Should Salespeople use Glassdoor?

Should you use Glassdoor for job hunting?You are a recent college graduate and you’re trying to find your first sales job.

You got laid off from your last sales job, and you’re now scrambling to find new work.

You hate your job, so you’re now seeking a better sales position.

Where do you go for help? You could go to the usual suspects, e.g., friends, former co-workers, relatives, job recruiters, contacts, etc.

However, one source you may want to consider is Glassdoor.

What is Glassdoor?

For a job hunter, it could mean the difference between landing that dream job you always wanted and avoiding the job from hell.

According to its website, Glassdoor “holds a growing database of more than 8 million company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, interview reviews and questions, benefits reviews, office photos and more.”

What makes Glassdoor unique is that you get an insider’s view to find out more about a company’s culture and office politics. By looking through the glass door (get it?) you can read anonymous reviews posted by current and former employees. Among other things, reviewers can make recommendations on whether you should apply to a company, and offer star ratings like you see on Amazon or Netflix. Glassdoor also goes a step further and allows you to approve or disapprove of a CEO.

But you are not just reading reviews. You are also getting information on salaries for various positions. In many cases, you also have access to interview questions and hiring procedures, e.g., how many times were you interviewed, did you do phone and on-site interviews, or both, what was your overall experience like, etc.

But can you trust the reviews?

When job hunting, you always have to read between the lines and trust your gut.

Here is how you can interpret reviews posted on Glassdoor –

1). The number of reviews posted –  If there are only handful of reviews, it’s going to be very difficult to understand the company’s culture or if you are a good fit or not. On the other hand, if you have let’s say  7 or more recent reviews, that could give you some idea of what type of company you are applying to.

2). The timelines of the reviews – if you see an influx of very positive reviews posted within a short period of time mixed in with a lot of negative reviews, that’s usually a sign that the employer is asking his employees to post good reviews to counter the bad ones. In that case, you really have to read between the lines. I’ve actually worked at companies where employers asked people to post encouraging reviews in an effort to attract more and better job applicants. In other cases, outgoing employees were asked to post good reviews before they left. Is that fair? Well, it depends. If current employees are truly happy with their jobs and the company, they shouldn’t have any misgivings about posting upbeat reviews. But if they are unhappy and feel coercive, that could be a problem.

3). Employer Engagement – Believe it or not, employers can actually participate for free on Glassdoor. For example, they can respond to reviews, offer updates about the company, and obtain a demographic snapshot of visitors to narrow down recruiting efforts. (Glassdoor also offers fee-based packages for employers, including advertising and enhanced profiles).

I believe the more engaged an employer is with Glassdoor, the more likely they are taking the reviews seriously and they want to improve their company. Most companies do want to hire the best people they can. If they suddenly see an onslaught of damaging comments, they know that could discourage good job candidates from applying to their company.

writing reviews on Glassdoor4). Age of reviews – I believe that the older the reviews, the less helpful they are going to be for job hunters. Why? With the passage of time, company cultures, policies and politics change. Sure, maybe 4 years ago there was high turnover in the sales department, but now under new management, the exits have now gone down to a trickle. While the occasional negative review may pop up, if you are reading mostly optimistic comments, that’s a good sign the sales department or company is in good shape.

5). Motive of the reviewers – maybe it’s me, but I believe the more people write negative reviews than positive ones. Sometimes destructive reviews are written by disgruntled former employees who have an ax to grind. Maybe they were fired or laid off, and writing negative posts is their way of “getting back at the man.”

However, what may seem bad to one employee may be good to another one. For example, I’ve read reviews where some employees complained about a company’s new open space office policy. (Please see my post on “Open Space Offices – Good or Bad Idea?”) They hate the arrangement because of the noise and lack of privacy. However, some employees may not care because for them an open space office provides a more collaborative and transparent environment. I read reviews where some employees have complained about using security cards to enter each floor of a building. But other employees like the arrangement because, in a post 9/11 world, they want extra protection from terrorists or gunslinging mentally ill people.

6). Length of the reviews – short reviews are really hard to interpret. Simply reading a review that says in effect “the place sucks, don’t work here” with few examples isn’t very helpful. The longer reviews that offer deeper insight and try to balance the pros and cons of a workplace can provide a more accurate picture of you. Also, long reviews are written by people who really care about their jobs and want to see real change. They are hoping their employers notice their comments and will adapt.

I actually know firsthand of employers who have changed their policies and hiring practices because of reviews posted on Glassdoor. For example, one employer was shocked to find that job applicants were upset by the amateurish ways interviews were being conducted. During an interview, the hiring manager would be openly reading the job candidate’s Facebook profile and asking ridiculous questions. The company quickly posted that the practices had changed. They even published the phone number of the HR department and encouraged anyone to call if they had any questions.

However, not all companies get the message. For example, one Washington, D.C. based company is consistently criticized in Glassdoor for canceling and then rescheduling job interviews at the last-minute. I guess the HR director isn’t reading Glassdoor that often to change the bad practice or doesn’t care.

7). Consistency – with some reviews, you may see a pattern of good or bad comments. For example, if you keep reading about high turnover in the sales department, or a lack of direction from upper management throughout several reviews, then that’s a sign the company isn’t making progress. For example, several people at one company complained that the owners were socially awkward and inept, and thus were hard to work with.  On the other hand, several people at another company commented on the owner’s open door policy, and his willingness to listen to advice.

On a personal note, I’ve used Glassdoor when applying for new jobs. I have found some of the reviews to be completely accurate, while others fell off the mark.

Glassdoor, like any job hunting tool, is a guide. While Glassdoor can give you a peek of what is going on behind a company’s closed doors, in the end, you still have to do some things the old fashion way – going on interviews, attending networking events, finding contacts within a company, working with recruiters, and doing basic research on Google.

For more information about Glassdoor and job hunting, please read the following articles –

“14 Little-Known Tricks to help you Land your Dream Job using Glassdoor,” by Julie Bort

“How Glassdoor’s Reviews Help you Find your Dream Job,” by Sarah K. White

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

Should you be a hero at work?

should you be a hero at work?The following are true stories –

A saleswoman works 60 plus hours a week for a small tech company for 10 years. The company goes out of business. Not only is she laid off, but she doesn’t receive any severance. No letter of recommendation. Goodbye.

A secretary, who works 40 hours a week, decides to work for free every Saturday in a struggling small community newspaper company. She does this for nearly five years. The company goes out of business and she loses her job. No severance. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

A grant development manager at a 7-person nonprofit organization spends more than a year working tirelessly to obtain new grants and donations. In fact, she generates more revenue than her predecessor. But when she becomes pregnant and asks the board for paid maternity leave, they string her along for 6 months. Eventually, they only offer her three weeks paid maternity leave. Angry and shocked by their proposal, she quits her job. The board of directors is stunned by her decision, but they do nothing to persuade her to return. Instead, they post an employment ad to fill her position.

What do all three of these women have in common? They are heroes. They went beyond the call of duty for their employer. But in the end, their employers screwed them over.

Which brings me to my question – should you be a hero at work?

Yes, of course, you should be professional. Yes, you should do the best job you can every day. And yes, show incentive by offering ideas and occasionally working late to complete urgent projects or close deals that could help your company.

But should you constantly work overtime without any guarantee of advancement or financial gain?

For example, the saleswoman who worked 60 hours plus per week may have been better off attending networking events or expanding her contacts on LinkedIn rather than devoting all her time and energy to one employer.

The secretary who came to work every Saturday may have been better off using that time by taking courses to upgrade her skills and market herself better in the workplace.

should you be a hero at work?And the grant development manager should have been more forceful in getting an agreement on the length of her paid maternity rather than drag out the process for 6 months.

Here’s the problem with being a hero at work – they are usually taken advantage of by their employers.

Some employers don’t give a damn about your hard work or devotion. Some are completely clueless about what you are doing. And some may care but they don’t have the financial means to award you.

Heroes are very common in the sales profession. You come in early. You work your ass off late at night. You sometimes skip lunch. You make call after call, or do a string of online demos or meet clients. We do this because we want to earn a lot of money. That’s a given. But we also do it to gain recognition in hopes of advancing our careers at our jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but just make sure you understand the ground rules and office politics at your job before trying to be a hero.

If you don’t, you could end up a burnt out shell. Stunned and anxious, you end up wondering what happened when the office doors close because of a merger, reorg or acquisition that leaves you out in the cold. Or a new manager comes in, doesn’t like you, and decides to hire his friends to replace you and your team. Or the company suddenly tanks for financial reasons, and you don’t get paid when payday rolls around.

The signs are there, but you are so wrapped up with work that you fail to see them. You are so blinded trying to be the hero that you don’t see reality until it smacks you in the face. By then, it’s too late. Now you have to start finding a new job.

So rather than be a hero at work, why not be a hero to yourself? Focus on developing your own professional brand that can translate into more lucrative and awarding career moves. At work, they may tell you that “it’s not about me, it’s about we” – i.e., work is a team effort. That’s true. But just make sure you find a little “me time” for yourself.

Attend networking events. Take courses. Read books. Upgrade your skills. But don’t allow any employer to take advantage of you and treat you like dirt.

Heroes belong in comic books and in the movies. Not in the workplace.

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

Should you work in a High Turnover Sales Department?

high turnover in a sales department is like riding a roller coasterAfter months of job hunting, you finally landed what you think is a good sales job. No more interviews. No more sending out resumes. No more writing cover letters. No more attending network events. No siree Bob, you finally arrived and are now ready to start earning serious money and move on with your life.

But after working at your new job for a few months, you begin to see a pattern.

High turnover.

At first, you don’t notice it because you’re too busy learning about the products and services, getting to know your co-workers, and adjusting to your new work environment. Plus, you wanted to find out where the best coffee shops and fast food restaurants were located near your company.

But then, about every other week or so, you start reading emails that begin with “Joe Smith is no longer working at this company. He has moved on to other opportunities.”

And then you notice the guy who helped mentor you leave. And then the sales manager, who you thought was a good guy, is no longer coming to work. He’s been replaced by an outsider who is clueless about what your company is doing or what you’re selling. You see small groups of other salespeople meeting quietly, talking in whispers, and glancing over their shoulders to ensure no one is listening. The HR director is always meeting behind closed doors, and rarely makes eye contact when you walk by.

Employees come. Employees go. It’s a swinging door.

Congratulations. You have stumbled upon the classic high turnover sales department.

Now what?

Most salespeople stay where they have a good opportunity to earn a good living. But when there is high turnover among a sales staff, it’s usually a bad sign that something is wrong. Unlike most employees, the sales team is serving on the front lines. That means if something good or bad happens to a company, they are the first ones to feel the impact.

High turnover occurs for several reasons, including

1). The products or services are bad, or little improvement has been made in recent years. This could occur because the company isn’t reinvesting in product development, or there is too much infighting within the development team.

2). The compensation package is lousy. Every other month, you receive a new comp plan, or “adjustments” are repeatedly made.

3). Management is terrible, which usually turns into a serious moral problem. The managers could be incompetent, lazy, too demanding, etc. You get the picture.

4). The Marketing Department isn’t providing you with enough good or qualified leads. For example, inbound marketing is nonexistent, or the department is not effectively using social media to enhance better branding and name recognition. There could also be cutbacks in attending a key trade show or other events.

4). The company isn’t doing a good job of hiring and qualifying candidates or isn’t setting the right expectations about its sales positions.

To learn more about the causes of high turnover, please read the following articles –

“What Are the Causes of a High Turnover Rate of Sales Personnel?” by Chris Joseph, Demand Media
“10 Causes of High Sales Rep Turnover – Which One is Yours?” by Steve Loftness

Some companies may tell you that turnover occurs because they have “high expectations” of salespeople; if they don’t achieve their goals, they are asked to leave.

What they are really telling you is that the quotas are extremely or unrealistically high, and frankly may be out of reach for most salespeople. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some companies are looking for the crème de la crème. If you can’t hack it, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Selling is hard work. Maybe they are not looking for glorified order takers, but real hunters and aggressive closers. Maybe they are looking for salespeople to work late hours or be road warriors and travel to all parts of the country or world. Just know that if you accept this job, you had been warned up front about the high turnover. Be prepared for a major sales workout.

But is high turnover always a bad thing? Not necessarily.

High turnover may open up room for quick advancement, or a chance to grab some large accounts or good sales territories. Just be prepared for the stress and anxiety that may follow in a high-turnover situation. If you can ride the storm and come out ahead, more power to you.

sales woman on top of victoryI once knew a woman in sales who had worked for a small family-owned business that was struggling financially and had high turnover. In fact, the entire sales staff left except her. She was the last woman standing. The other salespeople who left the company were dumbfounded when she decided to stay on. To make a long story short, the business slowly turned around, and the owner made her the sales manager. He was grateful that she had stuck it out through the bad times. As you may now guess, as the company grew, she acquired most of the larger accounts and earned a commission based on both her own sales and those of her sales team. Financially speaking, she was on top of the world. All because the other sales reps left, she was able to take advantage of a very chaotic situation, and earn herself a good living for several years. (The company was later acquired by a large competitor and the entire sales team was laid off).

High turnover is not for the faint-hearted. But if you can endure the ride, you may turn chaos into your success.

If you want to take a gamble and find a company with high turnover, make a habit of reading the help-wanted ads about once or twice a month. Look at the “sales jobs” column. If you find a pattern of companies advertising for the same position repeatedly throughout the year, chances are you found a high-turnover company. You may also want to regularly read, which provides anonymous reviews of companies. If you read a lot of negative comments from salespeople, that’s usually a good sign of high turnover.

Once you found your high turnover sales department, enjoy the bumpy ride.

However, for most of us, a high turnover rate is too nerve-wracking to deal with. If you can’t stomach the pressure and anxiety, don’t waste your time. Move on.

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

Are you a sales lead squatter?

I recently read comments on a discussion board from a salesperson who complained that he and his team were being laid off partly because senior “lazy” salespeople were sitting on good leads for too long. In addition, another sales office might be shut down soon.

His argument was that if the senior salespeople cannot convert leads into sales by a certain time period, they should transfer those leads over to junior salespeople who may have a better chance of converting them. He further argued that junior salespeople are more hungry and motivated to close good leads because they don’t have large pipelines to cushion themselves when meeting quota.

Are you a sales lead squatter?Squatting on good leads has always been a touchy subject in sales. On the one hand, you want to be fair to salespeople and give them enough time to work the leads. Depending on the industry you are in, it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to two years before you can convert a lead into an order.  On the other hand, if you suspect that a salesperson isn’t putting enough time and effort into working the lead, and you feel you could do better, what should you do?

While you can privately complain to others, the best approach is to discuss the issue with your sales manager. But you don’t want to appear greedy or bad mouth your colleague. Instead, you want to take a more “we need to work as a team” or “we need to do what’s right for the company” approach. Maybe offer some suggestions on how you would approach the non-responsive lead. Chances are if your manager is smart, he probably is already aware that there may be a problem. But if you don’t complain, he may not move quickly to resolve the issue.

Why? Because most managers know how sensitive lead transfers can be. It takes a certain amount of deftness and diplomacy to remove leads from one salesperson to transfer them to others. I’ve seen fights and arguments break out on this very issue. In fact, I’ve seen salespeople quit on this very issue.

While this problem can be handled on a case-by-case basis, the best way to avoid sitting on good leads too long is to set some ground rules from the very beginning. This way everyone knows up front what is expected of them, and what benchmarks they need to achieve in order to keep their leads.

The ground rules could include the following –

1). Number of attempts – while I don’t believe that sales is a process or a numbers game, you would expect a salesperson to make anywhere from 6 to 8 attempts, i.e., phone calls, emails, voice mail and maybe even a customized direct marketing piece. Again, depending on the industry you are in, the attempts could stretch out for weeks, if not months, before a good lead is transferred to someone else, or goes into the dormant file for a while.

2). Has contact been made? – If after x-number of attempts and time goes by, the salesperson hasn’t reached the decision maker (or even knows who the decision maker is), then maybe it’s time to hand it off to someone else. In exchange, give the salesperson some other qualified leads to pursue.

3). Contact has been made, but you’re not getting anywhere – Let’s say the salesperson has made contact with the decision maker, but an order hasn’t been placed. For whatever reason, the decision maker isn’t budging, and no end appears in sight. The salesperson has been sitting on the lead for months (if not years). At this stage, it’s usually better to have the sales manager step in and work closely with the salesperson rather than yank the lead from him. Simply handing the lead off to someone else may undermine your efforts, and force your company to start from square one. Once your manager has reviewed the situation, he can better determine who and how the lead should be managed.

a helping hand in sales4). You know someone who could help – If a salesperson has been sitting on a good lead for a while, and you know of a contact who can help you reach the decision maker, what should you do? In that situation, it may be better to hand off the lead to you. Sometimes, the salesperson sitting on the lead may be grateful that you’re taking over because it means he can focus on more productive leads. In addition, he may appreciate your efforts because he doesn’t want to look bad to his sales manager for not closing the sale. Sure, he may have some initial resentment towards you, but eventually, he may see you as being his white knight rescuing him from a bad situation.

Besides laying out some ground rules, another approach to avoid lead squatting to is hold regular pipeline meetings to review leads and accounts. Usually, pipeline meetings are held once a week. Come to your pipeline prepared. Don’t be defensive. Tell your manager upfront if you are having problems with specific leads or accounts. Ask him for his advice – after all, he’s the manager!

If you know you’re not getting anywhere with a lead, and you’ve tried everything you can, recommend that the account is transferred to someone else. While some may consider this a show of weakness, in reality, most good managers will see this as a sign of strength and maturity on your part. Better to cut your losses early than let them linger on to have your competitors pluck your sale from the company.

Remember, your leads and accounts don’t belong to you. They belong to your employer. Like it or not, your employer sometimes needs to make unpopular decisions that may not appear to be in your best interest, but what is in the best interest of the company as a whole.

Better to hand off unproductive leads to others than lose your job because the company isn’t generating enough sales. Exercising good judgment is better than squatting.

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

Top photo credit: Brighton housing action via photopin (license)

In Sales, when do you Fold ‘em and Quit?

Most of us are familiar with Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler”.

In one of his most famous lines in the song, the lyrics go like this –

“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

when do you quit in sales?Contrary to popular belief, the best professional poker players don’t bluff their way to winning with a bad hand. When they get a bad hand, they know it’s better to fold quickly, cut their losses, and wait for a better hand. Unless independently wealthy, they realize they only have so much money to gamble with, and they don’t want to lose by bluffing. Sure, sometimes they may get lucky. After all, it’s gambling. But the professional knows that in gambling, while it’s good to be lucky, it’s always better to have a winning hand.

But what do you do in sales when you are dealt a bad hand when assigned a sales territory or group of accounts?

It happens. You start a new job, or a new sales manager is hired, or there is an influx of new salespeople, or there is a reorg of your sales department, and suddenly, all those great territories or accounts disappear, and you are left with a losing hand.

Now what?

Before quitting, access your situation and see if you can turn your bad hand into a winning one.

Here are five things to consider –

1). Is your situation only temporary? If you are working in a start-up or a fast-growing company that has a high turnover rate of salespeople, chances are if you are patient and can afford to wait, the tide may turn back in your favor when other salespeople quit and you are assigned their good accounts. Even professional poker players know that you have to play the waiting game before you win a large pot. So don’t bitch or complain. Smile. Be professional. Play the waiting game. So when the bodies start falling by the wayside, and everyone else is playing duck and cover, make sure you’re in a position to pick up the good accounts and run towards success.

2). Is your assigned territory or accounts really that bad? Just because the prior salesperson didn’t do well with his accounts, doesn’t mean you can’t turn things around. Sometimes a new salesperson coming in with a different approach or perspective is all it takes to turn bad accounts into good ones. Maybe the chemistry wasn’t right between the last salesperson and his accounts. Maybe the last salesperson didn’t make enough cold or prospecting calls. Maybe the last salesperson didn’t have a good understanding of the market or your company’s products or services. Maybe the last salesperson was just lazy and coasting in his job. Whatever the reason, don’t be so quick to judge your assigned territory before you had a chance to dig in, do some research and make sales calls. There may be diamonds in the rough that haven’t been found yet.

For example, I worked at a durable medical equipment company where a new salesperson was assigned the “garbage” accounts by a senior sales rep. The senior rep had enough on his plate, so he figured he didn’t have anything to lose by dumping his crappy accounts on the new guy.

Did the new guy cry? Hell no. He worked the accounts and ended up getting one of the largest orders in the company’s history from an account that everyone thought was dead. Furthermore, the new guy blew his quarterly quota out of the water and ended up gaining the respect of his colleagues and the owner.

Garbage in is not always garbage out.

3). Do you have great support from your Marketing Department? Has your employer finally weeded out the deadwood and hired better marketing professionals? Are you seeing an uptick in social media activity on Twitter, Facebook, and other sites? Is your Marketing Department publishing quality content on your company’s website to draw in more prospects? Are you seeing an increase in your company’s trade show attendance? Are you receiving a better list of prospects to contact? Maybe the real reason why the prior salesperson didn’t do well was that he didn’t have good support from his Marketing Department. If your employer is finally waking up to that fact, you should stick around and ripe the awards of their efforts.

I once worked for a small publishing company where the marketing director worked remotely out-of-state. While she had all of the job skills, she was spending most of her time doing freelancing work for other companies. Frustrated and angry, my employer finally canned her and hired a new marketing director. After that, our marketing efforts slowly started to turn around. Like my colleagues, my sales began to pick up with a new marketing professional in place.

4). Is your employer introducing new products or services? OK, so your accounts are crappy. You’ve done everything you supposed to do, but you’re not getting anywhere. You’re getting the evil eye from your sales manager, and the cold shoulder from colleagues because they feel you’re a loser. But wait! If your employer is introducing new products or services, that could be the ticket to save you. If that’s the case, sit tight and see if your sales will increase.

5). When all else fails, talk to your sales manager. Contrary to popular belief, smart sales managers know that high turnover hurts their bottom line, and can badly affect their professional reputation too. Like you, sales managers want to make money. They don’t want to waste their time constantly hiring new fresh blood because salespeople are quitting. If you have earned enough brownie points, proved that you are a reliable and hardworking professional who “gets it”, and plead your case to your sales manager. Based on your evidence and other information, he may assign you some better territories or accounts.  It never hurts to ask.

Selling is like playing poker. You have to work with the cards you’re dealt with. Sure, you could fold ‘em and quit your job.  Just make sure your cards are not as bad as you think before hitting the pavement seeking other opportunities.

Note: Like my post? Please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

20 Questions to Ask during a Sales Position Interview, Part 2

This is part 2 of my post on questions to ask during a sales position interview.

sales cycleQuestion 11). What is the average sales cycle?

This question is important because it will tell you when you will start earning commission or bonuses. If a company has a long sales cycle, chances are it may be weeks or months before you earn any commission. If that’s the case, is the base salary high enough to sustain you until you receive your first commission check? I’ve worked in sales jobs where it can take up to two months to two years before companies make buying decisions. This is especially true when you are dealing with large corporations. Can you afford to wait that long before receiving a commission? Make sure you have a clear idea of how you are expected to build up your pipeline, and the time frame for achieving that goal.

customersQuestion 12). Who within those companies will I be selling to?   

The purpose of this question is to determine the types of clients you will be expected to deal with. This will give you a sense of how comfortable you will be working with certain groups of prospects. If you have been selling mainly to small business owners, and are now expected to sell to C-Level officers who are more powerful and influential, can you handle that? Only you can answer that question, but at least you will have some idea what you are walking into.

In relation to this, you may want to find out which is the most profitable group of clients the company is selling to. Many companies sell to different market segments, and some do better than others. For example, if you are told that law firms are the most profitable, compared to the nonprofit organizations for which there’s a sales opening, is this a job you want to pursue? Now granted, maybe the compensation package is different to make up for the fact that you are selling to a less profitable group. If that’s the case, now would be a good time to find out.

hurdles of sellingQuestion 13). What are some of the common hurdles or challenges your sales team is facing right now?

Your goal is to find out what problems the sales team is facing and what management is doing about it. For example, if their competitors are kicking their butts, how is the company addressing that problem? If the sales team is spending thirty minutes or longer processing simple orders, is the company planning to streamline the order entry system?

who is your boss?Question 14). Who do I report to?

Chances are, one of the people doing the interview will be your sales manager. But beyond him or her, will you need to report to others? If yes, now would be a good time to find out.

I once worked for a sales manager who was extremely weak. He had the title, but not the backbone to do his job. I found out the hard way that the real boss was an outside consultant who burst into our office about once or twice a week. While our sales manager pretended to be the decision maker, it was the consultant who really called the shots.

And if you are lucky enough to be interviewed by the sales manager, now would be a good time to ask your prospective boss a few questions: Why did you decide to work for the company? How would you describe your management style? Can you give me a little background on your sales career? If you did your homework, you probably read the manager’s LinkedIn profile, but it wouldn’t hurt to show some interest in the career of someone you hope to work for.

A related question would be:

“What is my sales manager’s leadership style like?”

a successful saleswomanQuestion 15). What are you looking for in a salesperson?

This is good to ask early in the interview process because it will signal what type of candidate they are trying to hire. Are they seeking a road warrior who will travel a great deal throughout the year? Are they seeking a cold caller who will be banging the phones all day? Are they seeking someone who has a consultative sales style, or a hunter who persistently seeks new leads and doesn’t take no for an answer?

Once you find what type of salesperson they are looking for, you can either tailor your answers to match their questions, or realize you made a mistake applying for the job, and politely walk away from the interview. My advice is to walk away if you’re not a good fit. In the short run, you may get the job, but in the long run you will be miserable trying to be someone you’re not.

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

resources for salespeopleQuestion 16). What resources do you have available to help salespeople accomplish their jobs?

Are they using the latest and greatest CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool to manage your accounts and sales, or are they still using Excel spreadsheets? Do they have an ample inventory of office supplies, or do you have to run to Staples or Office Depot every time you need new pens? If you are dealing with overseas clients, are there any restrictions on making long-distance phone calls?

I have worked at companies where I had to buy thank-you cards out of my own pocket. I’ve even bought my own pop-up Post-It notes because the company considered the product too expensive to buy and stock.

marketing teamQuestion 17). Can you describe to me what your Marketing Department is doing to help the sales team?

This question is important because it will give you a good insight into how sophisticated the company’s marketing efforts are in generating leads for the sales team. Is the Marketing Department generating leads or are salespeople expected to generate most of their own? Are they following a good social media plan? Or better yet, do they have someone on staff devoted exclusively to maintaining the company’s social media? How well is the Marketing Department working to promote the company’s brand? Are they planning to attend a lot of trade shows?

In short, the better the Marketing Department is at helping you, the better you should do in sales.

Related questions would be:

“What type of marketing does the company do?”

“Is the marketing department helpful to the sales team?”

“How does the company obtain leads?”

competitionQuestion 18). Can you please tell me more about your competitors? Which ones are you most worried about?

Ideally, you did your homework and you already know who some of the competitors are. You may even want to impress the interviewer by mentioning a few during the interview. The purpose of this question is to get the potential employer’s perception of who his competitors are and the strength and weaknesses of the major ones you will do battle with. I actually had one owner who lied to me when I asked if his company had any competitors. I didn’t find out until after I accepted the job that I was facing at least four competitors in the market. So don’t make the same mistake I did. Do your homework.

Here are some related questions to ask:

“What are your competitors doing that your company is not doing?”

“What advantage does your sales team have over the competition?”

Don’t feel that you are offending your potential employer by asking these questions. You may have done your homework, and know some of the answers, but it’s better to hear it from the horse’s mouth. All companies face competition. Your goal is to get the potential employer’s spin on the competition and determine if their perceptions match reality. If not, don’t jump on their fantasy bandwagon. Go to another interview.

knowledge and information sharingQuestion 19). How is information shared among the sales staff and various groups within the company?

The purpose of this question is to determine whether you are working in a transparent or secretive company. This is important to you because it could determine how successful you are. Working in an open environment means you have access to what is going on in other departments. As a salesperson, it would be extremely helpful to know what the marketing and production teams are doing. In marketing, what new campaigns are they planning to release this year? Are they planning to obtain new leads? Are they planning more trade shows for you to attend? About production, what new products are they planning to release this year? Are any new enhancements or upgrades to this year’s roadmap? Are they planning to discontinue any products?

Working in a secretive environment is unhealthy and counterproductive. If you have no idea what other departments are doing, or where the company is heading, it’s going to be tough to sell confidently. You don’t want to be caught off guard or look foolish to your customers if a product is suddenly discontinued, or enhancements are made without any advance warning. You will benefit when you remain in the loop.

I actually worked at one small publishing company that would not internally announce any job openings. One day you walk in, and suddenly a new employee is sitting close by. At one of my previous jobs, a saleswoman was shocked to find that another salesperson had been hired without her knowledge and that her sales territories would be divided up.

The more secretive a company, the more difficult it is to share and offer suggestions. When ideas flow, a company grows. If there is little willingness for employees to collaborate and exchange ideas, your sales efforts could be crippled.

I have worked with both transparent and secretive companies. Transparent companies are more healthy places to work. People trust each other and are more willing to work together. Secretive companies tend to make people suspicious and wary of one another.

job interview for salesQuestion 20). If you were me, what would you do differently now that you didn’t do when you started working here?

Potential employers are always surprised when I ask this question. Apparently, it’s one of those questions that job candidates rarely ask. The purpose of the question is to gain insight into the mistakes your potential employer made so that you don’t follow in his footsteps. It also puts your potential employer in your shoes for a second by reminding him of what it was like to start a new job at his company.

The questions I’ve suggested above are not in any particular order. You don’t have to ask them all. Since most interviews are normally one hour-long, you probably won’t have time to ask most of them anyway. That’s OK. Just select which questions are most important to you and be prepared to ask them.

I would encourage you to create your own list of questions. However, I hope you get the point that you need to take responsibility for your career and financial future. Put your fear and anxiety aside and ask tough questions. I guarantee that most potential employers will respect you for it. This shows you have done your homework, you are prepared, and that you take sales seriously. That’s exactly the type of salesperson most companies are looking for.

Please let me know if you have any comments.

Note: The above questions were published in my e-book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.