6 Illegal Interview Questions to Avoid

Wondering which questions you’ll be asked during your job interview? You should expect the usual ones, such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “What’s your greatest weakness?” But then there are more colorful questions, such as “What animal best describes you?” and “If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you want to have with you?” that you should brace yourself for.
Regardless of what questions get thrown your way, Sales HQ explores the handful of interview questions you should never be asked. Be aware — questions about subjects in these categories violate your rights.

Meet Your New Salesperson

This week’s blog is by Paul Mosenson, President of NuSpark Marketing, an e-marketing strategy company.

If you’re a salesperson, you need to embrace a new member of your department. He already works for you, but he had been sharing his time between IT and Marketing.  He came to work for your company around 10 years ago.  He was a little quiet in the beginning; no one came to visit.  Eventually he got around; became known internally, and them your and the other salespeople started introducing him to the clients.  In a short time, everyone knew who he was.

In the early days, his job was to promote the company’s products on the Internet.  The marketing people wrote copy for him; mostly they just repurposed brochures.  Sometimes the sales manager came to him and gave him a list of products to promote.  Consumers could even buy stuff from him.  The IT people made sure he worked flawlessly; that there were no technical glitches with how he communicated to prospects.

Eventually, the IT guys analyzed his performance, and realized he had some problems.  Too many prospects were visiting him, but he didn’t sell the company products well enough, so those prospects left to find other companies.  Sometimes his communication was jumbled, so much so that prospects couldn’t figure out what he was selling.  He tried to give away product literature and case studies, but nobody wanted to fill out the long survey to receive them.

Mr. Salesperson, your new member is known as “your website.”  In this age of web 2.0 and social media, your website is now an integral part of the sales process.  He needs some help though; he needs to improve his lead generation and conversion process.  His web designer made him pretty, but your marketing people didn’t write his copy well enough to be Google-friendly and compelling.  He needs to be optimized; make him a relevant landing page with bullet-point buyer benefits rather than that technical “we do this” jargon that chases people away.  Make it easy for visitors to contact him with a clear but short webform.  Large phone number okay too.  Ask your boss to buy a marketing automation system, so your new website colleague can identify the quality leads for you, and you don’t waste your time with bad leads.

And one more thing- even though “your website” is now a more assertive salesperson, please make sure the marketing folk still visit, as it’s essential that all everyone is aligned with the same goals.  Once “your website” is redone and ready to generate quality leads, take him to lunch (bring your laptop!).

Six Non-Monetary Motivators for Top-Performing Salespeople

New,  Sales Buzz Radio™ show, from Naviga Partner: The Brooks Group.
Kevin Reinert and Jeb Brooks explore ways you can retain your top sales talent in a non-monetary manner.
Get some valuable tips on:

  • How to manage and coach your top talent
  • Common characteristics of high-potentials and top performers
  • Ways to motivate high performers in non-monetary ways

Click here to listen!

The Interview Was Awesome. Now What?

By Don Straits

Original post: The Ladders

Thank-you letters are so boring. You feel compelled to write one because the career books, career counselors, and HR managers tell you that’s what you are supposed to do. If you don’t do it, then you failed to show professional courtesy. If you do send one, it is rarely the defining factor that gets you the job. Furthermore, they all sound alike. Yawn.

Instead of the traditional boring thank-you letter, let’s hit a grand-slam home run with follow-up strategies that tip the scale in your favor. I refer to these as “value-added responses.” They can be used after the interview or after other ongoing correspondence with targeted opportunities.

Send a Value-Added Response: Within 48 hours after an interview, follow up with a value-added response. Do not write a thank-you letter or an email that just restates your qualifications. Instead, provide something unique that dramatically sets you apart from others. Here’s how: focus on a topic discussed in your interview, and then provide your prospective boss with additional information on that topic. Here are a few examples that illustrate what I mean:

One of my clients had a great interview for a senior sales leadership position. During the interview, his potential boss discussed how the sales people were not successfully selling to C-level executives. I had my client follow up by sending his potential boss a book on C-level selling strategies. His value-added response note looked like this (abbreviated):

“Dear Joe, I enjoyed our discussions yesterday on the sales position and the challenges of selling to C-level executives. Here is a book I recommend to help overcome the selling problem. You might want to pass it among your sales execs. As the vice president of sales, I will provide the leadership to achieve C-level selling success. . .”

He got the job.

Other examples of clients who sent value-added thank you responses:

  • After an interview that focused on building strategic alliances, a client sent his prospective boss an email link to a contemporary article on strategic alliances.
  • Another client sent a follow-up email on new products that were going to be launched by a competitor.
  • A candidate for an administrative assistant position send the prospective boss a list of office organization techniques.

It’s guaranteed; your innovative and unique value-added response can be the edge that gets you the job.

Maintain Ongoing Contact: Call, write or personally visit your potential boss once a week with a value-added benefit. Do this until you land the job or they tell you the position has been filled. Some career strategists think this is overkill, but my client track record of success teaches that persistence pays off. At the very least, you will usually learn where you stand.

Future Opportunities: If you are turned down, write a very cordial thank-you note to HR and, more importantly, to the person who interviewed you. Thank them for their time and consideration. Indicate that you would appreciate being looked at for other opportunities. If you are really interested in the position or company, follow up in a month with an inquiry about other opportunities that may have recently opened up. Don’t rely on the company to get back to you. Even though you were turned down, you may have been “number two,” and they will be eager to have you interview for another position.

Whatever happens, don’t get discouraged. Your continued follow-up does nothing but breed good will. Professionalism and persistence produces positive results. Hang in there.

Featured Company Q&A: Integrity Solutions

This month’s Featured Company Q&A is with Walt Zeglinski, CEO and Chief Client Advocate, for Integrity Solutions, who shares with us his focus for the coming year and strategies for sales success.

What do you enjoy most about working for Integrity Solutions?

I never get tired of hearing our clients say how the behaviors of Integrity’s employees is aligned with the positive values represented in our solutions.

What unique quality separates Integrity Solutions from your competitors?

There are many choices in the market if an organization hopes to improve their sales or service teams. But after working in five of these companies in our industry, I have come to believe that the best of these deliver on the promise to change individual behaviors so they can achieve predictable business results. Unfortunately, it almost never happens. I think it’s the “dirty little secret” in the training industry.

We are all coming off of a challenging year, how has Integrity Solutions handled it?

I think we have handled it as well as can be expected. Like most firms we have tied to hold down our costs while finding creative ways to expand our reach within the market.
One advantage we have in these turbulent economic times is the type of solutions we offer.  With sagging revenue and customer loyalty, sales and service performance are two areas that get lots of attention.

What would you like salesjournal.com readers to know about Integrity Solutions?

We get results because we don’t take shortcuts.  There is no magic pill for improving performance.  Just like any other field of practice, sales, service and management behaviors take time to develop and only a disciplined process can insure results. For over 40 years we have engaged with our clients to develop customer-centric cultures through customized implementation strategies that insure they maximize the talents of their people.

What specific goals, including those related to your specific position within the company, have you established for 2010? 

As a CEO I am ultimately responsible for our return on assets. This would include the typical success measures like operating profit and net income. Because of the uncertainty in the economy, we have been pretty conservative on revenue projections.  The one unique goal I have set is that I am focusing on developing new alliance partners that can achieve $250K in sales by the end of the year.

What creative strategies have you used to encourage/influence your sales team?

I am not sure that we have been all that creative, but we meet more frequently than in the past and discuss best practices.  We have always believed in providing lots of performance feedback and we have kicked it up a notch in 2010. We have also provided some alternative solutions as door openers for our sales people with clients that don’t have the budget for our more comprehensive solutions. It keeps our prospects engaged and helps our sales people to make progress and some commissions until the economy bounces back.
What is your favorite methodology in sales training and/or business enhancement?

I do believe that there are many very good sales methodologies. Unfortunately most of them are embedded in one or two day training programs that focus on cognitive understanding with a little skill practice thrown in.  As you already know our solutions are based on a change process methodology that is implemented in six to nine weeks and works on the whole person – not only skills but also attitudes, values and beliefs.
Are there any books, sales related or leadership related, that you use as a guide and/or would recommend?

I try to keep up on what’s current.  Recently we have developed the Integrity Selection process and I enjoyed read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell as part of my development process. As for sales books, the one I go back to most is “Rethinking the Sales Force”, written by a former boss and mentor Neil Rackham, who is best known for creating SPIN Selling.  After reading “Rethinking the Sales Force”, I began to look at sales through a totally different prism.  It made me realize that the sole role of sales person was to create value for customers – not only through their products but also through their actions. In the era of the internet, with the proliferation of information, merely asking good questions and making benefit statements was not enough.

Do you have a mentor that you contribute your leadership success to? Do you feel it is important to have a mentor?

As I have shared Neil Rackham was one of my mentors in terms of “thought leadership”.  However I think my leadership success is probably the by-product of learning a little bit from lots of individuals over the years.  Probably the most impactful leader that I have known is my father, who never held a positive of authority in the business world. He always demanded personal accountability while openly remaining sensitivity to our individual needs.

I believe that mentors are critical to success but it’s interesting how few there are in each of our lives.  In my speeches I will frequently ask groups to raise their hands if they have had a coach/mentor I their lives.  Everyone seems to raise their hand. Then I ask who has two… three… and so on.  There are few hands up by the time I hit five.  It really is a shame that there aren’t more mentors in the world.

What sales advice do you have to offer our readers?

Work hard to create value in every customer interaction. One of the things I do to keep myself committed to this philosophy is to ask myself “how will I create value” before a sales call and “if the client would have paid for the call” after leaving it. It takes preparation and intellectual curiosity to consistently sell in this manner, but it makes the role of a sales professional so much more rewarding.

What characteristics do you look for in a sales professional?

I believe that the best sales people communicate with their prospects and customers the way they want to buy. They adopt an interpersonal style that works best for the behavior style of the individual.  They know that there is no “one size fits all” approach to selling. It also helps if they have an innate intellectual curiosity as they seek to better understand not only the needs of their customers, but also their root cause. I have found that the best sales people have the ability to take fragments of information and integrate them into meaningful insights that help their customers to see their problems differently. This is how they create unique value in their sales process.

Do you feel a sales professional must have experience in the industry they are selling in order to be successful?

I think it depends on the sophistication of the new industry’s products and the uniqueness of how decisions get made. This doesn’t mean that they can’t learn over time but I have found that many organizations don’t have the patience to wait until a sales person adapts to these changes.  However there is two important “red flags”. Sales people that sell transactional products find it difficult to deal with the longer selling cycles in a complex sales process. And sales people that have sold the “bells and whistles” of a physical product find it difficult to deal with the subtleties of a conceptual value proposition like consulting services. (selling extrinsic value vs. intrinsic value).

If an individual or the team as a whole is not meeting goals, what is your approach to nurture this?

The difficulty with assessing under performance is that its root cause can be the by-product of many things. But I think there is a sequence to what needs to be assessed.  First, a manager must look in the mirror and determine if they have done the right things. This includes assessing how clearly they have set expectations and if the goals set are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals. Next a manager must determine if you have provided adequate resources and tools to achieve success and whether they have provided the coaching required to maximize performance.  After a manager feels confident that they have done their part, they can look at the training and development needs of the individual and what personal challenges may be barriers to their success. If all this fails it may be best to move the individual into another role or help them to move on to a new opportunity elsewhere.

How much time do you need to know if a new sales hire will “make it”? What are some indicators/behaviors?

To me, this is less about the numbers than it is about doing the right things. We have all seen sales people struggle in a given month or quarter and bounce back to have a great year.  Sales are subject to factors often beyond the control of a sales person so I look at their pipelines and their commitment to activities. The latter is critical because it is a leading indicator for failure. In my experience it is indicative of a misalignment in their view of selling, view of their sales abilities or even their values – all precursors to failure. It doesn’t matter how much talent an individual seems to have.  If these issues prevent them from tapping into their achievement drive