Getting Through a Group Interview

Group interviews are relatively easy if you work well in a team and are able to make your ideas heard in a crowd. However, they can be challenging if you have a quieter personality and prefer to keep to yourself.

Regardless of how you feel about group interviews, there’s no reason you should treat them any different, in most respects, than a standard, one-on-one interview. The same basic principles apply: Research the company, arrive on time, dress appropriately, practice answering common interview questions, and remember to follow up after the interview.

Follow the rest of these tips from Hamsa Ramesha of SalesHQ ….

Your Knowledge. Your Value.

Bill Caskey was reading an excellent book by Tim Sanders called, Love is the Killer App. In it he talks about the value that you bring people, personally and professionally.

For so long we’ve been talking about “communicating value.” Caskey still believes that in professional sales it is the “difference maker” between the elite sellers and the amateurs.

In “Love,” Sanders says that knowledge is value. This ties in perfectly with our belief that to be a high achieving sales professional you have to be a “go-to resource” for your prospect community. You can’t just be a hand looking for an order all the time (even though monthly and quarterly quotas dictate that behavior).

3 SECRETS TO BUILDING A BEST-IN-CLASS SALES ORGANIZATION: Secret #1 Organizational Excellence

This week’s guest author Howard Highsmith, CMC is the Founder & Chairman of B2B Institute.  A Certified Management Consultant; Howard helps organizations operating in complex sales environments achieve their revenue goals.

Note:  This post is the first in a three-part series about three principles that are imperatives to organizations’ becoming Best-in-Class.  We start with Organizational Excellence and the critical role that business acumen plays through individual sales initiatives and accountability leading to goal attainment.  The second part; Managing To Goal is a defined methodology and business model for managing a revenue generation strategy and the last part of the series is; Governance, a time-driven process for proving the model and being held accountable for results.  
Building a Best-in-Class Organization for Solution and Value Added Providers

Intro:  An important paradigm shift has been taking place for the past several years from the feel good, ‘New Normal Era’ to the ‘On Demand Era.’  As the name implies buyers in this on demand era are aggressively demanding delivery of product and/or service at a high level of excellence from its providers and… at no surprise, delivered at very competitive pricing.  For solution and value added provider organizations operating in the higher cost of sales end of the complex sales process this new era is putting significant pressure on revenue generation strategies and in particular, with regard to new business development activity.

Accountability for generating revenue by frontline sales efforts from existing clients and new business development has never been more important.  In this context, organizations must take extra care to clearly define frontline sales roles, duties, goals and objectives and utilize assessment tools in the selection process.
Here’s a current reality relative to revenue generation:

77% of sales reps in Best-in-Class organizations achieved their annual quota,
compared to 38% for Industry Average and 26% for laggard companies.
Study conducted in October 2010 by the Aberdeen Group:

Business Acumen – Let’s face facts; it simply isn’t enough anymore to just work harder, you must also work smarter if you are to consistently achieve your corporate revenue and personal earnings goals.  What are the qualities of a best-in-class person?  Of the almost two hundred sales people that have worked for me over my career, I have observed the following:  “In every size organization there are a few sales persons who pay unrelenting attention to their personal sales activity and their sales pipeline and more.”  What is the benefit of this unrelenting attention?  These people consistently outperform their colleagues.  Why is this so?  Fundamentally, it is because these people invest part of their time to fully understand what their corporate and personal benchmarks are.  They don’t need nor want to be micro-managed to achieve results, they want management to encourage and support their efforts.  What are their benchmarks?  This answer will vary a bit; in most cases these people know what their monthly and annual revenue goals are and exactly where they stand against their goals year-to-date.  They are constantly evaluating their next steps with each individual opportunity against a defined sales map.  They are not stopped by obstacles; they find a way around them.  They know with relative accuracy the total amount of revenue opportunities that should be (or needs to be) in their pipeline at any given time.  And finally, they know with reasonable accuracy when near term revenue opportunities will close – and more.

I have had the pure pleasure to work with a select group of these best-in-class people as their advocate to deliver real value to the customer, generate revenue for the corporation and maximize individual earnings.  This process isn’t rocket science; it is Business Acumen at work and… at its best!

Business Acumen Reference:  Originating within corporate learning and development circles, Business Acumen is a concept pertaining to a person’s knowledge and ability to make profitable business decisions.  Despite a lack of consensus on an exact definition, Business Acumen is often closely linked with the fields of behavioral economics and financial literacy.  Additionally, Business Acumen has emerged as a vehicle for improving financial performance and leadership development.  Consequently, several different types of strategies have developed around improving business acumen.  Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Never Give Up!
Where are you in this continuum?  How well do you pay attention to your numbers?  As you read this – could you say what your corporate revenue goal is and where you stand year-to-date?  Do you have personal benchmarks?  It is important to recognize the process of moving from a laggard or industry average status to become best-in-class is not some light switch you just turn on; it takes an investment in time, hard work, persistence and working smart.  In summary; this process involves adopting a Deliberate Practice Regimen.

Good Luck and Good Selling.

Business to business sales trends for 2011

By Matthew Schwartz, Editor of Follow the Lead

As b2b sales reps budget for 2011, sales expert and author Steve Martin discussed Big Picture items in store for next year and their sales implications:

Consolidation on steroids: Martin points to a slew of major deals this year – SAP’s purchase of Sybase for $5.8 billion and Intel buying McAfee for nearly $8 billion – and predicts more of the same in 2011.

Sales implication: The buyer’s incumbents have an opportunity to expand their footprint while the acquired’s sales reps have an opportunity to demonstrate their value to the acquiring company. The deal, however, can end up being zero-sum game for sales reps. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Martin said. “While it creates opportunity for one rep it puts another sales rep at risk. Someone may win and someone may lose.”

Intra-company consolidation: Companies may drop coin for M&As, but are reluctant to hire in any significant numbers because of economic concerns and will continue to do more with less, Martin said.

Sales implication: B2b sales execs have to put problem solving atop their agenda. In the new normal, the “sale” is secondary. “You can’t be selling the same way you sold three years ago and go in [to meet a prospect or existing customer] with a big, complex sale,” Martin said.  “You have to think about how you’re competing against your arch-rivals and gain a smaller beach-head win in order to prove your operational value. Essentially you’re saying, ‘While our products are relatively equal, we’re the easiest to do business with in terms of economies of scale and fewer headaches.’”

“D-I-Y” Do It Yourself: Salespeople must establish themselves as their own brand. In an increasingly digital age – with inbound marketing as important as outbound marketing – sales reps have to leverage the Web and social media to differentiate themselves.

Sales implication: The onus is on b2b sales managers and reps to position themselves (and their companies) as thought leaders. “Start your own blog, create a business-oriented Facebook page,” Martin said. “Most important, you need to understand how to penetrate new accounts using online tools and be able to design effective e-mail campaigns. You cannot solely rely on your marketing department for lead generation.”

HOW TO AVOID LOSING ACCOUNTS – The Brooks Group

In order to avoid losing accounts, your team must be cemented into them. This requires proactive account management.

In today’s economy, lots of people and companies are looking to cut costs. And, unless your team is proactive about account management, they might become victims of such measures.

Successful account management allows your team to keep — and grow — the customer relationships they have. Unfortunately, it requires a different set of skills than winning business on the front end. However, successful account management can be accomplished if your team agrees to a few basic things.

Successful account managers do things like…

  • Consistently reach out to current customers after they’ve bought to provide additional value;
  • Develop nurturing campaigns that solidify your top-notch customer service;
  • Offer a high level of follow-through and support;
  • Maintain awareness of what’s happening in their clients’ lives or businesses;
  • Position themselves as trusted business advisors, not simply as vendors; and
  • Promise a lot and deliver more.

Because that which is measured gets done, it’s critical that you hold your team accountable for these types of activities.

Account management is certainly about service. It’s important for your team to deliver high-quality customer service without any additional expectation on the part of your customer – after all, that’s one of the reasons they bought from your team. However, true sales professionals understand that any customer interaction is also about looking for additional sales opportunities with current customers.

The payoff from successful account management often takes time. Here at The Brooks Group, we work with one client who sells complex software licenses to businesses. Typically, the licenses are for one year, which means that a full year passes between buying opportunities. There is literally nothing to sell for about eleven months. However, that does not mean the provider sells the license, passes the account to the customer service department, and moves on. Instead, the salespeople understand the essential role of remaining an active and important part of their clients’ businesses. They provide value throughout the year to cement themselves into the accounts. They are in touch with clients and offer ideas and suggestions about how to use the software and how to run their businesses more profitably. When it comes time for a license renewal, there’s no question about continuing such a valuable relationship.

To find out whether members of your team are providing valuable account management to their clients, ask questions like these:

  • What business challenges is XYZ facing and how are they coping with them? What are you doing to help them with those challenges?
  • When was the last time you spoke with someone at ABC?

Simple questions about the challenges and opportunities facing their clients emphasize to your team the importance of remaining in close touch with current accounts. It’s vital that you hold your team accountable for these valuable account management functions.

When your team provides value to their clients, even after they’ve bought, they will be trusted and valued resources whom their clients will keep. That’s how to avoid losing accounts, even in today’s tough selling environment.

Didn’t Get the Job? Don’t Be Shy… Ask Why!

By Tim Estiloz, Posted Dec 7th 2010 AOL Jobs

You go in for a job interview and do what you believe is a killer performance that should nail you the position, only to find out a short time later, after no call backs, that someone else got the position. Along with the natural disappointment at losing the job, it’s also natural to wonder why your qualifications and presentation fell short. You can’t help but wonder, “Why? Why didn’t I get the job?”

Reasons for reluctance
Most people never get an answer. They spend hours on second-guessing, self doubt and feeling insecure. However, according to some business professionals, the best way to erase those lingering doubts and confusion, as well as becoming better prepared for the next interview, is to simply and directly ask for some feedback as to why you didn’t get the job.

“I think many people are reluctant to ask for feedback because they may feel they won’t get any useful information at all and it’s a waste of time,” says Tom Silver, Senior VP for Dice, a company that issues a monthly report with news and information focusing on the tech labor market.

Silver believes many rejected job applicants are reluctant to ask potential employers the obvious question of why they didn’t get the job, because it’s a lost cause. “They might feel if they get any response back, it’s going to be very generic and not very meaningful because there may be some legal issues involved where the employer might be worried about saying certain things,” said Silver.

In a recent Dice Report covering the tech industry, only 18 percent of technology professionals speak with the HR person in charge of the recruitment process to ask why they weren’t chosen for a position. More surprising, 52 percent of those who DO attempt to get feedback, never get a reply.

A creative approach
“There needs to be a mutual give and take of information between hiring managers and candidates”, says Silver. He believes the strategy of asking for feedback applies to any rejected professional seeking employment and is essential to achieving future success in the job marketplace. The first step is something that should come as common sense to any job candidate, but surprisingly, many forget to apply it — the simply courtesy of sending a thank you to the employer for the interview.

“If you come in for an interview and don’t get the job, be creative at pursuing the interviewer to find out the reasons why,” says Silver. “Don’t just rely on e-mail,” Silver says. “Don’t underestimate the impact of an old-fashioned, hard copy thank-you note instead. To some, a snail mail thank you may seem old-fashioned, but it cuts through many possible roadblocks and a backlog of hundreds of e-mails that may come across an employer’s desk on a day-to-day basis. What you want to do is be creative and think differently than everyone else and stand out.”

Silver adds, “It’s not only good manners, but also, you are setting the stage for another possible communication with the interviewer and, if you don’t get the job, then you now have a better shot at getting a response with some feedback. You’ve opened the door with the first thank you note to future communication with the employer.”

Strategies to try:
Silver suggests several key methods to gain feedback and turn a bad job search result into a positive experience:

Be creative in the way you ask for feedback
You could ask, “Is there is any other advice you could give me in my job search?” An employer may respond differently to a candidate who simply asks for some advice about where to go next, rather than requesting a long explanation about why they didn’t get the job. In that broader discussion about career advice, Silver believes more people are likely to give out information willingly, and a candidate may probably garner more feedback about why they might not have been the right fit for that particular position.

Use various ways to get to the employer
Don’t rely solely upon e-mails to connect with the prospective employer. It’s OK to call them directly. Silver advises calling early in the day or later in the afternoon because you are less likely to catch them at a busy time in the middle of something, and they’ll possibly have a few minutes to actually talk to you. Once you get the employer on the phone, ask some specific questions, but with some finesse. Your goal is not to get the employer to change the decision, but instead, to get useful information to move forward in your job search.

As mentioned before, snail mail also works well.

Don’t be defensive
Certainly hearing a potentially negative assessment of your experience or interview skills may be hard to swallow, but that tough medicine may illustrate a flaw that you’ve been overlooking. Once that flaw is discovered, you can fix the problem for a more effective presentation for the next opportunity.

Don’t give up
Silver says most employers want to be helpful. Most people, if asked, will try to help and try to provide some additional information. It may be a job lead or someone else to talk to about specific opportunities going forward. While talking about the industry in general, you could ask the employer’s advice on whom else you could talk to in the profession. Even though you’ve been turned down for that particular job, the employer may know other people in the industry that could potentially lead to a good fit.
Silver believes in a time-honored saying: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. He says that “getting good honest feedback about where you fell short in a job or job interview will only help you be stronger personally and a stronger job candidate going forward.”

10 Steps for Handling a Sales Crisis

How would you like to make a life-saving drug and discover that your only supplier has just been shut down? Or what if the FDA just ruled against your new product and gave your competition a 12 month lead in the market? Or what if the courts just ruled that your biggest selling product was in violation of your competitor’s patent and you had to immediately cease all sales? These are all real events that happened to my customers. Real events that could put a company out of business.

Since Steve Waterhouse’s expertise is in sales, he is often called in for three reasons: save the customers, save the sales force and save the future market. Companies want to save their customer’s because they either have other products to sell or hope to have new products soon. Their goal is to maintain customer relationships during the transition period. Saving the sales force is important because top sales people want something to sell now and will often jump to competitors when the news is bad. Saving the market is the long term strategy that is needed to ensure that the competition does not eclipse you during this bad time and close off your entire market channel.

Here are ten steps you can take in these situations that will help reduce the damage and get you back on the right track. While there are many more things you can do, Steve offers these as a solid place to start.