Business case study writers, start your engines! Dominos Pizza (DPZ) is embarking on an advertising experiment that will make or break the idea that brands should be honest about their failings. You’ve probably seen the company’s TV commercials for its “revamped” new recipe pizza. But have you seen the longer video, in which executives and customers describe Dominos old pizza as “cardboard” and “the worst excuse for pizza I’ve ever had”?It’s brutal. Executives watch focus groups berate the product — “the sauce tastes like ketchup,” says one — and admit that in the past, their pizza had its failings. “That’s hard to watch,” says one Dominos exec with a lump in her throat. “When you first hear it, it’s shocking,” says another.The rest of the video is devoted to a description of the new, fresh ingredients that the chain has vowed to use from now on. (The campaign is handled by MDC Partners (MDCA)’s Crispin Porter + Bogusky.)The chain has also given us some metrics to measure its success: Franchisees have agreed to contribute 5.5% of sales to a national advertising fund, up from 4%, according to Dow Jones Newswires, and the chain expects to see a 3% to 5% revenue increase at international stores.The chain is literally betting its brand on transparency:“The old days of trying to spin things simply doesn’t work anymore,” President Patrick Doyle, who will become CEO in March, told The Associated Press in an interview. “Great brands going forward are going to have a level of honesty and transparency that hasn’t been seen before.”BNET has long argued that strong brands should be transparent with their customers (remember Nike’s LeBron James dunk competition fiasco?) but we didn’t expect such a direct, bet-the-farm test from a major chain like this one. Bravo, Dominos. Fingers-crossed that in a year’s time shareholders and franchisees aren’t demanding Doyle’s head, blaming him for an ad campaign that criticized the product. (Dominos’ marketing director Karen Kaiser and pr man Phil Lozen are both in the video, so their heads are on the block too.)
The first time Andrew Rudin, CEO, Outside Technologies, Inc., heard the term “managing by magazine,” he laughed, because it seemed both funny and true at the same time. Many executives read the latest management hype, and rush full-tilt to bring the mantra to their own operations—at least for a few weeks. The adoption of these ideas—along with their associated benefits—don’t have to be ephemeral. Many ideas can yield long-lasting, strategic advantages if embedded in the organization’s core business processes. This article gleans some of those ideas, combines others from tried-and-true experience, and distills them into a list of Best Practices for selling.
When you are looking to make the Big Leap—the one that puts you closer to the power centers of a business or organization—the interview process will likely be different from what you’ve experienced before. The more senior the person or people you’re interviewing with, the more definite their ideas are likely to be about what they’re looking for. They know that their own continued success depends on hiring the best people.
So how do you prove your readiness for the big leagues? By thinking like a big-league player. This interview will be different from others, but it will be your best chance to impress the decision makers, so there are some key points you want to be certain you get across. Here are tips to help you succeed:
1. Show you get the “big picture”Any number of interview candidates may possess specific subject-knowledge valuable to a business. But the candidate who goes beyond mere information and displays an ability to use it well is more likely to get the job. Senior executives and managers generally want people who pay attention to and understand the broader view.TIP: Demonstrate you recognize patterns and understand their importance; that you know how to use and synthesize information.
2. Find out what keeps the boss up at night
Do your homework so you understand not only the job or promotion for which you are applying, but also the job of the senior executive above it. Do you know to whom this person reports, and what the top issues are for your boss’s boss? TIP: Make that knowledge part of your interview conversation. Show an interest not only in the specifics of the job, but in the product and markets for that company. Ask broad questions: “What do you think the potential growth in the Indian market is?”
3. Look for answers Senior managers are looking for candidates who are creative thinkers focused on finding solutions. It is less important that you show you know the details of the problems the organization faces than that you’re able to demonstrate readiness to look for options and find solutions.TIP: Think about problems in the past you’ve identified and managed to solve. Show readiness to tackle the tough issues.
4. Show some guts Chances are whoever you’re interviewing with got where he is by showing some moxie, and you should too. Top people need and want folks around them who are not afraid to speak up and will confidently assert their ideas. It is the only way to be part of the process.TIP: Be ready with an example of a time when you weren’t afraid to go out on a limb and your actions helped bring about real change.
5. Show your softer side, too Yes, you should speak up and assert your ideas. But there will be times when the folks at the top will want—will even need—for you to go along once a decision has been made, even if you don’t agree with it.TIP: Think about past experiences you can discuss to demonstrate you’re comfortable with the challenges of a dynamic environment.
6. Listen Just as you want to make it plain in an interview that you are not too timid to speak up, you want to make it clear you are not over-confident or intent on dominating the process. Demonstrate you are able to listen without being too eager to cut off dialog.TIP: Ask questions that reflect the concerns of the questioner in a constructive way. For instance, if you are asked what you would do in a certain situation, resist the temptation to answer before you’ve asked some questions of your own.
7. Keep it positive If there’s one thing senior managers have a universal distaste for, it’s whining. Remember, every hiring manager wants to hire a team player who will bring positive energy and real initiative to the job. Be ready with examples of positive suggestions about problems or issues that you took initiative on in order to demonstrate your people skills.TIP: Steer clear of any criticism of prior managers, even if invited to offer it.
At the end of last year, Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search conducted its annual Economic Survey and found that more than half of participating executives were optimistic about sales growth in the New Year. I was curious to see if the first six weeks of 2010 were living up to expectations, so I posed the question to my LinkedIn colleagues.
For the most part, the respondents were in agreement that, though their company may be ready to get out there and sell, customers are just not ready to buy. As the principal of a specialized Enterprise Social Strategy practice put it: “The world seems to be ‘cautiously optimistic’ with budgets opening a little, people making plans to go back on offense, and companies figuring out that they can’t cost cut their way out of a recession. I think we will see budgets increasing slightly with the top priority, ‘must do’ to create opportunity type projects getting funded and the rest going slow.”
There is no doubt that companies are still hesitant to buy coming out of a year like 2009, though I am optimistic that as budgets begin to open up, so too will buying for top priorities. That cautious optimism can also be seen in responses like this one from an Internet entrepreneur who said he was getting “lots of good feedback on new concepts, but customers are very cautious given the risky financial markets.”
The national sales manager of a company that sells talking envelopes concurred, noting that though clients and prospects “aren’t quite ready in some cases to pull the trigger just yet, they appreciate the follow-up.”
During these times, timely follow-up may be all some can do to ensure possible sales are not lost. Such is the case for several companies that saw their strong start vanish, including one respondent who said that “it looked like the year was off to an optimistic start in the first two weeks and then it kind of deflated as people realized they weren’t quite ready to rock n’ roll again, In the fourth week, we are still in recession mode and hoping that things will pick up in the beginning of March. As for February, it doesn’t sound too optimistic. There are too many uncertainties in the air.”
I believe the key to overcoming these challenges early in the year is learning from them and tailoring growth strategies. One company has done just that, using the start of the New Year to initiate a major shift in the way they approach sales.
“Our sales efforts are now focused on identifying strategic partnerships, where we can market our programs to their existing and past and future clients. Then, we share the revenues generated. So instead of ‘selling’ something, and looking for a financial commitment, we are now offering a recurring revenue stream, at no cost or risk,” said the national sales director for the internet company.
Patience is key to surviving recession. Only time will tell what sales and revenues will look like in 2010. Until then, honestly evaluate your sales practices, prepare your team for what’s to come and keep the lines of communications open.
Tim Tolan speaks with CEO’s and senior executives on a regular basis regarding compensation issues – especially when it comes to paying high powered sales leaders. While some CEO’s truly understand the reasons that successful sales performers should be highly compensated, many still just don’t get it.
Jim Kasper, President & CEO, Interactive Resource Group reminds us that one of the most valuable “people” tools which you can successfully employ in your sales efforts is humor. Selling is all about people. You’ll often hear that selling is a “people profession.” And that may be one of the reasons why you got into sales. One of the most valuable “people” tools which you can successfully employ in your sales efforts is humor.
I have been an executive recruiter for the past 5 years and throughout my tenure in this profession I have heard a plethora of excuses as to why a candidate cannot attend an interview. Often times, the cancellation comes the day of the interview, leaving recruiters like myself to scramble and put out the fire with our clients. There have been instances where a candidate has to cancel an interview for reasons to do with their current job: surprise visit from a client, unexpected ride day with the boss, etc. Granted a candidate’s first priority should be their current job, it is not wise to jeopardize your current job for one you don’t yet have. However, on the other hand, smart candidates schedule interviews for times when they know they can be available. When you think about your career and the path you are trying to create, your actions during the entire process can set the tone and establish a reputation with your potential employer and the rest of the working world. In sales, networking and recommendations are two major ways of conducting business and branding yourself. A few years ago, you were able to control your reputation and keep a pulse on it. Yet in today’s market where social media has taken the world by storm, it is easier than ever to dig up information on people and find what their real reputation is. The good thing is that these sites are great marketing tools and typically get your message out quicker. With that being said, negative press spreads FASTER!
We live in a small world and especially in sales, people know people and they love to talk about other people. Think about it, the organization that you work for now potentially could not be the one you work for later in life. Therefore, as you build relationships, make sure you foster old ones. Your past track record and experience will follow you so make sure you don’t burn bridges. That being said, you start to create a name for yourself the minute you get introduced to a new opportunity, client or colleague. Your first impression will go a long way, especially in an interview. So if you have something scheduled, follow through with it or give significant notice to reschedule for a better time. Believe in KARMA! In any profession, you are always dealing with people, whether they are a client, colleague, and prospect etc. and what goes around comes around! So without further ado, here are some worst, yet most entertaining excuses that I have heard in my 5 years of recruiting:
” I know we spoke about it, but I never received a confirmation email so I assumed it was not happening”
“I am really sick all of a sudden and can’t talk”
“I am in the ER right now calling you from Hospital Bed. I can grab the nurse if you want…”
“I spoke to a friend of mine and they said I was crazy for considering that role”
“I decided that I’m going to take a few months off and travel the world”
“Oh…I thought the interview was optional. I didn’t think I had to call to cancel”
“I didn’t sleep very well last night so I think it’s best to reschedule for when I’m well rested”
“I heard it was supposed to snow so I don’t want to risk it”
“I’m having car trouble”/”I just got into a car accident”
“I thought it was tomorrow”
“I have thought about it and I can make more money on unemployment”
“I tried to go but I couldn’t find the office, so I turned around and went home”
“I had a family crisis”
I think it goes without saying these excuses do not create an impression of a mature and professional candidate. I would strongly suggest to think long and hard before you cancel an interview and if you absolutely must cancel, my strong recommendation it to be honest! If the reason that you are canceling an interview is because you’re not interested then you should not have accepted the interview to begin with. In sales, time is money, therefore make sure you’re not wasting your time or anyone else’s for that matter. At the end of the day, your actions of blowing off interviews will potentially burn bridges that you one day might need. If you are dealing with a hiring manager directly or working with a recruitment firm, it is best to develop a relationship and have open and honest communication to strategize on your next career move. Focus on things that make sense and you will be sure eliminate “the blow-off.”
If you do, however, find yourself in the predicament where you have to reschedule an interview with a company you are truly interested in, here are a few ways to be professional in rescheduling:
Call the interviewer the day before to allow them time to adjust their schedules.
Be open and honest and tell them that you are interested in the position but you have a conflict and need to reschedule.
If you have a specific excuse, you don’t have to share it in depth, just be concise and to the point.
It is beneficial to avoid cancelling or rescheduling interviews, so do not schedule an interview without first checking your calendar for conflicts. Remember, one lie creates hundreds, one blow off creates a burned bridge.