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.

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)

The Choice, or How a Millennial got Screwed

(Note: The following story is true. Real names are not used for obvious reasons.)

You are a sales manager of a 5 person sales team at a small conservative parochial company. It’s a slow growth business using limited marketing and social media programs to help generate qualified leads and prospects.

The office is crappy.

The plumbing is crappy.

The computer system is crappy.

The CRM is crappy.

The morale is….well, you get the drift.

What keeps most sales people working year after year is the compensation package, decent benefits and a no enforced sales quota policy.

After 4 months of interviews, you finally hire a new salesperson. She’s a recent graduate. This is her first real full-time job. She’s a millennial living at home with her parents.

good and bad choicesSix months into the job, you find that the millennial is doing a fair job. But you begin to detect that her head isn’t completely in the sales game. Sure, she goes through the motions of making sales calls, getting orders, entering sales notes, etc., but she’s not lighting any fires.

While you figure she should be grateful that she has a job, you feel she’s not very enthusiastic. But to be fair, no one on your sales team is very enthusiastic either. But at least you know they’re older, have major financial obligations, and can’t afford to move to another city anytime soon. Furthermore, because the other salespeople have been with the company for a long time, they are locked in, e.g., they have a high base salary, a large pipeline, and lots of vacation time. Unless someone comes along and makes them an offer they can’t refuse, you’re confident your sales team will stay put.

But you are not so sure about the millennial you hired. Since she’s living at home with her parents and has smaller financial obligations (except maybe student loans), she could turn on you like a dime and jump at another job offer – maybe even another city.

Along comes a former employee who used to work for you. He left the company a few years ago to do consulting work. But lately, times are hard he wants to return to his old stomping grounds for regular paychecks and benefits.

You know him. He has plenty of sales and marketing experience. He’s mature. He’s hard-working. And unlike the millennial, he has a mortgage and major financial responsbilities to deal with. You also know he’s not going to be a flight risk.

But you have a dilemma. You don’t have any openings in your sales department.

So what do you do?

Do you keep the millennial and hope that she grows with the job? Or, do you get rid of millennial and replace her with the more experienced sales person?

Before you answer, consider the following –

Further complicating your situation, you live in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C. You’re commute is long and terrible. And to top it off, you and your wife are raising two kids. And to make matters even worse, your wife is working a part-time job she hates. But because the bills are piling up, she has no choice but to work. At least once a week, your wife reminds you of this fact.  Your wife wants to know when your big commission checks will be rolling back in again so she can stop working.

Long commute, children, mortgage, bills, wife complaining. The financial pressures are accelerating.

Now, how would you answer the above questions?

Millennial sales personThe sales manager in this situation forced the millennial out of her job. He did so by writing her up on picayune issues like coming to work a few minutes late, and making minor errors on her orders. While petty issues, the sales manager was clearly trying to bully the millennial to leave. Unfortunately, the millennial was too naïve to understand what was happening to her. A more experienced salesperson would have seen the handwriting on the wall, and either a). work harder or b). jump ship.

As for the millennial, she eventually had enough “write-ups” in her file to get fired.

Was the millennial treated unfairly? Yes.

Were the sales manager’s tactics unethical and maybe even, illegal? Yes.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, his scheme worked. He got the new experienced sales person on board. And with that new person, the chance of generating more income for himself that would eventually get his wife off his back.

As for the millennial, she eventually landed a new sales job three months later. Did she learn any important lessons? Unsure.

Lessons:

1). Don’t take your job for granted. Living at home isn’t a crime. Hell, more millennials than ever are living at home until they can generate enough income to buy their first home. In fact, a Census report, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975-2016,” states that about 34% of all young adults between ages 18 to 34 – are still living with their parents.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, living at home means you will find it easier to find a new job or relocate. Yes, you may eventually find a new job or relocate anyway. But you need to keep your head in the game and at a bare minimum, pretend that you’re taking your job seriously. You don’t want your manager to catch on that you are job hunting or bored with your job. Trust me, there will always be people waiting in the wings to take your position.

2). Sales managers are human. problems faced by sales managersWhile a good manager is always professional, personal problems or other outside pressures may force him to take unethical actions to boost his income. This is especially true when the sales manager is not only earning commission on your sales, but his sales as well. While you don’t want to pry and participate in office gossip, keep your eyes and ears open to any issues your manager is facing that could jeopardize your job. Is he going through a divorce? Is his wife or one of his children requiring expensive medical attention? Is he more stressed than normal?

3). Look at the signs. If your sales manager’s attitude towards you suddenly changes for the worst, fairly or unfairly, he may view you as the weakness link on the sales team. Even if you are meeting or exceeding your quota, the sales manager may feel you can do better. It’s not unusually for sales managers to hire their friends or previous employees they know well. It’s not just a matter of earning more money, but it’s about having a comfort zone. Sales managers want to be surrounded by people they know and can trust.

To learn more if your boss hates you, please read the articles below –

“7 Signs Your Boss Hates you (And How to Handle it),” by Alison Green of Dailyworth

“Ten Signs Your Boss Hates You,” by Liz Ryan

Selling is an honorable profession. But like any profession, we all have to make choices. Make sure you don’t end on the wrong side of a bad choice.

If you were the sales manager discussed in this post, what would you have done?

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

The third photo is from photo credit: Rusty Russ Sea of Tears via photopin (license)