Should you follow the Money or the Manager?

Anyone who is interested in the Watergate scandal remembers the famous phase from the drama-documentary “All the President’s Men”. It’s that moment when Deep Throat advises Bob Woodward (played by Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman) to “follow the money.”

But does that same advice apply to sales?

Follow the moneyWe all seen them – the employment ads promising 6 figure incomes, or uncapped commissions. We see dollar signs and decide to apply to those positions. Sometimes the job postings are accurate and sometimes they are dishonest.

But should you always follow the money?

Here is the dirty little secret in sales – compensation plans change all the time. Yes, technically speaking, compensation plans should usually change about once a year, when managers adjust quotas or commission percentages. But in the real world, that’s not always the case.

I’ve known situations where compensation plans change once a quarter, or even once a month. Like it or not, the manager (or most likely the owner) is controlling the purse strings. If he feels the salespeople are earning too much money, he will “adjust” the compensation package to ensure that you’re not earning too much money. I know one owner who feels that it’s important to keep salespeople “hungry” so that they don’t become too complacent.

Why? Because hiring and retaining employees – even salespeople – can be expensive. Owners must consider an array of expenses, including rent, leases, office supplies, utilities, etc.

So what should you do? Should you follow the money?

Or, should you instead follow the manager?

You see, here’s another dirty little secret in sales – good sales managers are hard to find.

And if you find a good sales manager, chances are, you will also find a fair compensation and benefits package, an equitable distribution of leads and prospects, and valuable coaching and advice.

Where do you find these good sales managers?

Word of mouth.

Networking

And sites with employer reviews like Glassdoor and Indeed.

So next time you go the job hunting, ignore the dollar signs. Instead, find a good sales manager. Because when you find a good sales manager, and you prove your worth to the company and sales team, trust me, the money will follow.

Because here’s my final dirty little secret in sales – good salespeople are hard to find.

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

 

What to look for in Your New Sales Job

new sales employeeOK, you got hired. You are now working for a new company in a sales position. Maybe it’s your first sales job, or your third one. Regardless of how many sales jobs you have had or how long you have been working in sales, what should you look for when you start out in a new sales position? During your first couple of weeks, you should begin to figure out if you made the right decision, or if you should start sending out your resume again.

1). A Clear Agenda

Has your sales manager presented you with a written clear agenda for the next couple of weeks? The agenda should include what you should learn, e.g., a new CRM, product lines, company policies and procedures? Has he mapped out specific days or times for you in the agenda? Or, is your sales manager working off the seat of his pants and just winging it? If the answer is the latter, then you may have a problem. Try to request something in writing so that you have a good understanding of your job, especially your goals for the next couple of weeks – if not longer.

2). Your Co-workers

Are your colleagues friendly or are some giving you the evil eye? Are they treating you as a follow professional, or are they bringing out the long knives to stab you in the back? Don’t just listen to what they say – watch the body language. Are they giving you eye contact or avoiding you when you speak? Are they giving you the cold shoulder? Are they quickly answering your questions before they jump on the phone?

3). Compensation Package

While you may have been given the broad strokes during your interview about what your total compensation will be, or expected to be, now that you are hired, do you have a written compensation package? If it’s down in writing, is it easy to understand or do you need to be a mathematician to figure it out? If you have trouble understanding your compensation package, speak up early or you may regret it later when you are not being paid as much as you thought.

office space4). Office Space

Are you working in an area that allows you to sell, or are constantly being interrupted and distracted? While open offices or spaces appear to be the common norm these days, you still need to concentrate and properly function to hit your numbers. (Please see my post on Open Space Offices – Good or Bad Idea?)

5). Support

Are you getting support from your co-workers and administrative staff? Or is everyone giving you the brush off or the bums rush?

6). Your Sales Manager

Is he accessible during your first couple of weeks, or is his office door constantly closed. Is he taking the time to coach you and meet with you on a regular basis during those first couple of critical weeks? Has he taken you out to lunch as a friendly gesture to get to know you better? Has he introduced you to the rest of the sales team and other key employees? Does he care if you succeed or are you just a meal ticket to him?

7). Mentor

Has your sales manager appointed a senior sales person – a mentor – to be available to help you? Let’s face it, sales managers can be very busy at times, so it’s always helpful to have someone else around to work with you to smooth out the rough edges until you are solidly on your feet. (Please see my post on In Sales, Should you use a Mentor?)

8) Morale

Are people excited and eager to come to work, or are they constantly gossiping and bitching about their jobs or the company? If it’s the latter, don’t get drawn into all the drama. I’m old school – drama should belong in the theater not in the workplace. If you find yourself dealing with too many drama queens and kings, avoid them like the plague. Instead, stay focused, hunker down and work. Sooner or later, people will get the message that you are a serious player who wants to make money.

9). Marketing

Is the marketing department helping the sales team by providing good leads and prospects? Are they working to enhance your company’s brand name and recognition? Are they finding good trade shows to attend? Or, is your marketing department completely clueless and hostile towards the sales department? (Please see my post on Can Sales and Marketing Get Along?)

10). The Owner

Depending on the size of your company, you may rarely see or meet the owner. But if you are working for a small to mid-size company, the owner should have either interviewed you himself while you were applying for the position, or taken the time to introduce himself after you have come on board. If the owner is a total ghost, that may not be a completely bad thing, but when it comes time for a promotion or raise, how is the owner supposed to reward you if he doesn’t know you exist?

For more advice on how to start your new sales job, please check out these links –

“11 Tips for Starting a New Sales Role,” by Chris Gillespie
“2 Techniques to Get Up to Speed Fast In a New Sales Job,” by Emma Brudner

Special Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

Photo credit for middle picture: chrisjagers Steelcase Frame I Desks with Leap Chairs via photopin (license)

 

Is Gia hurting your Sales Department?

When you hear someone say Gia, what immediately comes to your mind?

Is it Gia Carangi, the famous fashion model from the 1970s and early 1980s?

Is it Gia Carides, an Australian actress, known for her portrayals in Strictly Ballroom and Brilliant Lies?

Is it the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)?

Is it the Gaming Intelligence Agency (GIA)?

Is Greed hurting your sales department?If someone describes your sales department as a Gia, run, don’t walk, as quickly as you can before your sales career ends up in the dumpster.

What does the acronym GIA mean?

G- Greed

I – Incompetence

A – Arrogance

So is GIA hurting your sales department?

Let’s take a look –

Greed – is greed harming your abilities to meet or exceed your sales quota because your sales manager is hogging most of the good accounts? Does your sales manager have an insatiable appetite for taking most of the good inbound leads and leaving you with mostly table scrapes? Is your sales manager so selfish with his time, that he offers you little or no coaching to help you?

Incompetence – is your marketing department doing a lousy job providing you with good qualified leads or prospects? Is your marketing department doing a terrible job gathering intelligence on your competitors? Is your marketing department unable to provide a good snapshot of the best prospects you should be targeting? Is your marketing department so incompetent that they couldn’t find high-quality trade shows for you to attend if you pinned them on a map?

Arrogance – is your sales manager or the owner so arrogant that they don’t want to consider your ideas or suggestions? Is upper management so arrogant that they ignore your proposal for getting a better compensation package? Is your company so arrogant that they don’t gather feedback or suggestions from their customers?

You might be able to handle one of the three predicaments above and survive. For example, while your sales manager may be stingy, if your marketing department is doing an excellent job, you may have enough leads and prospects to earn a good income. But if you have to deal with all three problems, it’s time to find a new job.

So is your sale department suffering from GIA?

Please let me know.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

What Salespeople can learn from Girlboss

Girlboss(Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Girlboss yet on Netflix, I recommend that you stop reading this post and watch the show first. Yes, Girlboss was recently canceled after one season, but it’s still worth viewing. At this writing the program is still streaming on Netflix).

For those who haven’t seen Girlboss, here is a summary about the comedy program –

The show is roughly based on Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography GIRLBOSS.

(In fact, the producers want to make it clear upfront with this disclaimer – “What follows is a loose retelling of true events… Real loose.”)

The show depicts how Ms. Amoruso started her company Nasty Gal in 2006, which would become a California-based retailer specializing in young women’s fashion. She started her business while working as a security guard/host at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. When not checking student IDs while sitting at the front desk, she worked on creating her company, which would eventually generate $23 million by 2011, according to Inc. Magazine

(Nasty Gal was purchased by the Boohoo Group earlier this year for $20 million).

Ms. Amoruso’s character’s name in the show is Sophia Marlowe (played by Britt Robertson). Ms. Marlowe is portrayed in this fictional account as a nasty gal herself. She likes to shoplift. She uses crass language. She has roller coaster relationships with her father (played by Dean Norris), friends and various colleagues in her life. In her early 20’s, she is trying to find herself while struggling to pay her rent and keep her car running. Interested in vintage clothing, she soon discovers her calling and starts earning a living by selling clothing on eBay. Eventually, she quits her security position and launches her online store for fame and fortune.

What can salespeople learn from Girlboss? Here are my takeaways –

1). Follow your passion – Ms. Marlowe adores vintage clothing. But she loves working for herself more and being her own boss. Selling vintage clothing online appears to be her ticket to financial freedom. Ignoring negative comments from others, she proceeds with her goal.

In sales, many of us have a passion for selling. But we all face a lot of negativity on a daily basis. We deal with a barrage of rejections from clients, cancelled appointments, unfair criticism from sales managers, and the list goes on.

What keeps us going is our passion to sell. But not just selling per se, but a love for the products and services that we offer our clients. To be successful, your passion has to come through. You have to love what you are selling as well as the industry you work in. If you don’t, then selling is just another job, and your clients and prospects will quickly see through your façade and drop you like a hot potato.

BTW, while you may think you can hide behind your façade in phone sales, many clients can pick up on the tone of your voice. They can tell if you are really excited about what you are doing, or if you are just going through the motions.

2). Read – Passion alone doesn’t help if you don’t read. Ms. Marlowe is smart enough to realize that. So she undertakes a self-study program by reading (and sometimes stealing) books on how to run a business.

Just because you have taken a few workshops or read some books about selling, doesn’t make you an expert. Learning how to sell, like any profession, requires a disciplined and ongoing training program. Don’t like to read that much? OK, then watch the hundreds of free videos on YouTube or other sites. Listen to audio book tapes. But always be learning.

team work3). You can’t do it alone – Annie, Ms. Marlowe’s best friend, has devoted a lot of time and energy helping Nasty Gal get off the ground. When Annie (played by Ellie Reed) asks to be hired as full-time paid employee, Ms. Marlowe turns her down flat. But eventually, Ms. Marlowe realizes she can’t run the business alone, and decides to hire Annie. She makes  her decision not just based on friendship (which is not always the best way to hire people), but because she knows that Annie has the skills to take her business to the next level. Annie has been working in a women’s fashion store, and was even given the green light for a managerial position. But Annie decides to forgo a safe job and take on a more risky one with a start-up. Through mutual respect and friendship, both these women are determined to succeed.

(With start-ups, your early hires shouldn’t always be those who offer technical or professional skills, but who share the same dream or vision you do).

Ms. Marlowe faces a similar dilemma when she tries to create her own website. While reading a book on website development, Ms. Marlowe struggles to learn all the coding she needs to master the set up her website. Soon, she begins to fear that she will not be able to launch her website on time to meet her financial obligations. However, Ms. Marlowe, admitting her shortcoming, grudgingly relents  to Annie’s advice and accepts her decision to hire a professional web designer.

You don’t need a good friend to tell you what you already know. Instead, you need one like Annie who tells you what you need to know to be successful.

Surround yourself with friends and allies who will support you.

While some romanticize about being a lone wolf salesperson (who are usually defined as salespeople who go it alone, and reject the advice from others), in reality, many of us can’t make it on our own. For example, we need help from marketing, production, shipping and others to be effective.

Selling is definitely a team effort. Never forget that.

4). Shit happens, so deal with it – Ms. Marlowe has to overcome a lot of obstacles along the way to launch her business. For example, fearing a bad review on eBay (which could hurt her business before she has a chance to expand), she literally drives like a madman and then runs to deliver a vintage wedding dress to a bride right before the wedding begins.

Haven’t we all had to go the extra mile sometimes to get a sale? Like coming to work earlier than usual to conduct an online tour for a client based in India, or shipping a product overnight at your expense to ensure it arrives on time.

In another scene, Ms. Marlowe’s competitors, jealous of her success and innovative ways of doing business, plot to take her down by having eBay deny her access. Undeterred, she not only launches her own website, and even finds a rental space to expand her business.

You will always have competitors. Ignore them. Just focus on doing the best job you can and your clients will follow you.

On a side note, I’m personally disappointed to see the show canceled. There are very few comedy or drama programs about the challenges of starting and running a business. While Girlboss is a fictionalized account of Ms. Amoruso’s efforts to launch Nasty Gal, the program and her book offers us lessons on how to be successful in sales.

To some critics, Ms. Marlowe comes across as brash, obnoxious, and narcissistic,  but it’s her persistence, resourcefulness, and street smarts that should be admired by anyone interested in starting a business or going into sales.

As Ms. Marlowe has demonstrated in Girlboss, starting a business isn’t for the fainthearted. And neither is it when pursuing a sales career.

To learn more about Girlboss, please check out these sites –

Girlboss Media
Girlboss, Netflix Official Site

Note: If you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Phone Interview Tips for Salespeople

Most companies these days will ask you to do a phone interview prior to inviting you in for an in-person interview. This is done for several reasons. First, it saves everyone time by making sure you are going to be a good fit for the job. Second it’s a good way for the employer to hear you speak and interact over the phone (especially if you are applying for an inside sales position). And third, it allows the employer to weed out candidates who don’t do well over the phone, or who don’t have the qualifications to do the job.

When doing phone interviews, always make sure you have your resume, the job posting and any other supporting documents you need at your fingertips. While this may be a phone interview, you have to be just as prepared as if you were attending in person interview. And it goes without saying; always do some research on the company and the hiring manager.

Also, never assume that only one person is listening to your phone interview. While in most cases the HR person will do the first phone interview, sometimes the hiring manager will stay quiet and sit in the background listening to your conversation. Shortly after the interview, he may tell the HR person to give you thumbs up or down, and then move on to the next candidate.

And depending on the sales job you are applying for, sometimes you may be asked to do two phone interviews before being asked to meet someone in person. This could be the HR person and then one of the hiring managers. They may want to compare notes before asking you to come in.

Doing a sales phone interviewLeaving Voice Mail Message Test

In some cases, before you even speak to the HR person or Hiring Manager, you may be asked to call and leave a voice mail message. You can leave any voice mail message you like, but it’s usually sales related to what you are currently selling or have sold in the past. If you leave a good voice mail message or sound professional, you will move forward in the interviewing process.

While leaving a voice mail may be a requirement before you are interviewed, sometimes you may to ask to give a spur of the moment sales presentation over the phone. This happened to me a few years ago when I applied for an inside sales position at a durable medical equipment company. After going through a series of interviews, at the last-minute I was asked by the owner to call him from another office. I could make any sales presentation that I like. I was not prepared for this in advanced. And to add more pressure, most of the sales team was listening in and gave their critique after my presentation. Fortunately, I passed with flying colors and I was offered the job in a few days.

No Appointment Phone Interview

And finally, sometimes the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment. They do this for a couple of reasons.

First, they want to catch you off guard and see how you interact with a total stranger over the phone. Are you poise, confident, and speak well under pressure? Or are you flustered and irritated by the call? Can you answer questions about the job you are applying for without the job posting and notes in front of you? Can you answer questions about your employment history without your resume in front of you? Can you ask questions of the sales manager without your notes in front of you? You may think the sales manager is being rude by calling you without an appointment, but consider this a test – perhaps the first of several tests you will have to go through during the interview process.

Second, the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment because he’s busy. He has a job that must be quickly filled, and he doesn’t want to go through all the niceties and bureaucracy of hiring someone. If you sound half-way professional over the phone, and your resume is above average, he may want to get you in the door quickly. This is especially true for a high-turnover sales department, or a small company that can’t afford a sales position to be open for too long. If that’s the case, beware that you are not walking into a “churn and burn” sales department. Unless you are desperate for a job, take your time before considering accepting a job offer in a hectic and crazy sales environment.

Treat the phone interview just as seriously as an in-person interview. It could make the difference between landing your dream job or being unemployed.

For more advice on handling phone interview, please read –

“17 Phone Interview Tips to Guarantee a Follow-up,” by Larry Kim

“6 Steps to Nailing a Job Interview over the Phone,” by Judith A. Stock

Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Is your Bumper Sticker killing your Job Hunt?

bumper stickerIt goes without saying that you have to be very careful what you post on the internet these days. This is especially true on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. While you can keep both those sites private, it’s still a good idea to Google yourself to see what comes up. Are there any embarrassing pictures of you being drunk at a party? Any controversial political comments you posted somewhere that you don’t want a potential employer to see? (And these days, given how hot the political climate is, anything you post is going to be viewed as controversial by someone).

In sales, you don’t want your sales manager and customers reading anything that could hurt your sales or your ability to find and keep a job.

But beyond social media, what about your car? That’s right, your car!

Several years ago, I went in for a job interview with a small publishing company in Greenbelt, MD. The interview went well. After the interview, the sales manager insisted on showing me to the door and walking out the building with me. While we were standing outside talking, he asked me where I parked and what kind of car I drove. I proudly pointed out my American made Mercury Sable (which was becoming a lemon with all he car repair bills I was paying for).

And then, he quickly leaned in and told me in a very low threatening voice that he doesn’t want to hire any gays in his department. If I were gay, he added, I better withdraw my employment application right now. And with that, he quickly smiled, shook my hand and walked away. I was stunned by what he said. I didn’t know if he was targeting me specifically (for the record, I’m not gay), or if this was a standard hiring practice that he incorporated in all his interviews.

But it also just occurred to me why he wanted to see my car. He wasn’t interested in my taste in vehicles. Instead, he wanted to see if a gay bumper sticker or other “offending” stickers on my car.

Was his behavior unethical? Yes.

Was his actions illegal? Probably.

Was he being sneaky? Of course.

bumper stickerYou see, if a hiring manager doesn’t like LGBTQ people, liberals, conservatives, Christians, atheists, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, environmentalists, feminists, Trump or Clinton supporters, etc. you need to make sure you don’t show your potential employer the bumper stickers on your car. It could hurt your chances of landing that dream job.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe.

But given the current political environment, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of freedom of speech and the First Amendment. But when you are job hunting, sometimes you need to put your feelings and political or religious views aside, and focus on getting a paycheck.

(And is it just me, or am I seeing fewer bumper stickers on cars these days? I live in the Washington, D.C. area, and I’m not seeing as many bumper stickers as I use to. Maybe people are afraid of promoting their views, or they prefer to drive cleaner cars).

If you would like to remove your bumper sticker, here is a link from WikiHow –

WikiHow to Remove Bumper Stickers

However, there are ways you can temporarily cover up bumper stickers. Here is some advice below –

“Is there a way of Temporarily Camouflage My Bumper Sticker?” by Car Talk

As always, please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Note: If you like my post or other posts on my blog, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Top Photo credit: andres musta car combo via photopin (license)