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With the world at a standstill and most of us on lockdown, many are left feeling scared. These feelings are primarily for our safety and the safety of those we love, but also for the future of our businesses. COVID-19 has brought many organizations to a halt, as businesses explore how to keep operations running and continue the momentum wherever possible.
Prior to the beginning of 2020, I saw one of the hottest job markets that I’ve ever seen. Candidates would tell me, “I currently have 3 offers on the table.” Beyond this, many that were junior in their career were making base salaries that were extremely high.
Clearly, this was great for candidates, however, it wasn’t as positive for the companies making hires. This presents challenges and lots of competition for most organizations unless of course, you’re a big Fortune 1000 company with very deep pockets. This scenario resulted in bidding wars for businesses hoping to retain top talent, which is stressful and resource intensive.
Due to the uncertainty of our current reality, all of this has come to a screeching halt. Despite the challenges that we find ourselves dealing with, now is a good time to interview candidates. Here are the top 5 reasons why now is an ideal time for this:
1.) You’re Less Busy
Something that I hear all of the time from companies in the midst of hiring is that they don’t have the time to interview. This lack of time is a completely justified result of near-constant travel, trying to close a big deal, or focusing on a time-sensitive project.
Unfortunately, at this moment, many of these time-consuming items are not taking place or are reduced in scale. Now you have the time, so do what you can to make the most of it.
2.) Candidates are Less Busy
Similarly, all candidates are currently working from home and some are unemployed. Therefore, it is relatively easy for these individuals to jump on the phone or a video call. This freedom is not only a result of their lack of workload but also because they’re at home which provides a lot of freedom as opposed to working in the office.
3.) There’s Less Competition
It’s simple supply and demand. Before this pandemic, candidates had a lot of companies contacting them. This plethora of incoming offers led to candidates asking for big compensation packages. The sudden reduction in calls and offers will inspire many to remain more flexible.
Even the most talented candidates must have concerns about the stability of their current company. Use this time to get in front of receptive candidates in a way that your competition is not.
4.) Interviewing Does Not Equal Hiring
Now is the ideal time to INTERVIEW candidates (notice that I didn’t say HIRE).
It is a good time to speak with talented candidates and let them know that, “Until we have more clarity around what’s going on in the world, we’re not going to hire. However, as soon as we have clarity, we plan to pull the trigger.”
This is an effective method, as once things settle and we return to normalcy, you can either make them an offer or they’ll already be 80% through the interview process. What this means is that you are positioning yourself ahead of potential competition. While other companies are starting to reach out, you’ll be giving talented candidates an offer.
5.) Technology is King
Technology can help guide the interview process, as it offers all the solutions that you might need. While working through this lockdown or quarantine, we can still have phone calls, video calls, and utilize eLearning software. For example, Lessonly offers a great platform that allows for the design of your own eLearning solutions at a very reasonable price. Technology puts the power in your hands to conduct interviews and work through this process in a way that makes sense for you and any potential candidates.
There is no way to underplay the severity of our current situation due to COVID-19. It is stressful, harmful, and worrying to say the least. Despite the challenges that are presented, we can still figure out where progress can be made and do our best to take action. Interviewing candidates is one of these areas that present an opportunity when viewed in the right light.
Most professionals go into sales because of the potential for substantive financial rewards. However, there will always be competitive companies that offer great salespeople more money. This is especially true for small to midsized businesses that don’t have deep pockets for new hires. Money isn’t the only way to motivate salespeople as many salespeople are looking for more than just financial rewards.
In order to explore these non-financial incentives in more detail, let’s take a look at nine ways to keep employees engaged, happy, and retained.
1.) Showing Appreciation
This concept sounds simple, but it really is not put into practice by enough business leaders. In my entire sales career, only two situations come to mind in which my boss actually pulled me aside to thank me. This additional effort on behalf of bosses is rare, yet extremely effective.
The first memory was when my boss invited me into his office and told me that he spoke to our largest accounts that I was servicing. He let me know that told me that contacts at these accounts raved about me, which meant a lot to hear. He also gave me a $100 bill, and said, “Please have a fun time tonight on me.”
The second time I can recall appreciation being shown was when I had closed a large account and a different boss called me to say, “I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of you.” What demonstrates the impact that these events had on me, is the fact that they both took place over ten years ago and I still think about them.
Beyond personal interactions with successful employees, it can be effective when appreciation is demonstrated through the recognition of achievements in a team setting. This could be in a meeting, or through team emails.
2.) Sales Contests
Sales contests are great motivational devices. I remember running sales contests at one of my previous companies, where the reward was a $100 restaurant gift card. I personally wanted to put that gift card to good use, which motivated me to win, and I wasn’t the only member of my team that felt this way.
Who doesn’t enjoy the feeling associated with winning something? The monetary value is typically less significant than the feeling of winning, which is why this incentive can be effective. I also enjoy running contests with the offer of a prize as opposed to extra money in a paycheck. That extra money usually goes towards bills, and it can be nice to have an excuse to treat yourself to a nice meal or purchase at any number of potential stores.
Another great option is to offer something specific that you know team members would love to win, such as Airpods ($200), a jersey of the winner’s favorite athlete ($150), 2 tickets to a sporting event or concert ($200-$500), or a flat-screen TV ($200-$1,000).
When it comes to offering motivation and providing employees with an incentive to work hard and remain with your organization, training is a powerful route to take. Investing in outside training demonstrates your willingness to do whatever you can to help them succeed.
Hearing these suggestions from an unbiased third party is quite different, as it makes your employees feel like they are constantly improving.
There are many ways to demonstrate flexibility as a boss, and top performers deserve it when they are exceeding expectations on a regular basis. It’s very easy to reward the best of your team members with the ability to work from home, and it doesn’t cost you a dime.
This simple action motivates employees to perform, and the good ones will actually perform even better. Many will save hours in commute time and will be free from the distractions of other individuals in the office.
5.) Additional Paid Time Off
Vacation time is a highly sought after benefit these days and providing additional vacation days or unlimited PTO doesn’t cost anything. If you have a great salesperson, they will figure out ways to exceed their sales goal, even when they have less time to do it. As long as you are clear in your incentives, then all salespeople will understand why additional paid time off is offered to the top performers and will motivate everyone to do their best.
6.) Warm Leads
I haven’t spoken with a single salesperson who has expressed their love for cold calling. Top performers should be rewarded with more warm leads in order to keep them happy and successful. These can be appointments set by the BDR team, inbound calls, or leads through marketing.
7.) Strong Territory
Anyone in sales knows that certain territories are much better to work than others. Top performers deserve their choice of open territories. These individuals have proven their ability, and if they would prefer to work in a specific region, let them at it.
8.) Strong Benefits
Benefits are one of the biggest factors when it comes to a business’s ability to retain top talent. I recently spoke with a candidate who expressed his unwillingness to move due to the strong benefits that his current employer was providing. They paid 100% of his health insurance and provided a great 401k match.
When I ran the numbers, I determined that his company is paying $7,000-$10,000 more per employee in order to provide great benefits per year as opposed to average benefits. That is a significant amount of money, but the irony is that this candidate felt that he was being treated especially well because the benefits were so strong. This feeling outweighed the thought of, “I know I could make $25,000 more at another company.”
9.) Stock Options
Stock options communicate a very strong message to your employees, and this is, “If you have the company’s best interest at stake, you’ll be rewarded. Your success is our success and vice versa.” This is why I like stock options as a motivator. They often result in higher retention rates, as employees actually have a stake in the results. In the end, they will work harder and smarter.
There are many motivators beyond financial rewards, and some can be effective in different yet just as powerful ways. Rather than thinking, “I’m a smaller company and can’t compete for strong salespeople,” start getting creative and think of other ways to get them excited.
“You only have one chance to make a first impression.” This saying is known to everyone, there is a lot of truth to it. Despite the widespread understanding of this saying, in this very tight job market, I’ve witnessed many organizations begin the interview process poorly. This unfortunate circumstance ends up turning off top candidates.
In my line of work, I’ve spoken with many candidates that have turned down great job opportunities. It’s important to have an understanding of why candidates don’t accept certain offers. When asking these candidates, “Why did you pass on an opportunity?” after interviewing once, these are some of the most common responses:
The employer couldn’t adequately answer my questions.
They didn’t seem excited about the job and were just going through the motions.
The employer talked the entire time, leaving no room for me to ask my questions.
They seemed distracted the entire time as if they were doing something else.
After following up multiple times, it took weeks before I received a response.
I completely understand that a VP of Sales, for example is not going to be able to take every first interview. However, it is a mistake to underestimate the importance of an initial call. The team member that is speaking to these candidates should know the company inside and out, be outgoing and energetic, and ultimately excite the candidate for the next round of interviews.
If the interviewer is not properly equipped with all of the information needed to make these initial calls successful and positive, I largely blame the company. There was clearly a lack of training provided. If the interviewer is not very excitable, then you have the wrong person interviewing your candidates.
Over the years, I’ve worked with some very strong sales consultants. I always love my experience working with these individuals, as they just “get it.”
A majority of the companies that we do business with would fall into the category of mid-sized. There are many impressive features of these organizations, however perhaps the most impressive is that they understand how to inspire excitement in their candidates. It can be challenging to get candidates excited about working for a smaller company that they’ve never heard of versus Fortune 500 companies with strong name recognition. This is just one of many reasons that I believe a sales consultant can be helpful in interviewing. They know how to sell the company and job opportunity.
One thing that perplexes me is the fact that most mid to senior-level salespeople sell between $500,000 to $1 million or more per year. However, when a salesperson like this interviews, they’re not provided the level of attention or the excitement that they very much deserve.
If I was to speak with a VP of Sales and say, “I have a potential deal that could yield $500,000+ per year,” they would treat this deal like gold every step of the way. The company’s top rep would likely be assigned the prospect, as they would want to do everything in their power to impress the prospect as much as possible. Why is this same level of attention not being provided to the potential candidates that could bring in these sales on a yearly basis?
First interviews are so important, and far too many businesses neglect the process. The results are lost “A” players that could be the difference between your company being successful or failing.
It is becoming very common for salespeople to seek out jobs that allow them to work remotely. The digital age makes this a real possibility for workers, and many of them are trying to make the most of this new “office-less” era. I personally speak with many candidates who express interest in this path, even going so far as to decline interviews and offers that don’t include a remote work option.
This trend is undeniable, as about a month ago I was in conversation with a candidate, letting him know that his base salary and total pay would increase by over 25%, and he still wasn’t interested in the opportunity.
With this progression towards remote working, it is important to ask the question, “Should salespeople work remotely?”
There is no clear-cut answer to this question, as there are a plethora of pros and cons to consider, as well as variables that may present themselves. Despite the varying nature of this question, let me begin by sharing the pros and cons:
The time spent on commuting can be spent on working additional hours instead. Most candidates that I speak with are burdened with upwards of 5-10 hours of commute time.
Fewer distractions for the salesperson. There are a great number of focused salespeople that I know, yet it becomes difficult to avoid regular workplace conversations with co-workers and elongated lunches while working in the office.
A reduction in managerial distractions. When individuals have worked remotely for me, I’ve noticed that they tend to only contact me when something is truly needed as opposed to regular interruptions that could have been easily solved on their own.
Fewer expenses for the business. It becomes much easier to cut costs with remote employees, as office space and overhead is expensive.
Improved employee satisfaction and general happiness. Most individuals love the freedom associated with remote working. It is also possible to provide the option of coming into the office whenever they would like to.
Reduced opportunities for collaboration. One of my clients expressed concerns about the difficulties associated with the development of company culture when employees aren’t coming into the office
Fewer coaching opportunities. When salespeople aren’t in the office, you can’t hear them on the phone and give feedback.
A decreased understanding of the product. A physical presence in the office often leads to a more robust understanding of the product being sold. It is easier to learn the product when you hear people talking about it and have opportunities to ask questions.
Less control. When an employee is working remotely, it is difficult to truly know if they’re working or not.
So, what’s the conclusion?
In my personal experience, here’s what I’ve observed:
Entry-level salespeople should be in the office every day. These individuals need the most guidance, and there’s simply too much to teach them for them to work remotely. They need to grow their understanding of the culture, be coached on a regular basis, and listen to others on the phone
Mid-level salespeople deserve some flexibility after they learn the product. In my experience, somewhere between 1-2 days work from home days per week is a great place to start. This allows them to increase their freedom a bit, prove their dependency outside of the office, and still continue to grow their skills and understanding in the office.
Senior-level salespeople should be given flexibility after they’ve gone through the training process and learned the product. These individuals have been in the workforce for a meaningful period of time, which means that they often understand their responsibilities. They know that if they don’t hit their numbers that there will be consequences.
EXCEPTION #1: When you are dealing with a highly technical product, it often means that there is more of a need for a physical presence in the office. These products require more time to understand. Less technical products, on the other hand, lend themselves to more flexible options for the salespeople. The learning curve is very short, which leads to more potential for remote salespeople.
The bottom line here is that the most important criteria to use is their sales numbers because numbers don’t lie. If I had a junior salesperson that was 300% of quota and wanted some flexibility to work from home, I would give it to him or her. If I had a senior salesperson, who was on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) and needed additional coaching, I’d tell them that until they could produce results, I need them in the office every day
This topic reminds me of one of my former bosses, who was a Vice President of Sales. He used to say. “As long as you’re exceeding numbers, I don’t care if I ever see you again.” The bottom line is that top performers should have the option to work at least part of the time remotely and those that aren’t exceeding quota, should be required to spend more time in the office.
I haven’t seen a hotter market for salespeople over the course of my sales recruiting career, especially for BDRs.
Some of you reading this might not be familiar with the term BDR, which stands for Business Development Representative. This term is essentially interchangeable with titles such as SDR (Sales Development Representative), Lead Generation, and Appointment Setter.
Many businesses would prefer to bring on a salesperson that is adequately seasoned and has an ability to take the sale from “cradle to grave.” Companies believe that the amount of training required for these individuals is a fraction of what they might need to invest in a different salesperson. Additionally, seasoned salespeople can have an immediate impact on the company and sales team that they are joining.
Despite this preference among businesses hiring salespeople, there is a very strong case to be made for the hiring of BDRs. In order to explore this hot hiring trend, let’s take a look at why BDRs are a great decision for the companies choosing to hire them.
1.) They Don’t Have Bad Habits
An unfortunate attribute of many seasoned salespeople is that they come to the new job engrained with bad habits that they’ve been practicing for years. When hiring a BDR that has little or no experience, you are provided with an opportunity to teach them in a way that is best for you. This ensures they learn to approach their role exactly how you want them to. The best BDRs are typically sponges, fearless, and humble. This means they are usually very open to feedback but it’s up to you to give it to them.
2.) They’re Less Expensive
Talented and experienced salespeople tend to come at a premium. It is common for these individuals to expect something in the ballpark of 6 figures. One of the upsides of hiring a BDR is that they will cost you significantly less and you might be able to hire 2 for the price of 1 experienced salesperson.
3.) You Can Show Them a Path for Advancement
Most BDRs aren’t looking to make 100 cold calls per day and set appointments for several years. However, this can be viewed as an opportunity to inspire success and ultimately help illuminate a path for advancement. It is possible to demonstrate to these individuals that, “We have Account Executives making well into 6 figures here who started off as BDRs. If you work hard, you can get promoted into one of these roles.”
4.) They’re More Likely to Cold Call
The experienced salesperson that is willing to make over 50 cold calls a day is rare to say the least. Most salespeople I know aren’t in this category. Many of them will tell me, “I did that 10 years ago when I graduated college.” Someone new to the realm of sales on the other hand, understands that he will need to start somewhere. This creates a willing mindset to place these cold calls whenever needed.
5.) They’re More Likely to Be Loyal
If you hire a BDR and treat them well, promote them when they deserve it, and pay them competitively, they will likely remain with you for a longer period of time as opposed to a seasoned Account Executive. Many Account Executives have previously worked at a number of different companies, are more established in their career, and have seen big paychecks, which makes them less likely to remain loyal to your organization should another opportunity arise.
Hiring a BDR has been a great decision for many of the companies that I assist. It depends on what you are looking for, but the benefits are clear, and the trend is hotter than I can ever remember. I personally believe that developing a strong, “minor league system,” is very important to a company’s short-term and long-term success.
A majority of sales organizations that I’ve worked with do a nice job of training their salespeople on the phone and preparing them for cold calling. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of these types of sales organizations, which has provided me with a strong understanding of what’s working and what isn’t. Many of the organizations that I’ve worked with have sales scripts, conduct role playing exercises, shadow their sales team’s phone calls in order to provide feedback, and offer metrics that need to be surpassed.
However, I’ve noticed that these same companies that provide thorough training in cold calling don’t look at a single email, whether they are sent to an existing customer or a “cold email” to a new prospect.
I’m fully aware of the fact that plenty of individuals out there are better at writing than I am, as I’m guilty of the occasional mistake when crafting emails. Despite this, I’m still amazed at some of the emails I receive from candidates looking for a job or sending cold emails.
As an example, here is a recent email I received, with the name changed in order to provide some anonymity to this individual:
What are you doing to generate leads?
Why would I ever take the time to respond to this stranger? What is he even trying to sell?
If you are a sales leader, it would be my strong recommendation to create an approach to cold emailing. This should be done in the same way that you create an approach to cold calling. Compose a script that you then provide to your sales team, and make sure that you’re monitoring them just like you’d do by phone.
One of my clients recognized the value in this and went so far as to bring in a writer to help one of his salespeople to better construct emails. I think that this is a great approach.
Two of the biggest recruiting deals that I’ve ever closed were a result of cold emailing. This is how I did it:
When crafting the email, I made sure that it was obvious that the recipient was aware that I knew about their company and industry rather than it looking like part of an email blast. Additionally, I specified that I had reviewed their open positions, detailing which ones I was confident that I could fill and why.
Nobody wants to read an email that is long winded and sitting at 5 paragraphs long. It is safe to assume that the individuals you are contacting are regularly bombarded with an onslaught of cold emails. This is why it is extremely effective if you can immediately address the pain point.
Making an email warm by providing mutual connections can instantly establish a rapport. If I have worked with similar companies or have a connection in common, I made sure to mention that within the email. If we went to the same college, I also added that into my email.
4.) Expanded Reach
I am shocked by the number of people I talk with that tell me, “I reached out to the VP of HR and he didn’t respond.” How do we know he’s the decision maker? Who’s to say there isn’t a better person to contact? In most organizations that I’ve worked, there are typically 3-5 decision makers and it usually varies based on the account. This is why it can be effective to strategically reach out to multiple people at an organization.
Cold emailing can be equally as effective as cold calling, and in some cases more effective. This is why sales organizations should be training their sales people in the art of cold emailing. Why limit the scope of your reach, or handicap your team by only preparing them for success in one medium?
The number of articles that I’ve read over the years along the lines of, “Don’t cold call, warm call” is abundant. Many of these articles shared similar content about the importance of networking, which is something that I significantly agree with. However, not many of these articles spend time focusing on the importance and power of content creation.
Many years ago, one of my mentors recommended that I start to post content on LinkedIn. Since that time, I’m truly amazed at how it has unexpectedly lead to business for me. Looking back on when I first started creating and posting original content, my primary goal was to help people. This goal hasn’t changed, but rather evolved into a method of personalizing myself and my work. This content serves as an introduction to what I do and lends credibility to my work as it shows that I’m educated in my field.
Just recently, I was contacted on LinkedIn by someone that I connected with many years ago. I hadn’t previously spoken with him, but he reached out to let me know that he’s been reading my content for years and has been enjoying it. He requested a call which recently resulted in a contract together. I had no idea that he was even following me.
This is something that you can and should be doing if you’re wanting to close deals without the need for cold calling. Based on my experience, here are some recommendations:
1.) Use Hootsuite
Hootsuite is a social media management platform that allows you to schedule your LinkedIn posts in advance. You can also schedule posts for other platforms including Facebook and Twitter. Every Sunday, I use Hootsuite to schedule all of my posts for the week so that I don’t have to worry about it on a daily basis.
2.) It’s Not About You
I make posts on LinkedIn 4 days per week. On Monday, I post my open jobs, but other than that I don’t self-promote myself or my company. I believe that the purpose of posting is to help people, and hopefully my job postings achieve that. It isn’t about telling everybody how great me and my business are.
3.) Be Consistent
Consistency is the foundation of a strong online presence, and this is not only about posting (e.g. don’t post 5 days in a row and then post nothing for 4 weeks). Consistency is also important when it comes to the subject matter of your posts. I typically post my open roles on Monday, a quote on Tuesday, an experience I had on Wednesday, and an article on Thursday.
4.) Play the Long Game
I’ve made this recommendation to other people, and some of them have said, “I’ve gotten no business out of it.” If that’s your attitude as it relates to content creation, I might say that you should not invest your time. This process is very much like SEO in that you aren’t going to get a flood of leads tomorrow. However, with steady content creation you will slowly become known as a thought leader within your field and people will remember you in the long run.
5.) If You Don’t Have Time, Hire Somebody
Multiple people have told me that they don’t have the time to write articles and post content. If this is the case, it doesn’t mean that you’re hopeless. Let me know and I can refer you to somebody very affordable that can assist with the process.
There are many services that exist in order to write articles and post content for you. However, my STRONG recommendation is that you oversee the creation of the content, and not just let them decide what to post. As an example, provide your content creators with an outline of the article that you’d like written. The articles that you are posting should be your ideas, even if somebody else is helping you write them.
The articles that you post should be ones that you find yourself or ask your content/social media person to help find for you. You might say, “I really like posting quotes about sales and finding articles about hiring. Can you please see what you can find, send them to me, and I will use the ones that I like best?”
My point here is that if you don’t personally have the time, there are still many ways in which you can effectively create and post content. The content can still be very personalized, and you’ll only have to invest 10-15 minutes per week.
In our increasingly digital world, content is king. Every business leader should be considering how to create and post content in order to establish themselves as a thought leader, which over time will result in more closed deals. Cold calling doesn’t have to be the only method of closing deals. Incorporate original content into your processes and transform the way in which you acquire new business.
During my years as a salesperson, I worked for several smaller companies. Being a smaller company often means that there aren’t enough finances to exhibit at trade shows, which forced me to get creative. In order to find a solution, I asked myself. “How do I still have the benefits of exhibiting at trade shows without spending all of the money?”
Here is how I answered that question:
1.) I identified all of the key trade shows and their locations.
2.) I created a list of every major prospect and their contact information.
3.) I purchased items related to the location or theme of the trade show. For example, if the event took place in Orlando over the summer, I’d purchase sunglasses, suntan lotion, and some other fun summer time items. If the event was going to take place in Las Vegas, I’d purchase a fun visor and some casino chips. I was able to make most of these purchases at places like The Dollar Store or Target.
4.) Once purchased, I’d mail these care packages with a brief handwritten note to my top 20 prospects, letting them know that I’d be at the show and would love to meet.
5.) I followed up by phone 3 days later asking them their availability.
This process worked absolutely beautifully, and I was shocked by the number of people that would answer my call and say, “You’re the guy that sent me the care package.”
Through this solution, I was able to secure a huge number of meetings. Those that I didn’t meet with typically responded to let me know that they wouldn’t be there. In many cases, I was still able to manifest a phone call with those prospects.
When it came time for the trade show, I never even stepped foot inside of the event. Instead, I would typically sit in the lobby bar or restaurant for most of the day, where I would meet with prospects. Even during periods of time that I wasn’t meeting with companies, I’d sit there because I knew that there was a good chance of spotting someone that I knew and could meet with.
The resources required to carry out this process were drastically less than would have been needed to actually exhibit at the trade show. For example, in Vegas my expenses looked like this:
3 Nights in Hotel: $300
Taxi/Transportation in Vegas: $100
Tax/Transportation in Chicago $100
20 Care Packages with Shipping: $500
Bar/Restaurant Tab: $200
After an event like this, I would typically walk away with six figures in annual recurring revenue. Not a bad ROI, is it? Much better than the $50,000 it would cost to exhibit.
The lesson here is that small businesses should get creative when looking for ways to make themselves known without the budget required to actually exhibit. Don’t let your lack of immediate resources distract you from your goal because you can still compete with the larger companies without spending all of the marketing dollars.
A number of my clients are small to medium sized businesses. One thing many of them tell me is that it’s challenging to compete with the big dogs such as Salesforce, Oracle, Amazon, and Google when it comes to hiring top sales talent. Not only do these large companies have strong reputations, but they also have the resources to pay large salaries and provide great benefits to their employees.
When my clients have a candidate that is also interviewing with one of these large corporations, I make sure they know that bigger isn’t better. Here’s what I recommend in order to compete with these types of companies: