What’s Wrong With America’s Job Engine?

By DAVID WESSEL
Over the past 10 years:

• The U.S. economy’s output of goods and services has expanded 19%.

• Nonfinancial corporate profits have risen 85%.

• The labor force has grown by 10.1 million.

• But the number of private-sector jobs has fallen by nearly two million.

• And the percentage of American adults at work has dropped to 58.2%, a low not seen since 1983.

What’s wrong with the American job engine? As United Technologies Corp. Chief Financial Officer Greg Hayes put it recently: “Sales have come back, but people have not.”

That’s largely because the economy is growing much too slowly to absorb the available work force, and industries that usually hire early in a recovery—construction and small businesses—were crippled by the credit bust.

Then there’s the confidence factor. If employers were sure they could sell more, they would hire more. If they were less uncertain about everything from the durability of the recovery to the details of regulation, they would be more inclined to step up their hiring.

Something else is going on, too, a phenomenon that predates the recession and has persisted through it: Changes in the way the job market works and how employers view labor.

Executives call it “structural cost reduction” or “flexibility.” Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon calls it the rise of “the disposable worker,” shorthand for a push by businesses to cut labor costs wherever they can, to an almost unprecedented degree.

Looking back at the percentage of Americans with jobs in the 1990s (rising) and the 2000s (falling), Princeton University economist Alan Krueger estimates that 70% of today’s job shortage is simply cyclical, the result of a disappointing recovery from a deep recession. But he attributes 30% to changes in the job market that began a decade or more ago.

Consider these clues:

In the most recent recession and the previous two—in 1990-91 and 2001—employers were quicker to lay off workers and cut their hours than in previous downturns. Many also were slower to rehire. As a result, the “jobless recovery” has become the norm.

In the past, when business slumped, employers cut work forces and accepted less work per employee. During the deep recession of the early 1970s, the output of goods and services in the U.S. fell by 5% and employment by 2.5%. Economists puzzled over “labor hoarding,” or the tendency of companies to hold on to unneeded workers.

No one talks about that any longer. Between the end of 2007 (when American employment peaked) and the end of 2009 (when it touched bottom), the U.S. economy’s output of goods and services fell by 4.5%, but the number of workers fell by a much sharper 8.3%. Today’s puzzle: How and why employers managed to boost productivity, or output per hour of work, like never before during the worst recession in decades?

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In an earlier era, when more Americans worked on assembly lines, many layoffs were temporary. When business bounced back, workers were recalled, often because of union-contract guarantees.

At the worst of the 1980-82 recession, 1 in 5 of the unemployed were “temporary layoffs.” In the recent recession, the proportion of temporary layoffs never exceeded 1 in 10. In part that’s because fewer Americans work in factories, where production can be stopped and restarted; if a restaurant doesn’t have enough customers, it goes out of business.

“When layoffs are temporary, subsequent recalls can take place quickly,” say economists Erica Groshen and Simon Potter of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. When layoffs are permanent, job recovery is slower, they say. If the employer wants to hire, there’s the time-consuming chore of sifting through applications.

Corporate employers, their eyes firmly fixed on stock prices and the bottom line, prize flexibility over stability more than ever. The recession showed them they could do more with fewer workers than many of them previously realized.

In a survey of 2,000 companies earlier this year, McKinsey Global Institute, the think tank arm of the big consulting firm, found 58% of employers expect to have more part-time, temporary or contract workers over the next five years and 21.5% more “outsourced or offshored” workers.

“Technology,” McKinsey says, “makes it possible for companies to manage labor as a variable input. Using new resource-scheduling systems, they can staff workers only when needed—for a full day or a few hours.”

Temporary-help agencies are playing an ever-larger role—from providing clerical and factory workers to nurses and engineers.

Black & Veatch, a Kansas City, Mo., engineering firm, which shrank from 9,600 employees before the recession to about 8,700 today, is hiring about 100 workers a month. About 10% of its workers are temps, says Jim Lewis, the firm’s human-resources chief. “That’s a quick way to bring people in, and gives you a little time to see if growth is going to hold or not,” he says.

It also makes it easier to cut back in tough times. Workers, in short, now can be hired “just in time.” And many employers apparently don’t think it’s time yet. Because they can hire temps almost instantly, there’s little need to hire in anticipation of a pickup in business.

When they do hire, big U.S.-based multinational companies are more able and more willing to hire overseas, both because wages are often cheaper there and because that’s where the customers are.

In the 1990s, those multinationals added nearly two jobs in the U.S. for every new job overseas; in the 2000s, they cut their U.S. work forces by 2.9 million and increased them abroad by 2.4 million, according to the Commerce Department.

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Hal Sirkin of Boston Consulting Group says rising wages in China are dulling its edge as a low-wage nirvana. In 2000, wages of Chinese production workers averaged 3% of what their American counterparts made. Today, they are at 9%. BCG expects the figure to reach 17% by 2015. Mr. Sirkin predicts that will prompt some manufacturers to move jobs back to the U.S.

How many? He is still working on an estimate. But one thing is clear, though, “These are $15-an-hour jobs,” he says, “not $30-an-hour jobs.”

Even though the government counts 4.68 unemployed workers for every job opening, some employers insist they can’t find workers with the skills they need at wages they can afford.

Federal Reserve surveys of local economies find employers from Boston to Kansas City to San Francisco reporting difficulty in hiring workers “with specialized technical skills, particularly in the health-care and technology sectors.”

But workers without college degrees find well-paying jobs scarce in the modern U.S. economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 25.3 million Americans over age 25 without high-school diplomas: Only 9.8 million, or less than 40% of them, were working in June. About 1.6 million said they were looking for work; the rest weren’t even looking.

Write to David Wessel at capital@wsj.com

12 Lame Sales Excuses Salespeople Use and How To Respond

by Todd Hockenberry

It is easy to allow your attitude to lapse into self-fulfilling negativity when you are a salesperson – after all there is a lot of rejection, difficult people, unreasonable customers, and other potentially challenging situations that you have to deal with.

If you ever find yourself using any of these excuses it is time for a healthy injection of positive attitude because after all, these excuses are all comments made that reflect the salespersons attitude.

12 Sales Excuses That the Best Salespeople Never Use:

1. The product sucks – Why did you take the sales job if you didn’t believe in the product?

2. The price is too high – Sell value not price, amateurs sell price.

3. No time for prospecting – Create time, plan ahead, stick to schedule, and ruthlessly eliminate time wasters.

4. Goals are too high  – Stay committed, sense of urgency, and plan steps to achieve goals.

5. Our competitors are better – See #1, do you know why and how to contrast to competitors?  Are you buying into their PR instead of believing in your company?

6. We do not get enough support  – Are you looking for someone else to do your work?  Are these questions you should be able to answer?  If not, go to boss with details.

7. No one is buying now – Create urgency and value, most companies have budget and will make decisions if shown value.

8. My product is a commodity – Is it corn, oil, rocks, paper napkins – even with these basic products great salespeople will create value and differentiation.

9. Can’t get an appointment – No rapport, trust, initial value communication, you are not interesting enough to talk to.

10. Can’t get them to return my calls – See #9 and did you give them a reason to call you back?

11. Not enough people know about our products/run more ads – Marketing and selling are two different things – have you closed every single opportunity in front of you?

12. All I need is more leads – Closely related to #11 – cherry picking is not high level selling, be strategic, identify your best prospects and get to them by yourself, you cannot wait for them to find you.

Oops…Let’s make it 13…It’s not my job….no comment necessary on this one.

Sales Lessons from the World’s Greatest Sales Force

From Darrell Zahorsky, former About.com Guide

They are an unseasoned sales force moving 200 million units a year . Their products are not available in stores and are sold only during the spring yet sales revenue exceeds $700 million. Who is this incredible sales organization?

It’s the Girl Scouts, of course.

Before you dismiss this pint-sized sales force as irrelevant, it pays to know this is not the Girl Scouts of yesteryear. Kathy Cloninger has revitalized the organization since her appointment to CEO in 2003.

The organization has morphed from door-to-door direct sales to a savvy sales team being modernized for the 21st century. Behind this small and mighty sales force are several successful sales lessons:

Create Gap Teams: In 2004, Cloninger gathered the organization to develop five strategic priorities. This resulted in the creation of gap teams—a variety of members from all levels of the organization focused on finding gaps between how things are done now to what needs to be done to reach future goals.

Gap teams are divided into six groups. Five groups focus on the five strategic priorities and one is dedicated to the culture of the organization. Each gap team holds Strategy Cafes to foster open communication among the large and diverse organization.

Sweet Sales Tip: Any business today would benefit from taking this play from the Girl Scout “playbook.” Identifying performance gaps is essential for success.

Teach Them Well: The Girl Scouts organization isn’t all about fund raising but building life skills of leadership, team work and communication. The Girl Scouts provide entrepreneurial programs at Cookie College for scouts to develop business acumen including presentation, marketing and money management skills.

Sweet Sales Tip: The “eat-them-up and spit-them-out” mentality of high turnover sales teams does nothing to build the self-worth of a sales person. Taking a personal stake in advancing the lives of your sales force has a direct effect on the bottom line.

Go From Box to Bulk: One of the selling tools of the organization—for much of it’s existence—has been the door-to-door sales approach along with standing outside of grocery stores. With the majority of members living the busy life, the old one-box-at-a-time approach has been tossed for the bulk sales strategy. Older girls are bulk selling to large organizations and local businesses. Boxes of cookies are offered as sales incentives or corporate gift baskets.

Sweet Sales Tip: Boost your sales by looking for large order opportunities. Look for areas where great numbers of prospects gather to maximize your sales time.

Modernize to Change: For an organization with such a long and rich history, it’s difficult to change. But Cloninger knows change is necessary to appeal to the current generation of girls distracted by the popularity of instant messaging, computer games and FaceBook.

To make the Scouts more in tune with today’s fickle youth, the organization has added more compelling activities such as web design, white water rafting and survival camps. The company has employed social marketing using tools such as YouTube to highlight vintage cookie ads and maintains a blog.

Sweet Sales Tip: Take the pulse of your sales organization to find out what motivates them as well as discovering what new sales channels customers are using.

The late father of modern management, Peter Drucker, once suggested businesses can learn from the non-profit sector. Taking a few lessoning from this cookie juggernaut could spell sweet success for your business.

Lead Scoring: What’s Hot and What’s Not

By Rick Siegfried
When we say a lead is “hot,” what do we mean? It’s kind of a subjective description, isn’t it? Exactly when is a lead “cooked” enough to go to sales?

Such is the eternal struggle of sales and marketing teams across the world. The most essential aspect of lead scoring is that it is a shared methodology between sales and marketing. There must be organization-wide buy-in on your company’s lead scoring criteria, or else it will only serve as another basis for the two departments to blame each other as scapegoats for lost revenue.

To achieve this type of sales and marketing alignment requires building the revenue engine together from the ground up. This begins with identifying your ideal target, then defining the exact implicit and explicit factors to consider when scoring a lead as marketing- or sales-qualified. To be honest, it’s easy to agree on these factors most of the time, because the vast majority of them are common sense. All the process takes is investing a bit of time to decide on a scoring system for the tidbits of information you’re constantly attaining about your prospects.

Explicit Scoring
This is like shooting fish in a barrel. Explicit criteria include objective demographic information such as job title, type of email used and social media influence can be gathered by spending less than 60 seconds on LinkedIn, Jigsaw and/or Twitter. Dive a little deeper and grab some financial rankings, stock indexes, locations, years founded or geographic markets served, and your lead scoring system will be even more optimized for revenue-driven success. Just to be thorough, I’ll mention relationship scoring, such as previous relationship (ex-customer, etc.) and lead source – although these should be on your radar regardless, or you may want to check to see whether your radar is even on!

Implicit Scoring
Here you may have to roll up your sleeves a bit more. Implicit scoring requires a well-defined behavior tracking system. How does the unqualified potential prospect, a.k.a. “name,” interact with live streamed events or trade shows, for example? Do they register, attend, download content, or none of these? Which surveys, if any, has the “name” filled out, and what were their responses? Digging deeper, what web pages have they viewed, and what was their search activity?

By the way, don’t make the mistake of limiting your implicit scoring to only those working their way through your revenue funnel. How are your existing customers behaving? Set up an online community and score behaviors such as suggesting ideas or asking/answering questions, too. Another common mistake is limiting scoring to positive behaviors; it’s ok, even advisable, to deduct points for “misbehaving.” An email unsubscribe, lack of web activity or a negative social media comment can definitely deduct major points from one’s lead score.

At the end of the day, lead scoring simply expands upon the age-old concept of listening to what your customers and potential customers have to say, through their behaviors, demographics or just plain feedback. So start today: schedule an hour-long meeting, pass out our Big List of Lead Scoring Rules, and watch your revenue engine take shape.

10 Ways to Motivate Your Employees on the Cheap

Affordable Tips to Keep Them Happy

Keeping your staff happy, engaged, and motivated to do their best work day in and day out should always be a top priority for your business — in good times and in bad.

But that can be tough when your business doesn’t have the cash to hand out big raises, even when they’re deserved.

Luckily, motivating employees doesn’t necessarily mean throwing wads of cash at them. To prove it, we got entrepreneurs and experts to share their secrets of how, with a little effort and creative thinking, you can build and nurture a team of efficient, loyal, and hard-working employees without spending money you don’t have.

– Charlotte Jensen

Sales Career: Fourteen Things You Should Never Stop Doing

By Kelley Robertson

Selling for a living is challenging. There are many highs and frequent lows. Constant pressure to reach sales targets, customer and prospects that are more demanding, and changes in the marketplace all make sales a tough career.

If you are serious about maintaining a long-term career and increasing your sales, here are 14 things you should never stop doing. If by chance, you haven’t started doing some of these, I suggest that you do start…the sooner, the better.

1.     Prospect. If you do nothing else but prospect for new business every day the chances are you will always be busy and seldom, if ever, experience peaks and valleys in your sales.

2.     Improve your skill. Professionals in many industries require regular upgrading up skills. Selling is no different. The marketplace has changed and what worked five years ago is no longer relevant. Make the time and invest in regular self-improvement programs (workshops, conferences, books, audio programs, etc).

3.     Listen more than you talk. People who listen more, learn more. The more you learn the more effectively you can position your solution or offering. Enough said.

4.     Establish clear call objectives. Whether it’s a face-to-face meeting or telephone call, you need to have a clear objective of what you want to accomplish. Closing the sale is NOT an objective.

5.     Create plans (yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly). I know very few sales people who actually create a business plan for the entire year. What sales do you want to achieve? How will you reach those targets? What daily, weekly and monthly activities do you need to execute to achieve your goals?

6.     Study your products. How much time do you spend studying and learning your products? Do you know the key differences between similar products? Do you know how each product will actually benefit a customer?

7.     Network. Effective sales networking means attending the events that your key prospects attend. A friend of mine deals with high-ranking executives so he attends high-profile fundraising dinners. The cost of entry can be expensive but the return can be excellent.

8.     Ask awesome questions. I’ve mentioned this…more than once! But the ability to ask great questions, tough probing questions, penetrating questions, is one of the most effective ways to increase your sales.

9.     Deliver great presentations. Don’t confuse this with the ability to stand up in front of several hundred people and deliver a keynote presentation. The key to delivering a great sales presentation is ensuring that it addresses your prospect’s key issues and that it focuses on their needs and objectives, not your agenda.

10.   Adapt your approach. Do you ever consider the personality style of the other person when planning your sales presentation? Do you know if your prospect prefers correspondence via email, texting, face-to-face or telephone? Is your prospect a 35,000 foot view person or do they like to know every detail?

11.   Set high goals. People with the highest goals tend to achieve the most. Are your goals challenging and motivating? Do you even set your own goals or do you simply take what’s given to you by your boss?

12.   Be persistent. Four or five years ago it would take an average of seven calls to connect with a new prospect. Now it’s a safe bet to say that it can take as many as twelve or more, just to make that first contact. You need to be diligent and persistence.

13.   Forge relationships. Developing and maintaining great relationships with prospects, customers, friends and other people in your network is one activity that will ALWAYS pay off.

14.   Show respect. I have seen, firsthand, how poorly some sales people treat gatekeepers and receptionists and it always disappoints me because I am a firm believer in treating people with respect and dignity. Yes, that person may only be the receptionist in your eyes but they often hold the key to the Presidential Suite. Treat them accordingly.

If you consistently apply and execute these strategies you will definitely see an increase in your sales.

The Best Way to Introduce Yourself

By Jeff Haden – BNET

When you introduce yourself, the most important audience is not the people you meet. The most important audience is actually you.

I have zero soccer ability but still played in a pretty competitive adult soccer league with my teenage stepson. (When three different ambulances show up during one game, you know it’s competitive.)

I was terrible but still played. Why? My stepson asked me to.

Note to parents: When your teenage kids ask you to do something with them, the first time you say no is also the last time you’ll be asked.

As we took the field before a game a guy on the opposing team strutted over. I think he picked me out since I was obviously the oldest player on the field. (Huh; there’s a delightful sentence to write.)

“Hello,” he said, “I’m Louis Winthorpe III*, CEO of NextBigThing Technologies.*”

“Jeff,” I said, shaking his hand.

“Didn’t think I’d make it on time,” he said. “Had to finalize a big contract, rattle a few chains at an overseas facility, and inspect a property we’re going to buy.”

What do you say to that? “Wow,” was my best effort.

“Ah, not really,” he said. “Same stuff, different day.”

I was trying to match the drollness of my “Wow” when my stepson stepped in, half-smile on his lips and full twinkle in his eyes, and rescued me by saying, “Come on, we need to get ready.”

Was my new friend cocky? Certainly, but only on the surface. His $400 cleats, carbon fiber shin guards, and “I’m the king of the business world” introduction was an unconscious effort to protect his ego. His introduction said, “Hey, I might not turn out to be good at soccer, but out in the real world I am The Man.”

While he introduced himself to me, he was his real audience.

That’s a shame. On that field, for that hour, he could have just been a soccer player. He could have sweated and struggled and possibly rekindled an ember of the youth in all of us that burns less brightly with each passing year.

How do you introduce yourself?  When you feel particularly insecure do you prop up your courage with your introduction? Do you make sure to include titles or accomplishments or “facts,” even when you don’t need to?

If so, your introduction is all about you, not your audience.

Instead:

Embrace less is more. Brief introductions are always best. Provide the bare minimum the other person needs to know, not in an attempt to maintain distance but because during the conversation more can be revealed in a natural, unforced, and therefore much more memorable way.
Be appropriate. If you meet another parent at a school meeting, for example, just say, “Hi, I’m Joe.  My daughter is in third grade.” Keep your introduction in context with the setting. If there is no real context, like at a soccer game, just say, “Hi, I’m Joe. Hey, have fun.”
Under state. Unless you are in a business setting your job title is irrelevant. If you’re the CEO of NextBigThing Technologies, just say you work there. To err is human; to err humble is divine.
Focus on others. Your audience is the real audience. Ask questions. Listen. The best connections never come from speaking; they always come from listening.
After the game the kids on both teams were teasing me about one of my passes that would later win the informal “Worst Pass of the Season if Not Ever in the History of Soccer” award. Far from insulted, those are moments I live for because the banter signals a camaraderie and acceptance that is earned, not given.

I glanced over and saw him, alone as he packed up his gear, and felt a twinge of sadness. He never let himself just be a soccer player. He never gave himself a chance to be a teammate, to fit in and enjoy a shared purpose, however momentary or meaningless.

When you introduce yourself, just be who you are. Embrace the moment and the setting for what it says about you in that setting, not in comparison to other titles or accomplishments. Be yourself, skills and triumphs and struggles and failures and all.

You are your true audience, even when you introduce yourself.

Always be yourself… especially to yourself.

* Not really, but close.