Is your Sales Team Locked and Loaded?

lock and load your sales teamIf you are a fan of the movie series Resident Evil, you may have heard the phrase “It’s time to lock and load” used right before the zombies attack.

Or if you are a fan of the film Sands of Iwo Jima, you may have heard John Wayne’s character say “Lock and load, boy, lock and load.”

There is some disagreement of what the term means. But according to Wiktionary, the phrase is used right “before loading the ammunition clip into the rifle, the operating rod handle is pulled to the rear until the bolt is securely locked open. According to the M1 Garand Manual, loading the clip without first locking the bolt could result in an accidental discharge of a round.”

Regardless of the definition, can the term apply to sales?

Yes it can.

Lock – are you locking your salespeople into a reasonable and fair compensation package so that you encourage them to stay, make a decent living and avoid high turnover? Are you locking them in to a reasonable quota? Are you locking them into other incentives like cash bonuses or extra vacation?

Load – are you loading your salespeople up on qualified leads and relevant prospects so that their pipelines are constantly full? Without a fully “loaded” pipeline, your salespeople could become easily bored and start seeking better jobs. Are you working closely with your marketing department to increase your company’s branding  and content offerings to help drive more traffic to your website?

training and coaching your sales teamI would also add this term –

Ready to go – which means are you giving your salespeople enough independence to spread their wings and seek new business opportunities without cramping their style, hurting their morale, and crippling their judgement. Are your coaching and training them on an ongoing basis to help sharpen their skills and increase their confidence?

There you have it. If you want a successful sales team, make sure everyone is “locked, loaded and ready to go.”

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

Is your Sales Department a Turkey?

Is your sales department a turkey?With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a good time to remind ourselves what we should be thankful for. If you are working in a good sales department, be grateful. But if your sales department is a turkey, you better start seeking a new job.

Should you be thankful or gobble like a turkey?

You decide. Please review the list below of what makes a good sales department –

1). Customer relationship management (CRM) software – If you are using a good CRM software program, be thankful. There are still a lot of companies that are using outdated or lousy CRMs to manage their sales, customer interactions, and record keeping.

Need some reliable sources to find a first-class CRM?

Check out –

Capterra
Software Advice
PC Magazine

2). Sales Manager – if you have a sales manager who gives a damn about you, pray he doesn’t leave your company anytime soon. If he does leave your company, pray your employer hires the right replacement. One of the major reasons why salespeople leave their jobs isn’t because of money or status, but because of poor management.

Need some advice on what makes a superior sales manager?

Check out –

“How to Become a Great Sales Manager from 10 Sales Experts,” by Russ Henneberry
“The 4 Qualities New Sales Managers Need for Success,” by Lou Carlozo
“The 6 Traits Every Sales Manager Needs to Succeed,” by Phil Harrell

beware of back stabbers3). Co-workers – every sales department has their share of backstabbers and sharks. You know who I’m talking about – the ones who steal your leads or prospects, or sabotage your work. Eventually, they are weeded out, but not before they create a toxic environment that could lead to high turnover or added stress. (As if you don’t have enough stress at work already). If you work with colleagues that you trust, be very thankful.

Need advice on how to work better with your colleagues?

Check out –

“How to Create a Team Selling Environment,” by Irene A. Blake
“How to Handle a Toxic Work Environment,” by Alan Henry
“11 Tips for Staying Sane in a Toxic Work Environment,” by Kassy Scarcia

4). Marketing – while I think the on again, off again, love/hate relationship between sales and marketing is overrated, there is no doubt that without an effective marketing department, your sales would be mediocre at best. If you have a marketing department that’s providing you with great leads and prospects, be very thankful.

Need some advice on how to build a good marketing team?

Check out –

“How to Build a High Performance Marketing Team,” by Kevin Barber
“Tips and Tools for Building a Marketing Team,” by Tiffany Black
“7 Characteristics That Make Up the Best Marketing and Sales Teams,” by Ross Simmonds

5). Customers – Let’s face it, all the best sales and marketing strategies in the world are not going to do you a bit of good without having reliable and repeat  customers. Do you want to earn and maintain a high commission? Take care of the ones who brung ya!

Need some advice on how to find and keep good customers?

Check out –

“The 80/20 Rule of Sales: How to Find your Best Customers” by Perry Marshall
“10 Ways to Make Customers Fall in Love with Your Business,” by Brian Honigman
“Four Simple Ways to Find Customers,” by Brad Sugars

But beyond business, most important of all, be thankful that you have family, friends and loves ones looking out for you. Life is too short to spend all of your time worrying about work. Enjoy the holiday and don’t eat too much turkey!

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

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 of 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 a 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 for 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 gun slinging 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 for 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 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 morale 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 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 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 under 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 Glassdoor.com, 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 inheriting an orphan sales position?

You just started your new sales job. Your sales manager has introduced you to the rest of the sales team and maybe some key employees.

If you are lucky, your manager may even take you out to lunch on your first day. He may also have created an agenda outlining your training for the next week or two before you hit the phones.

orphan sales positionFinally, after your training, your day has come. It’s time to make sales calls and start generating some money. Like most new salespeople, you probably begin by reviewing your existing accounts or leads. You want to get the lay of the land, prioritize your top accounts, begin making introductory calls, and start building up your pipeline.

But as you review your accounts in your CRM (Customer Relationship Management), a sickening feeling begins to develop. At first you don’t see it, but as you start examining your accounts and leads more carefully, you begin to see a disturbing pattern. You discover that a lot of salespeople over the years have been contacting or managing the same accounts and leads. But where did they go?

Some are now working in more lucrative sales positions in your company. But most are no longer working with your employer at all. In fact, you notice that some sales people only worked your accounts or leads for a few months before moving on. Others a little longer, but not much. You go on LinkedIn, and track those former salespeople down. You discover they are now working in other companies, and that their tenure in your position was short.

Then it dawns on you. You have inherited an orphan sales position.

What is an orphan sales position? It’s a position that has been abandoned by several sales people over the years. In short, there has been a lot of turnover. It is also a position that is not well supported by the company for a variety of reasons. Maybe the company feels its sales and marketing budget should be allocated in more profitable positions. Maybe the company feels that sales will only pick up when they hire the “right” salesperson. Maybe the company feels it’s a “starter position,” i.e., one where they know little revenue will be generated, so there is no risk for the company to hire a new salesperson to season him up for greater challenges in the future. (We all have to crawl before we can walk). Or maybe the company is waiting for the sales fairy to come along, and wave her magic wand and the orders will magically appear.

abandoned sales positionSometimes an orphan sales position was created by accident. For example, a company may have bought another company, and then allocated most of the best accounts to senior salespeople, while giving less experienced salespeople smaller accounts. The thought may have been that the smaller accounts would eventually grow. But to date, that has not been the case, thus the cycle of high turnover and abandonment begins.

Frustrated, a company keeps hiring new salespeople to turn things around, but with no avail. Promises are made, but not kept. Prices are adjusted, but don’t work. Salespeople keep abandoning the position, and soon it becomes an orphan.

However, from your point of view, your greatest concern right now is should you even consider staying in an orphan sales position, or start seeking a better job.

After all, you would like to make a long-term commitment in your job. You don’t want to be seen as job hopper. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be seen as a loser either. There is nothing worse than starting a new sales job, only to have your colleagues taking pity on you, or avoiding eye contact because they feel you got a raw deal. Sure, your colleagues may be professional, and even downright friendly, but you can’t shake that “you’re a loser vibe” every time they glance your way. Hell, for all you know, some of your co-workers may be taking bets on the side on how long you still stay around. (This actually happened on a regular basis at one of my previous jobs).

Soon, you become a running joke in office, and you have to endure the daily facades of plastic smiles and chirpy “Good mornings” as you head towards your desk. When you arrive at your desk, all you want to do is hide underneath it.

You see, with an orphan sales position, your biggest challenge is convincing existing accounts and prospects to order from you. But from their point-of-view, why should they even bother? If you are the fourth or fifth salesperson to hold your position in two years, how confident are your accounts and prospects that you’re even going to be around long enough to care about them? How motivated do you think they are going to be in offering you referrals if they feel you’re going to leave the company soon? Why should they accept your phone calls or respond to your emails if they think you’re going to run when the first good opportunity comes along?

On the other hand, an orphan sales position may put you in the catbird seat. Unless you are working for an extremely conservative or stuck-up company, your employer may be more willing to listen to your suggestions. They may be more willing to go out on the limb and experiment with new sales or marketing methods. While your colleagues are sitting at their desks making sales calls, your employer (or sales manager) may invite you in the conference room, where you can sit with some of your company’s major players, and hash out a game plan to increase sales. In short, your employer may appreciate you more because they realize the challenges that you are facing.

So what should you do?

Do your homework before accepting a sales job1). Do your homework before accepting a job offer. The best way to avoid landing in an orphan sales position, is to do your homework and ask the right questions during your interview. First, go on LinkedIn and find out how many past salespeople worked at the same position you are applying for. If you notice a large number, that should give you pause. Second, contact some of those previous sales people through LinkedIn and ask them why they left. You will be surprised – sometimes they will give you an honest answer. Third, go to  Glassdoor – do you see a pattern of negative reviews from anonymous current or former salespeople about the company? While not completely scientific, seeing a lot of negative reviews should also give you pause. And finally, ask the interviewer why the position is open. Sure, he may lie, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

2). You did your homework, but you still got screwed. OK, you did the above, you thought everything was alright, but to your astonishment, you still ended up in an orphan sales job. Now what? Don’t panic. If there is high turnover in your sales department, chances are you will land a better sales position within 6 months to one year in the company. If you can hang on that long, hunker down, be patient, go through the motions, and wait for your turn to move up the ladder.

3). Maybe things will turn around. The company may realize that they have created an orphan sales position, and not wanting to see more turnover, will invest more in your position. They could provide better leads, improve the marketing efforts, or if you are lucky, enhance the product or services that you are selling. And if you are extremely fortunate, the company may decide to increase your compensation plan in an effort to lure you to stay and stick it out.

4). The position was orphaned too soon or too much. The position may not be as bad as you think. It could be that due to a strange set of coincidences, the position was orphaned before anyone really had a chance to profitably work the accounts and leads. It’s not unusual for leads to remain dormant for a long time, and then suddenly, without warning, you start seeing a flood of orders. The trick is to ensure you continue to see a steady flow of orders.

talking to your sales manager5). Talk to your sales manager. Look, your sales manager may already know you are in an orphan sales position, and he is tired of seeing high turnover. Unless your sales manager is a wimp or idiot, if he’s a smart, he will bend over backwards to help you. Talk to him. Pick his brains. Get some ideas on how both of you can be successful. Notice I said “both of you” – that’s because your sales manager is also earning commission or bonus based on your success. Come up with a short list of ideas or reasonable requests. Brainstorm with him. Maybe together both of you can turn things around, and create a win-win situation for everyone.

An orphan sales position may not be as bad as you think. With a little nurture and care, your position may blossom. Be patient. Be persistent. Work smart. Work hard. But don’t be taken for a fool either. Give an orphan sales position your best shot, but after you have done all you can, if your still feel you are fighting a losing battle, quit and move on.

Life is too short to be a loser.

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