Thursday, October 29, 2009

Keeping your sales skills relevant over time

Times are changing quickly; we grind through our days sometimes without looking up. The next thing you know we are at the end of another fiscal year and we’ve done nothing to upgrade or polish our sales skills. We may have had a great sales year but it’s important to plan for next year.

We have all probably met someone who was a great sales person in their time but now seems washed up and obsolete. What that rep failed to do was become more relevant over time. You don’t have to wait for your employer to pay for a course or send you to training to do so.

Reading sales books, blogs and websites are a great way to learn of new trends. Just committing to reading 1 sales book per quarter is a great start. What these books tell you, most of us know but we sometimes need a reminder.

What about taking a course either online or at a local school? Some people need to brush up on their software skills. As a sales recruiter, often I can tell if a candidate’s software skills are good by the quality of their resume. Of course I know that they may have gotten the resume professionally done but if the resume is poor, it’s an indication of something.

There’s a lot of free content our there such as webinars and lectures. Sure some of them want to sell you something but they give out free information in exchange for you being on their mailing list.

There are many 1 day seminars offered by local universities that target busy working people. Some of them are half day seminars. These are also great places to network and share stories; which by the way is a great source of learning.

For the over 40 sales crowd this is probably more important for us in an effort to show potential sales managers that we are current and up to date. Some employers may have the misconception that older workers are out of date.

Many employers will pay for courses that help you to better in your current sales job. You should take time to keep up to date on issues within your industry. Customers look to their sales representatives for knowledge and count on you to educate them. If you are more knowledgeable than your competitor, this is another element that puts you ahead of your competition.

As a sales recruiter, I look for people who invest in themselves not because they are forced to but because they see the value in doing so.

Happy selling

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I've just been made an offer-how do I negotiate the terms?

This issue causes many sales candidates stress. As sales people, we should be used to negotiating with customers, our managers and our support departments. If that is the case, why are so many sales people uncomfortable negotiating a sales job offer? What I have seen is that women tend to negotiate their deals less and only the minority of men negotiate their offer. Some clients actually expect sales people to negotiate their offer and work some wiggle room into it.

It’s true that going through a sales head hunter, you know almost all of the terms and conditions going into the process. The key about negotiating the offer is that it must be a win-win where both sides get something. The first thing that you as a candidate should do is be honest with your sales recruiter. I want to know what motivates you, why are you making this move and what are the “nice to have” and what are the “must haves”. You must also take into consideration the long term effects on your career that this move will bring. Is this offer/job bringing me closer to my personal and professional goals? If you cannot answer yes, reconsider earlier in the process. Be honest with the recruiter if you are involved in other processes that are as interesting or more interesting that the impending offer.

Ensure that your prospective employer knows that you are very keen on the position. The way you present your counter offer might influence how you are perceived. You don’t want to start your new sales job with a bitter taste in your mouth or have your new boss have that bitter taste.

Don’t accept or reject the offer right away. Tell them that you need to think about or talk about it with your significant other but keep it positive.

It’s probably not a good idea to take a job for money only. That feeling of euphoria won’t last. And if you are thinking of turning down a job because of money, think about it twice. Break it down into bite size pieces; $5000 annually is actually $192 per pay before Canadian taxes have taken their share. Can you get more by negotiating more vacation time?

If you have to turn down the offer, do it with class. Remember “6 degrees of separation”. You don’t want this to come back and bite you in the behind.

Do your homework before, know what you are worth, know the non-monetary things that are important to you and most of all, match the culture of the company that you are going to with what you are looking for.

Happy selling

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is cold calling dead?

Recently I heard that cold calling is old school and any sales person worth their weight, should be more sophisticated. There are many ways to cold call. We are all familiar with knocking on doors, presenting your business card and hoping that you get a glimpse of the decision maker. I would agree that this method might be a little outdated but in some industries this is how reps get new prospects and it still works.

When I interview sales people; the part of the sales cycle that they dislike the most is the cold calling. Every time you call a sales recruiter for a job, that’s a cold call. I was probably not expecting your call and don’t know you. If a sales candidate calls me and does a very good cold call, I’ll see him for an interview; after all my, job is to find great sales people for my clients. I have successfully placed several candidates who cold called me.

I know very few people or companies that have enough business that they do not require new prospects so cold calling is here to stay.

There are more many ways to cold call such as networking. Whether your cold call is via telephone or face to face, preparation is key. Find out some information about the company, its officers and recent activity. If you have sold to this industry before this would be a great time to name drop.

Set yourself a goal for cold calling. Remember ABC-always be closing. Your goal may be to gather information or speak to the decision maker. If you do get the decision maker remember that you have 1 chance to make a great first impression. Write and practice a great opening statement. Get your prospect interested and engaged. This does not include speaking about what your product/service does but more about benefits to your prospects. Keep in mind “what’s in it for me”.

So many sales people no longer cold call that your cold calling can perhaps be unique. So many sales people rely on emails and phone calls because it is easier than face to face cold calling. Again, you will be set apart from the pack if you are different in your approach. A face to face makes it personal and different.

Where some sales people fall down is their contact with the gatekeeper or receptionist. When you are rude to them or dismiss them as unimportant that gets back to the decision more often than you think. I definitely want to know my receptionist’s opinion of the cold caller because this will give me an indication of their emotional intelligence and quite frankly their manners.

You can’t go into cold calling thinking that you will fail; you will. You have got to go in with a positive attitude especially if you are cold calling via the phone. The client needs to feel your enthusiasm and smile. Remember that a large percentage of communication is non-verbal.

Cold calling is still an effective tool to bring in new business.

Cold calling- “reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated”

Happy selling

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When is it an appropriate time to talk about salary?

Many candidates find it uncomfortable to speak about salary with a prospective employer. If you ask too early, it may be a turn off and ask too late, you both may be wasting each other’s time. Here’s where your sales recruiter comes into play. Part of our role is to act as go-between for the client and candidate. We always have the parameters of the offer and should know our client well enough to know the outer limits.

If you are dealing with a client blind; that is to say, without a recruiter, then the employer may ask your salary expectations during the 2nd or even the 1st meeting. Let the employer ask before you do. Your asking may come across as pushy and looking at the wrong things. It is always a good idea to find out what the market pays for your job and experience. is a site that I sometimes refer to. You can also consult government websites such as Statistics Canada. Knowledge is power. If you don’t want to box yourself in when asked your salary expectations you can answer “ my research has shown me that people with my education, experience and track record are in the range of X to Y”.

Prospective employers will almost always ask you what you made at your last job. Some people have a tendency to bump it up a bit. Resist the temptation because I have seen some employers ask for proof. Oops if you’ve lied!!

Give yourself some wriggle room or room to negotiate. Your number one job is to get the employer to love you first. This makes the salary issue easier to deal with.

If in the end the position does not offer the salary that you need, be polite and thank the interviewer for their time. You never know if there is a more senior position at that same employer. Be gracious, you never know.

Happy selling