Archive for March 2012
My own recent experience just made me realise, again, how important the personal brand of the sales person is to the customer and the buying relationship.
In this case, I was the customer who bought some advertising. The sales rep arrived in typical flush fashion, all high heels and big hair to signify her role in the media industry, and with lots to say about what would be best for me and my business. I listened, asked for advice, listened and asked for advice. This particular advertising medium was out of my frame of reference so I needed all the help I could get.
I placed the order, and in due course I had an email with my proof. I made a few little changes, assuming that what was delivered was right and appropriate given the detailed brief I gave, and also implementing the trust on my part that my request for advice was heeded.
Now I know that advertising can be hit and miss, so my expectations were pretty well-managed.
The first issue developed when the campaign started without me being advised of the date, so my back office systems were not quite ready yet. I complained, they apologised.
Off we went again, and 4 weeks into the 8 weeks campaign I had a call to see how it was going, and also to offer me some more advertising in a different medium. It wasn’t going great so I wasn’t going to buy any more advertising! But she did offer to make some changes to the current ad to hopefully improve the response rates. I emailed my new information, left messages and even emailed the rep to talk to her. I was ignored for over a week!
When she did eventually call, it was full of excuses about how her iPhone had let her down. Frankly, I didn’t want excuses. I was mortified that this sort of stuff still happens in modern-day sales! Especially when the solution she offered involved paying a lot more to keep the same ineffective ad running.
Eventually, I got to speak to the Sales Manager who was very quick to defend their business principles, but also pointed out that the ad was grossly inappropriate for the medium. I respected how well she defended both her team and her employer. But I was also surprised that, as the Sales Manager claimed to be a recruitment expert, and given my repeated requests for advice, I didn’t get to speak to her at all in the process? I felt even worse when she said another recruitment agency had taken the same package deal and had a fabulous response. Really? Why were they given different advice to me then, if we were obviously paying exactly the same price for exactly the same deal?
In the end, I am getting some of my money back. But the damage this has done to my perception of this organisation is huge. I will be very dubious to trust anything they say, ever again, regardless of the Sales Manager’s claim that they are an ethical business.
I believe that this is all down to communication within their business internally, and the lack of the Sales Rep’s ability to establish credibility after she had promised the earth but failed to deliver. As sales people, we operate hugely on a basis of trust with our clients. The client buys both the wider branding of the seller, and the personal brand of the sales rep. If the two brands do not line up, there is a real likelihood of a disgruntled result at the end. To the client, that person sitting in front of him making the promises represents the company and this is were buying decisions are made and later, regretted.
The true mettle of any sales person is tested when things go wrong. It is easy to manage affairs when it’s all hunky dory. However, a real professional sales person will put his own pride in his pocket to make sure the customer gets what he pays for. And this includes pro-actively ensuring that the customer gets the best pre-sales service as possible, to try and avoid mishaps in the first place.
Communication, at each step of the process, is vital to make sure the customer knows what the challenges are so he can make an objective decision, When things go wrong, emotions come into play and it is far harder to recover damaged relationships than to manage problems when they are still small.
But most of all, don’t ever make promises that you can’t keep. Forewarn the client of potential issues. And if you can see that they are making a mistake, compare the commission you may lose on the deal with the respect you will earn from being honest. The latter will get you referrals and probably even more business deals. Only going for the sale, at any cost, will end in tears in the long run.
Or have I missed something, somewhere, in this wonderful commercial world we live in?
Recently, Anthony commented on my blog post about job offers with his story:
“I recently had an interview with a company for a vacancy advertised, which occurred a couple of days after having fallen off a ladder and injuring my leg while doing a chore at home. I was succesful at interview and at the end of the interview I had shown them the swelling to my leg. The following day, the agency confirmed that the company I had the interview with was very impressed with my interview and offered me the job, which I verbally accepted over the phone. I received a letter from the agency confirming my start date and time with the company for the permanent position. Over the weekend before I was due to start my leg injury worsened so that I could not walk on my leg, and by Sunday night I was in pain all night. My wife took me to hospital early Monday morning. We finally managed to leave the hospital and be home by Midday, which meant I missed the start time of my new job for 9am. But my wife visited the company on her way to work and told them about my problem. They advised it should all be fine and okay to start in a weeks time, in accordance with the advice of the hospital to rest the leg for that minimum period of time. However, I discovered almost at the end of the week that the company had in fact filled the position with another candidate supplied by the agency and had withdrawn their offer to me. I was grossly unhappy at this decision, and the agency advised me that as I did not email or phone them on the Sunday or Monday whilst at hospital, the position was then given to someone else.”
My point of view
The problem here is communication.
When accepting the job offer verbally and agreeing a start date and time, Anthony had entered into a legally binding contract with the employer. This contract is equally binding to both parties. It is equally as important for the company to conform (By paying the agreed salary, offering the agreed terms, etc) as it is for Anthony to keep to his part of the deal (Arrive on the agreed start date and time, do the job as best he can, etc.)
Anthony’s injury made it impossible for him to deliver his end of the bargain, and this put his contract at risk. If he called the company BEFORE the agreed date and time to let them know of his problem, they would probably have been very amenable to postponing it. The agency should have been instrumental in this – After all, they facilitated the contract. However, if the agency didn’t know about his problem then they would of course assume that everything was fine, given the short time scales. Anthony’s failure in communicating his problem in time meant that he broke the contract by not arriving as contractually agreed. The fact that he sent his wife to sort it out later probably added insult to injury – The company employed Anthony, not his wife!
There also seems to be a lack of communication on the part of the agency, who obviously knew that the offer was being withdrawn without communicating this clearly to Anthony. As for the employer: they acted in good faith by making the offer because they had a business problem to solve, and they needed a person in the job. Regardless of the reason why, the fact that Anthony did not arrive on time and then also did not advise them BEFORE THE EVENT of his problem, would have tainted their view of him. They acted fully within their rights, as long as they withdrew the contract officially.
- An employment contract is equally binding on both parties. If you want the job, you have to honour your part of the deal
- The interview process really only finishes at the end of your probationary period. UK Employment Law favours the employer during the first year of your employment, or whatever probationary period is agreed in the contract. Until then, you are at risk of the contract being terminated through notice if you do not deliver what you agreed to deliver. Equally, you can terminate the contract by resigning if you do not feel satisfied with everything.
- If you are serious about working for a company, it is vital to establish a good and respectful relationship. Dealing with problematic situations is a good measure of a person’s ability to organise, control and manage themselves. If you create a wrong impression when something goes wrong, all the good things you did during the interview will be negated.
- Communicate all the time. Build a positive relationship with your Recruiter. They want you to do well and will help you when problems arise, but they can only help if they know what is going on. Likewise, if you have a long notice period, keep in touch to let them know everything is okay. Communication channels can never be too open!
- If things do go wrong, handle them yourself. Getting wives and family members involved is a sure fire way of losing respect with your prospective employer.
Recently, I was asked to contribute to a PR piece for the IRP. I hope my answers to these questions make for good advice!
1. What is the most common mistake job seekers make at the interview?
They oversell! Sometimes, people are so hyped up about the interview that they forget about being themselves. Being too nervous can demolish a person’s ability to present their best attributes. They don’t listen to questions properly, they assume they know what must be said and they often pitch their approach at entirely the wrong level, because they are too nervous to pick up the non-verbal signs the interview gives. Taking it easy, one step at a time, breathing evenly and taking charge of our nerves is the best interview advice I can possibly give anyone.
2. What is the most annoying mistake job seekers tend to make?
Making assumptions about the role, and not preparing properly. Often, candidates attend interviews without so much as reading the job spec or looking at the company website and it creates the wrong impression at interview. I spend a lot of time getting candidates prepared for interviews but I am still amazed at how many would, when asked what they know about the company or role, answer : “Not much.” There is no excuse for not preparing properly for an interview. Flying by the seat of your pants is a risky strategy that often backfires in the interview context, resulting in wasted opportunities.
3. How big a mistake does the job seeker have to make to put you off hiring them?
It depends on what the mistake is. Most candidates only get one opportunity at every job role, because they are competing with other candidates and it is a game of comparison. If a person is perfectly suited for the role the process sight be a bit more forgiving. But if they are in a heavily contested recruitment process, then getting it wrong can be lethal if everyone else gets it right because it can result in them being screened out.
4. Have you ever employed someone who made a pretty huge mistake in an interview – how did that turn out?
I once had a senior manager totally blank out during an interview because he was so nervous. He wanted the job so much and tried so hard, that he wore himself out. He called back the next day and we managed to get him another chance to interview because there were very few suitable candidates in the process. This time around, he was a lot more controlled, did an excellent interview and eventually accepted the offer. Five years later, he is still with the same company regardless of the wobbly start.
5. Do you give feedback to job seekers if they make a mistake?
I always try to give constructive feedback to allow the candidate an opportunity to learn from his experience. It is not easy to accept negative feedback and sometimes candidates can be quite defensive and even aggressive about it, but it is all meant to help them in the long run.
6. If someone makes a mistake at an interview, do you try and turn that around to try and get the best out of a candidate – how do you do that?
If it is an honest mistake resulting from a misunderstanding or a practical issue, like getting the time wrong for the interview or going to the wrong place, then I am always willing to reconsider, However, if it is something that could have been avoided, such as not preparing a task that was required for the interview, or being rude or disrespectful to the interviewers, then it is unlikely that they might get another chance.
7. How much attention do you pay to things such as body language?
The non-verbal elements of the interview are of overriding importance. An interview is a discussion and positive non-verbal communication is a key part of establishing a positive impression and a trust relationship. I like candidates who shake hands confidently, look me in the eye and display confidence in their own abilities before the interview even starts. The candidate’s demeanor, how they engage, whether they smile and sit upright or cowl and slump in the chair – These are all crucial to the hiring decision and can be the key to being successful or not.