The Wells Fargo Scandal and Setting Quotas

What can salespeople learn from the Wells Fargo scandal?

First, a recap

At this writing, the Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf has resigned. His departure comes after it was revealed that the bank he managed was fined more than $185 million for allegedly opening more than 2 million bank accounts or credit cards without people’s knowledge or consent.

stressful salesperson trying to meet quotaThe fake accounts were opened because salespeople were under pressure to meet cross-sell quotas. Each salesperson had to cross-sell at least 8 accounts per customer. If they didn’t achieve their goals, they were fired.

Or, as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said at a Senate hearing last month to Mr. Stumpf – “You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket.”

So what’s the lesson here?

Answer: Don’t create unrealistic quotas.

There is nothing wrong with quotas, per se. You want to motivate your salespeople to achieve their goals. And frankly, most salespeople want something they can shoot for. It makes the job more interesting and exciting. From a company point of view, you want to drive revenue. What better way of doing that is by putting a carrot on the stick, and encouraging salespeople to chase after it.

The problem occurs where you create quotas that are so unrealistic or aggressive, that salespeople are forced to lie in order to survive. In the short-term, salespeople will keep their jobs, but in the long-term, the scam will be discovered and people will be fired. Not to mention having your company’s reputation torn to shreds.

For example, I once worked for a publishing company that sold printed bid information to construction companies (this was before the internet was popular). In order to get a complete order, the customer had to sign a contract. So you would fax the contract to your client. Get his signature. And then that’s it – a new customer! Nothing wrong there. This is a standard practice for a lot of publishing companies that sell premium information services.

However, one new salesperson felt he couldn’t reach his quota. I’m unsure why this was the case. Maybe he didn’t receive the proper training, maybe he was lazy, maybe he wasn’t confident, maybe he felt the quota was too high, but for whatever reason, he decided to lie. He gave his manager contracts with fake signatures. Eventually, the home office caught on when they started receiving a lot of complaints from angry customers. The salesperson was terminated and his manager was reprimanded.

Setting quotas isn’t rocket science. But sometimes you feel like you have to be a rocket scientist to set quotas.

Eight is GreatThe problem with Wells Fargo was that there was no method to their madness. The “Eight is Great” goal of having customers sign up for eight products made no sense.

Why “Eight is Great” – because it rhymes? Really?!? You must be joking. But that’s how Wells Fargo decided to set their quota for low paying, overworked, stressed-out salespeople who had to grind out their numbers or get canned.

Is that anyway to work?

No.

So how do you go about setting sales quotas?

Opinions vary.

Some say don’t have any quotas. But if you don’t have any quotas you’re only going to encourage laziness among your sales team. Or worst, you’re going to attract poor or mediocre salespeople who don’t have an incentive to make a good living. You know the type – they come to work late, take long lunch breaks, play computer games at their desk, and only make enough sales calls to barely break even.

The other problem with working without a quota is that salespeople have no power. Think about this for a minute. If you don’t have a quota, then it’s going to be very difficult to persuade your boss to purchase tools to help you sell better. From your boss’s point of view, why should he invest money into his sales team if they don’t have any quotas to meet. Don’t like using Excel spreadsheets to manage your accounts? Too bad. He’s not going to purchase Salesforce.com to help you.

See my point?

So if having quotas is the answer, how do you set them? Here are some suggestions –

1). Get salespeople involved. Quotas shouldn’t be handed down from Mount High by an out-of-touch CEO or the Finance or Marketing Team. You need to get input from your sales team and their management. Since salespeople are serving on the front lines every day, they usually have a better sense of the market, their customers, and their competitors.

2). Not all salespeople are created equal. Each salesperson has his own pipeline and defined territories or market segmentations when it comes to selling. As a result, not all territories or market segmentations are going to be equal. Depending on what you’re selling, some territories may have more prospects than others, and some market segmentations may have more money than others. For example, a salesperson selling to academic institutions may have a tougher and longer time to close sales vs. another salesperson selling to for-profit companies. A salesperson selling in California is going to have an easier time finding a lot of prospects compared to someone selling in Maine.

3). History is not always a good predictor for the future. Times change. Market conditions may be worse now than ever before. You are fighting against more competitors. The quality of your products or services was recently rated badly by an independent publication. The Marketing Department isn’t providing the high quality prospects that you obtained last year. For whatever the reason, past performance doesn’t always equal better future results. Take a hard look at your data before setting quotas. Just don’t come up with an arbitrary number and expect everyone to meet it.

4). Consider using sales forecasting/quota setting software. Rather than come up with “pie in the sky” numbers, why not use software to determine quotas.

Here are some examples of what’s on the market –

Anaplan
Xactly Quota & Territories
Optymyze
eSalesTrack
IBM Quota Management

To help you further, here are some helpful articles about setting  quotas –

“Tough Truth about Quotas,” by Renee Houston Zemanski
“How to Use Sales Metrics to Set More Accurate Quotas,” by Cara Hogan
“Sales Operations and Quota Setting: Use the Right Data,” by Joseph Schroeder

Whatever you do, please don’t base your sales quota on how it rhymes. Because if you do anything illegal or unethical, your next rhyme may be —

“I’m in jail, where’s my bail?”

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

Can Sales and Marketing Get Along?

can sales and marketing get along?In one of the most famous quotes from 1990s, Rodney King asked “Can we all get along?”

That same question could also apply today for sales and marketing departments.

Are there really any conflicts between sales and marketing departments these days? Or are some people just hyping the conflict to sell books, promote seminars or…write blog posts.

It depends. Company leadership, culture and personnel can either create harmony or animosity between both departments.

Jen Kern, CMO at Tracx, and John Evans, Director of Sales at Celerity addressed some of the challenges they faced while working together at Celerity during a recent AA-ISP DC Chapter meeting on “The Dynamic Duo – Fueling an Integrated Marketing & Sales Engine.” (The event was hosted by WeddingWire in Friendship Heights, MD).

In a question and answer format, both Ms. Kern and Mr. Evans discussed how they were able to successfully increase sales at Celerity by forging a working relationship between sales and marketing. In fact, there were no real marketing efforts at all prior to Ms. Kern’s arrival at Celerity in 2011. Together, she and Mr. Evans were able to overcome some initial skepticism and resistance by demonstrating how marketing could help sales grow through lead generation.

According to its website, during the past 13 years, Celerity has grown to 8 regional offices, is generating more than $80 million in annual revenue, and has more than 500 employees. Not a bad track record.

Some of the key takeaways I got from the discussion –

1). Sales and marketing need to work together – not just in terms of achieving common goals, but also by proximity. The days of assuming that  marketing employees work in some mysterious ivory tower, sipping tea, submitting leads, and treating salespeople like a bunch of boorish louts are long gone. And the days of assuming that salespeople work in some windowless drab basement, gulping coffee, ignoring leads, and treating marketing employees like of bunch of clueless snobs are also long gone. Sales and marketing teams need to literary work together in the same office space – the closer, the better. By doing so, both teams will develop a better appreciation and respect for each other’s work.

2). Marketing employees must either like sales or get out of marketing. Period. Marketing employees need to understand what drives most salespeople. For salespeople, that motivation is usually earning a lot of money and being number one. For marketing people, the motivation is developing and fine tuning a process of generating qualified leads, and handing them off to salespeople.

For example, I once worked at a small company where the marketing department was sitting on more than 11,000 prospects. They acquired the prospects from list brokers. Eager to pursue those prospects, we were denied access because the marketing team couldn’t figure out how to export the prospects from Excel to our ancient CRM without creating duplicates.

In addition, they didn’t know how to develop a marketing plan to turn those prospects into qualified leads.

A few months went by. Nothing happened. Then the head of marketing decides to go on a one week vacation, with a vague promise of solving the problem she returned.

When she returned, again, nothing happened.

Frustrated, I left for another job and never looked back.

To this day, those prospects are probably still in Excel.

hungry salesperson waiting for prospectsThe lesson? Sitting on prospects and not giving them to your sales team is cruel. It’s like denying food to a hungry dog, and then laughing at him as he begs for a taste…just a taste to satisfy his appetite.

Don’t do that. Because salespeople, like everyone else, need to eat.

If you work in marketing and don’t respect salespeople, it’s time for a career change.

And I would add that in this post 2008 Great Recession era, all employees are now salespeople. If you have any employee who doesn’t think that way, fire him. You either work or sink together. It’s that simply.

3). Old School isn’t always bad. Frankly, I think it’s a myth that older salespeople don’t “get technology”. I’m an older salesperson – not only do I get technology, I embrace it. The same is true with social media. (I even taught myself WordPress.org to write and publish this blog). In short, anything that I can help me sell better and exceed my quota, I’m all ears.

However, there are still some old school salespeople that give the rest of us a bad name. You know the kind – they don’t use LinkedIn, they never heard of Twitter, they don’t enter sales notes in a CRM, they don’t use an Outlook calendar to schedule appointments, etc. However, over the years, many old school salespeople have developed enough relationships and goodwill among their clients that are essential to a company’s growth. That’s OK. Leave them along. As the old saying goes “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Too often, new managers will come in and try to “shake things up” by imposing too many new rules too quickly without first learning how the sales or marketing departments are operating. As a result of their heavy-handed tactics (mostly a result of their insecurity and arrogance), good employees leave and the new managers have to start building their teams from scratch. Most companies can’t afford this costly and time consuming mistake.

(And BTW, where do a lot of those good employees go? You guessed it – your competitors).

Work with who you have on your sales team. An old warhorse may be old – but he’s still a warhorse. Yes, introduce new methods. And while you’re at it, hire new employees who will understand and appreciate modern technologies and marketing efforts. In the end, both old and young salespeople will prevail.

4). Marketing and Sales compensation must be closely aligned. Simply handing off leads to the sales team and washing your hands of them are now over. No matter how qualified the lead may be in the eyes of the marketing or sales department, the only good lead is one that becomes a paying customer.

Leads that are converted into customers – not just leads themselves – should be the determining factor in compensation for both sales and marketing employees.

Thus, dumping unqualified leads on your sales team is no longer tolerated. You are only hurting yourself and the employer. Do some research. There are plenty of tools out there to help you better qualified leads. Use them.

Examples include Marketo, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and ActiveCampaign.

(A good source to find lead generation tools is Capterra).

This is why it’s so important to constantly test the waters with different email or other marketing campaigns to obtain the best qualified leads possible. Don’t be afraid of failure. If one campaign doesn’t work, try another. Experiment.

To learn more about how sales and marketing teams can work together, please click on these articles below –

“How Marketing and Sales Can Work Together to Close More Leads,” by Max Traylor

“Overcoming The Marketing-Sales Turf War: Six Strategies to Integration,” by Christine Moorman

And finally, if you are not a member of the AA-ISP, I strong recommend that you become one. Not only will you find great networking opportunities, but you will discover plenty of good resources on the main website.

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

Are you feeding the Sales Beast?

Are you feeding the beasts?If you want to keep a beast happy – feed him.

If you want to keep your salespeople happy – feed them too. But feed them with good leads and qualified prospects.

All too often, salespeople are told to find their own leads and prospects. There is nothing wrong with that. When times are slow, doing some research on the side is OK. But if your salespeople are spending too much prospecting, that means they are spending too little time selling.

Based on numerous studies, the average sales person only spends about 30 percent of his time actually selling. The rest of the time is spent on training, administrative work, account management and other tasks.

This is why it’s so important to have a marketing team on board to help your sales team. Using tools like KiteDesk, Data.com (formerly Jigsaw), RainKing, DiscoverOrg, Zoominfo, and others can help your sales team generate more business.

What’s worse than a bad salesperson? A bored one.  Why?  Because bored salespeople who are good in their profession start seeking other opportunities. And you don’t want that to happen.

So always feed the sales beast.

Note: If you like my post, please check out 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 sign a Non-Compete Agreement? Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed what a non-compete agreement is. In this post, I will discuss my experiences with those agreements.

I’ve had several experiences in signing non-compete agreements. The first time I was asked to sign one was when I worked at a durable medical equipment company. What makes my case so unusual is that I was asked to sign the agreement after I had been employed with the company for about three years. This was done because a few weeks earlier, a senior salesperson had left our company to work for a competitor. He allegedly stole a hard copy of our customer list. There was no proof he took the document. However, based on that experience, our employer required each salesperson to sign the non-compete agreement even though most of us had been with the company for several years.

non-compete agreement for salespeopleThere was no formal announcement in advance that the entire sales staff would be required to sign this document. Instead, each of us met privately in an office with the owner, his wife and the sales manager. The non-compete agreement was presented to each salesperson. We read it, asked questions and if we agreed with the terms, we signed it. In exchange, we received financial compensation based on the number of years each of us had worked at the company. (Employees who are belatedly asked to sign a non-compete agreement are normally offered something of financial value, like a bonus or a raise).

Being naïve about such agreements, I immediately read and signed it because I wanted the money. However, some of my colleagues did not sign it so quickly. Some took copies to review, but were given a specific deadline to make a decision. One of my friends had the foresight to have his attorney review the document. His attorney told him to sign it because the agreement was so vague and “full of holes” that it could not stand up in court. While that news gave me some relief, I now realize I should have been more cautious before signing the agreement. Like my friend, I should have sought legal advice.

A couple of years later, our company was sold to a large competitor. It was soon announced that the entire sales team would probably be laid off within a year or so after the acquisition. However, we were not required to sign a non-compete agreement before joining our new employer. About a year later, shortly before we were to be laid off, the HR department asked each salesperson to sign a non-compete agreement. This time, the entire sales team refused. Since we knew we were going to be laid off, it didn’t make sense for us to sign. Some of us (including me) were seriously considering working for a small competitor after we left, so we didn’t want to ruin our chances for future employment.

As we expected, the HR department backed down and did not force us to sign, since by that point it really had no leverage over us.

I did, in fact, go to work for a small competitor after being laid off. A few weeks after taking that job, I received a nasty letter from a lawyer representing the company that had bought out my previous employer. The letter stated that I was in violation of a non-compete agreement, and that legal action would take place unless I immediately quit my new job. I called the attorney and argued that since the agreement was between my old employer and not the new owner (his client,) the agreement was not binding on me. Naturally, he argued differently. I stood my ground and refused to quit my new job. As I suspected, my old employer did not take legal action against me. I believe they didn’t sue me because they thought I would have little impact on their sales. In addition, nothing in the agreement stated that I must comply with the terms if my old employer was bought out or merged with another company.

I found out later that some employers will use threatening legal letters to try to intimidate and scare their old employees who work for competitors, but never follow through with any action. Why? Partly because of legal expense involved are too high, or because the employer believes you will not have a major negative impact on his business. These employers are playing a game of chicken. They hope a threatening letter is enough to scare you away from a competitor. If you call their bluff, you may win. However, my advice is that if you receive a threatening letter from a previous employer, always see a lawyer.

The third time I was asked to sign a non-compete agreement was when my division at a mid-size publishing company was sold to a large competitor. Unlike the prior buy-out I experienced, this time my new employer requested that I and everyone on the staff sign the non-compete agreement before being hired. The agreement listed several competitors we were not allowed to work for until a year after we had left the company. I signed the agreement because I had no plans to work for a competitor.

non-compete agreement for salespeopleWhile that agreement was better than the one I signed at the durable medical company, it still did not completely protect my employer. For example, two editors quit and went to work for a competitor that was not listed on the agreement. Three more editors quit and took jobs with a competitor had not been created before the buy-out.

Since then, I have signed two more non-compete agreements before formally being hired by a new employer. (In one rare case, I was actually asked to sign a non-complete agreement before being interviewed. But that agreement only applied to anything that my potential employer discussed with me during our interview. In return, my potential employer signed an agreement promising that he would not disclose that he interviewed me. This agreement was to protect me in case my current employer was snooping around to find out if I was interviewing for a new job).

From a sales point of view, are non-compete agreements fair? In my opinion, it depends on several factors. If you specialize in selling certain products and services, then you should be allowed to continue selling those products and services with other companies. This is especially true if you get laid off, fired or move away. While I understand the employer’s point of view about protecting his business, we all have to make a living. However, I’m strongly opposed to stealing your old employer’s trade secrets, customer lists or anything else that is considered proprietary. It’s just plain unethical and wrong. And if you have done your due diligence in advance, your employer’s competitor will have good products for you to sell, and enough resources to help you.

From my personal experience, I have heard of employers threatening legal action against a former employer, but I was not privy to the outcome or if they followed through on their threats.

If you do decide to work for a competitor even after signing a non-compete agreement, I strongly urge you to seek legal advice first. This could save you a lot of time, money and headache down the road. If your old employer suspects you have stolen trade secrets or client lists, he may sue not only you but your new employer as well.

So if you are confronted with the prospect of signing a non-compete agreement, always seek legal advice. If you feel uncomfortable signing the agreement, and you think you can find a job somewhere else without signing one, then go for it.

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

Should you sign a Non-Compete Agreement? Part 1

More companies than ever are requiring salespeople and other employees to sign non-compete agreements. Given the high turnover in many sales departments, and determination of competitors to steal good employees, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. In addition, with so many mergers and acquisitions going on these days, employers are worried that salespeople are going to jump ship and steal their customer/prospect lists, confidential marketing plans, and other proprietary information.

signing a non-compete agreementBut first, what is a non-compete agreement? It is a contract between you and your employer. The agreement states that you will not work for a competitor within a certain length of time after you leave your employment. The time period can range anywhere from a few months to two years or longer, depending on your position and the type of company or industry you work in.

The agreement will probably include a clause that you cannot share client lists, trade secrets or other information that your employer considers to be confidential or proprietary. In some cases, the agreement may state that even if you are allowed to work for a competitor, you cannot solicit sales from your former customers or even from any customers of your old employer.

The agreement can be anywhere from a few paragraphs to several pages long.

The agreement’s purpose is to protect your employer from losing business to a competitor. From an employer’s point of view, he is investing time and money in you to sell his products and services. If you jump ship to join a competitor, not only is he losing you as an employee, but you could potentially bring his customers and trade secrets to his rival, and thus hurt his business.

Non-compete agreements are based on state law and vary from state to state. Some states don’t enforce non-compete agreements. Some courts may not enforce them, either.

blue pencil lawOther states may have “blue pencil” laws that give judges the authority to modify a non-compete agreement. For example, if an agreement states you cannot work for a competitor for three years, a judge may consider that time period unreasonable and reduce it to six months. Another example is that if the agreement states you cannot work in a specific industry, let’s say pharmaceuticals, a judge may find that is too broad and restrictive on your ability to find work. If an employer had specifically named competitors in the agreement before you signed it, you might have a more difficult time working for a specific competitor.

There is a lot of controversy about how legally binding non-compete agreements really are. I’m not an attorney. My suggestion is that if you are asked to sign an agreement, you should seek legal advice. However, if you delay in signing the agreement, your potential employer may become suspicious of your true intentions to work for him, and may withdraw your job offer. Still, you should be prepared to be asked to sign such an agreement if you decide to accept a job offer.

If you are lucky, you will receive the non-compete agreement along with other paperwork to complete before officially coming on board. If you don’t receive any paperwork in advance, I suggest that you contact your new employer’s HR department and request it. If they ask why you want the paperwork in advance, tell them that you want to save time by completing as much of it as possible before you start your new job. In most cases, the HR department will comply with your request and email the material to you. If you get a non-compete agreement in advance of starting your new job, which should give you enough time to have an attorney review the document and offer his advice.

To learn more about non-compete agreements in your state, please check out Beck Reed Riden (BRR)’s 50 State Non-compete Chart. It was posted on August 9, 2015

Heather Bussing also wrote an interesting article on “Is Your Non-Compete Agreement Enforceable?”

In my next post, I will discuss some of my personal experiences with non-compete agreements.

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