practices work well for the inward focused members of your company. When it comes to selling, they just aren’t effective.  If you’re looking to plug a hole in your headcount any approach will work, however  if you want to build an ‘A’ player sales team there are things you really need to know and do!

Which would you prefer?

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3 Dimensions of Fit that Matter in Hiring Sales People

When it comes to hiring sales people, many stereotypes play a role, and most of them are wrong, wrong, wrong!

One often herars about the notion of ‘fit’ – the sales person has to fit into the company culture. Not entirely wrong, yet on the list of priorities, its number 3.   And the least important.

Some people will protest, and say things like they have to be honest, or have values we  care about, or have integrity. OK – that’s true, yet that has nothing to do with sales. You should ask for those same things when hiring an accountant, or lawyer, or systems analyst. Even reception needs those qualities.

The 3 things that count most when it comes to ‘fit’ in sales are in this order:

  1. the customers and the markets to be served
  2. the sales organization
  3. the degree of resistance the seller will face
  4. and last in the list, the rest of the company

Okay, so that’s 4 things, and when you get down to the details, it gets a lot more detailed than that.

In another article, we’ll address the high cost of turnover for sales people – and its a lot!

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