How to Prepare for a Sales Job Interview – Not exactly like a date, but close!

Geoff  Alexander shares the story of a successful sales professional that took one of his inside sales training courses. Here’s what Allison has to say about preparing for a Sales Job Interview:

When you get asked out for a date, wouldn’t you want to know who you’re dating, what the person is like and how much fun you think you’ll have?  With the internet as your tool, you can easily find the answers to these questions on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Podcasts and Google searches.  It is no different for a job interview.  You can use these sites to mine company and personnel information.  Knowing the answers to these questions about a company and the people you will be interviewing with will have you prepared and possibly close the interview as well.  Do your homework!

Read all of Allison’s interview preparation suggestions here.

The Industries Where Jobs Are Growing Most

Original Post: By Seth Cline – Forbes.com

As the nation’s economic recovery repeatedly jerks forward and then stumbles, here’s some good news: 11 of 12 major industries are posting more jobs online than a year ago, according to data gathered by Indeed.com. Indeed.com, which aggregates online job postings, found that the transportation, hospitality and retail industries are posting the largest increases in job listings over last year. Each had at least 40% more job listings in June 2010 than in June 2009, despite the weak improvement in overall employment numbers recently.

Transportation industry job postings are up 73% from a year ago, including 20,000 new ones since April, making the industry by far the fastest growing of the 12. The top transportation job titles: driver, stocker and similar shipping- and freight-related positions.

In Pictures: The Industries Where Jobs Are Growing Most

The U.S. Department of Labor considers transportation a high-growth industry. It has benefited from new technology that allows cargo to be tracked and delivery times to be more precise, but also it is cyclical and often mirrors trends in the national economy. In fact, transportation job postings have increased substantially since January, coinciding with modest improvements in unemployment.

Hospitality has also experienced a jump in online job postings over the last year, specifically in the food service sector. The old saying that people will always need to eat is backed up by Indeed.com’s findings.

“The industry’s recent job growth was driven by an uptick in restaurant sales in recent months. Eating and drinking place sales rose each month from February to May,” according to Bruce Grindy, chief economist at the National Restaurant Association, writing in an e-mail. “Restaurant industry job growth generally coincides with industry sales growth, so when sales pick up as a result of pent-up demand, the jobs will typically follow.”

Another winner in Indeed.com’s survey is the retail industry, whose already numerous job postings increased 41% in the last year. Customer service positions are by far the most posted jobs in retail, because of the importance to businesses of cost-efficiency and loyalty, says Bill Gessert, president of the International Customer Service Association. “There’s always been growth in our industry, but it is accelerating in a down economy,” he adds. “It is less expensive to keep the customers you have than to try to go out and win new customers.”

The one industry that failed to report employment growth over the past year is real estate, which saw its job postings decline by 4%. Real estate also has the fewest postings of any industry, a full 15,000 less than the next-lowest industry, media and newspapers.

Always Be Recruiting!

Dave Kurlan wrote an outstanding post:  Bench Strength – The Key To Replacing Salespeople.  He mentioned that managers must always be recruiting.  It’s such a simple concept, but Dave Brock is constantly amazed at how few managers–at all levels do this.

Here’s how the cycle goes.  We have a bad performer in place, we worry about firing the person, because it leaves an open territory….too often we think coverage is more important than quality.  Maybe the manager might start looking casually for someone, but the normal day to day events slow the process down, consequently nothing is done for too long.

Or it may go like this:  One day, our star performer walks in and resigns.  We panic–she’s going to leave a huge gap in our organization.  We immediately look to back-fill the position.  In our haste to fill the position, we may reduce our standards recruiting the wrong person.  The death spiral accelerates…..

Recruiting high quality people–even in this candidate rich job market takes time.

How to Make Great First Impressions

This week’s blog is by Jeb Blount, CEO of SalesGravy.com, the world’s largest sales career website. A respected thought leader on sales and sales leadership, he is author of three books, People Buy You: The Real Secret to what Matters Most in Business, Sales Guy’s 7 Rules for Outselling the Recession, and Power Principles. He is the author of more than 100 articles on sales and sales leadership and the host of the top rated Sales Guy Podcast. Jeb’s new book, People Buy You, is available at the SalesJournal.com store.
The first impressions you make with potential customers are critical to success in sales and business.

 
How important are the first impressions you make with potential customers to success in sales?

Recently a good friend told me a story about an experience she had while shopping for a mattress. Now this wasn’t just any mattress, this was a high end mattress that cost a couple of thousand dollars. Prior to hitting the stores she had done extensive research on the internet and had narrowed her focus to a few brands and styles. She found exactly what she was looking for at the first furniture store she visited and the price was right. But she didn’t make the purchase.

Instead she drove all the way across town to visit another furniture store where she met sales representative, Gwen. There she purchased the same mattress she had seen at the other store. When I pressed her she admitted (while trying not to look at her husband) that she paid more at the second store than the first.

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

She responded, “The guy at the first store, I think his name was Ray, just didn’t impress me. I mean from the first moment there was just something about him I didn’t like. So even though he had the mattress I wanted I decided to shop around some more. But Gwen was different. Even though we had just met I could tell she cared about me. She made me feel good.”

The first rep, Ray, is the poster child for the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” We all make instant judgments when we first meet people. Those judgments, which are both imperfect and emotional, have a lasting impact on how we view and interact with others. And in Michelle’s case first impressions caused her to make the illogical decision to pay more for the same product because she liked Gwen more than she liked Ray.

In business customers and prospects make these same imperfect judgments each time they engage with new salespeople, customer service reps, and frankly anyone else they encounter.

If you want to know how important first impressions are, just ask Ray. Sales Managers in high end retail like furniture and auto sales will even tell you that the initial greeting is the most important part of the sale.

Making a great first impression is all about being likeable. If your prospect likes you they will be open to answering your questions and engaging in a conversation about their needs and situation. How long does it take to make a first impression? An instant! Unlike trust, which is earned over time through multiple interactions, being likeable or unlikeable occurs in mere moments. So when first meeting new people it is absolutely critical that you control those things that you can control.

The word Likable is defined by the Marriam-Webster Dictionary as, having qualities that bring about a favorable regard. We all, to some extent, have qualities and characteristics that make us naturally likeable to certain types of people and personalities. While at the same time we possess qualities make us naturally unlikeable to others.

The problem we face in sales and business though is we don’t always get to choose the people we interact with. Many of the people we encounter will not be naturally attracted to us. Complicating things more are the preconceived perceptions that all people bring into relationships. These perceptions which include but are not limited to cultural, racial, and socio-economic biases are also beyond our control.

There are however important and critical actions we can take that will positively impact first impressions and likability. These actions are completely within our control and executed properly help us both neutralize biases outside of our control and attract people who might not otherwise find us naturally likable.
Five People Buy You Tips for Make Great First Impressions

Smile. A pleasant, sincere smile is the best way to make a great first impression. Humans are naturally attracted to other humans who are smiling. So be aware of your facial expression and put a smile on your face.

Be Polite. I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “Mean People Suck.” People who are rude, impolite and discourteous are unlikable. Unless you were raised in a barn by animals someone taught you basic manners. In all interactions with prospects and customers put those manners to work. People will notice.

Stay Focused. It today’s demanding work environment it is easy to become distracted. The late Jim Rohn always said, “Where ever you are, be there.” This is essential advice when it comes to first impressions. You must develop the self-discipline to shut everything else out and remain completely focused on the other person.

Be Enthusiastic. Enthusiasm for your product, service and company sells. Enthusiasm is transferable and infectious. Your enthusiasm is driven by your attitude and beliefs so it is critical to work consistently to build and retain a winning attitude. One note though, there are few things more off-putting than insincere enthusiasm so be careful not to get carried away.

Be Confident. Weak people repel. Arrogant people are turnoffs. Confident people attract. Confidence is driven by your self-image, product knowledge, attitude, the way you dress, your health, and even your spirituality. Your level of confidence is a direct reflection of your willingness and self-discipline to invest in yourself.�
The good news is making a first impression in business actually very easy if you focus completely on what is within your control. And though you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you only have to make a good first impression once to lay a solid foundation on which to build a profitable relationship with your customer.

Gone in sixty seconds?

Matthew Schwartz, Editor, Follow the Lead
Original post: Follow the Lead

While the Internet in many respects can expedite b-to-b sales cycles, it can also facilitate the potential for failure. Indeed, time management – combined with lead monitoring – seems to be fundamentally changing b-to-b sales.

Here’s some more ammo: a recent study showing a direct correlation between the time it takes to contact a lead and conversion rate. The study, which was conducted by Leads360, is derived from the data of several million Internet-generated leads. It found that 88% of all leads that eventually convert were called within the first 24 hours. What’s more, sales leads called within 60 seconds of being first generated online showed a fourfold (391%) increase compared with average conversion rates.

But the window doesn’t close if b-to-b sales reps don’t respond after one minute. Wait an hour, though, and you’re toast. After missing the critical initial time window of the first couple minutes, calling prospects within the first 30 minutes was found to increase conversion rates by an average of 62%, and calling within one hour was found to improve conversion by an average of 36%, according to the study.

“These findings echo previous MIT lead response research, but place more emphasis on speed-to-call. The data also suggests that the advantage due to speed is less significant after the first two minutes have elapsed and is greatly reduced after the first hour,” the study said.

The study added: “While it may be a bit of a pipedream to think that you can always get to your leads within a minute of them popping up, this stat still shows the importance of getting to your leads quickly.”

The findings are another example of how the Web is sparking more and more job functions throughout business that must be newly created. Perhaps senior managers need to create a job that is the b-to-b sales equivalent to air-traffic controller: someone who is dedicated to monitoring the company’s eco-system online, watching when exactly potential leads land and having a process in place on how to quickly direct the lead to the proper channel or sales rep.

The impact of speed on lead generation:

  • Speed-to-call is a strong driver of lead conversion, especially within the ¬first few minutes
  • Even leads that eventually become qualified are sensitive to initial speed-to-call
  • Receiving and reacting to leads in real-time is critical to maximizing conversion rates
  • Smart lead buyers and sellers measure reaction time to new leads in seconds, not hours
  • Achieving first contact with a prospect represents a crucial advantage that should never be surrendered
  • Leveraging automated lead distribution and dialing technology is required for high conversion rates

Source: Leads360

Three Ways to Recruit Top Sales Talent. Even in Tough Times.

The Brooks Group – Sales Management – July 2010
From what we see, the economy might be turning around. A lot of our clients are asking for our help hiring new, top-performing salespeople. It’s work we enjoy. We’re told they’re having a hard time because two things are happening:

  1. The best salespeople have jobs and aren’t looking.
  2. When sales managers start actively looking for candidates, they get a flood of weak ones. That means they need help separating those who will perform from those who won’t.
    In order to deal with these challenges, there are a few things sales managers should do.

Use an Assessment. Granted, we’re biased because a significant portion of our work is spent providing clients with assessments to hire top-performing salespeople, but we stand by this point. An assessment should provide insight into the behaviors, values, skills, and attitudes of a candidate even before you spend your time interviewing them. In fact, a strong assessment ought to give you a clear picture of the likelihood of a candidate’s success.

A key element in the successful use of an assessment is combining it with a job benchmark. It’s important to objectively compare a candidate to the job you’ll be asking them to perform. By comparing them, you can easily see how much difference there is between the two and determine whether the differences in skills are too great.

As an aside, check out our whitepaper on Hiring Salespeople (Safely Under the Law).

Always be Recruiting. Keep your eyes open for good, quality talent. Even in a down economy, don’t stop looking for talent to bring into your organization. There’s no telling who you might find in your travels. A great candidate might be lurking somewhere nearby.

Just as salespeople are encouraged to ensure that everyone around them is familiar with what they do (some call this the “three-foot rule” – everyone within three feet of you should know what you do), the same can be said of your role as a sales manager. Even if you have no plans to hire a new salesperson, make sure others around you know that you’re always looking for talented salespeople.

Build a Strong Sales Culture. An organization with a strong sales culture is one in which the sales department is profitable, well-managed, and respected organization-wide. As a VP of Sales or sales manager, it’s important for you to work on profitability and management. If you follow-through on those two, you’ll be in a better position to garner the last, which is organization-wide respect.

Building a profitable, well-managed sales department involves the things we write about every month in this newsletter – being in the field, measuring the right things, and hiring top-performers. It’s harder than it looks. We know that! But, it’s up to you to make it happen.

In the end, recruiting top-talent in a down economy takes a lot of work. In many ways, it requires more attention, more focus, and more time than when things are good. But, if you do it well, it’s worth it.

Networking Letters 101

By Kim Isaacs, Monster Resume Expert -Origional Post -Monster.com

No matter what field you’re in, a successful career is built on human relationships. Your job search will be much more effective if you connect with and expand your network of contacts rather than just respond to job ads. Thousands of positions are created and filled without ever being advertised. A networking letter will help you uncover these hidden job opportunities.

What Is a Networking Letter?

This job-hunting tool lets you reach out to friends, friends of friends and professional contacts, asking for job leads, career advice, referrals and introductions. The letter’s focus is not to ask your contacts for a job, but to request their assistance in your job search by connecting you with people or opportunities.

Who to Target?

To tap into your network and create job leads, consider all these sources: friends, your spouse or significant other’s friends, current or former coworkers and supervisors, professionals you have met through online networking sites, associations (alumni, civic and professional organizations), clergy, nonprofit organizations, customers/clients, vendors, teachers and classmates.

You may even consider distant acquaintances as part of your networking campaign — someone you met at a lecture, trade show or seminar might be willing to assist you. Or someone you have met online through professional networking sites.

The Fundamentals

Be Friendly: The tone of a networking letter is casual and professional.

If you don’t know the person well or it’s been awhile since you last spoke, refresh his memory in the first paragraph:

Dear Mr. Jones:

I attended your “Effective Merchandising Techniques” presentation last Friday and introduced myself to you following your lecture. Your speech was very informative, and your examples were extremely enlightening; I left with a number of new ideas.

If you know the person you are writing to well, you should punctuate your opening with a comma instead of a colon for a warmer, less formal tone:

Dear Ginger,

I am in the process of a job change following my former employer’s Chapter 11 filing. I am writing to college friends whose opinions, insights and advice I value.

Have a Message: To be effective, a networking letter must do more than communicate that you are job searching. It needs to provide a brief summary of key strengths you bring to the table and include a few examples of ways you benefited your employers — such as saving money, generating revenue, increasing efficiency and improving service.

Respect the Reader’s Time: Be concise. Your reader is busy and doing you a favor — don’t drone on and on. Whether you are looking for job leads or seeking professional advice, be positive and upbeat in your letter. Ask for the reader’s help, showcase your strengths and express your thanks.

Ask for Leads and Information: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Here’s an example:

I would be very grateful for your review of my enclosed resume. If you know of anyone who might be looking for someone with my background, please contact me at (555) 555-5555. Or if you have any suggestions as to where I should direct my search, I would appreciate your input and advice.

Keep Networking: Keep in touch with your network of contacts, even when you are not searching for a job. If someone has helped you, express your gratitude and return the favor if possible. Your diligence in using networking letters will pay off in your current and future job search.