The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

Archive for June 2011

Unusual aftermarket job: Customer Services Manager for a well known Parts Factor

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The parts world is continually changing, and customers now expect exceptional service and support, not just good prices and stock availability!

The Home Counties’ most successful parts factor is responding to this demand by recruiting a Customer Services Manager.

Reporting into the Sales Director but working closely with all head office departments and branch management teams. this position’s primary responsibility is to ensure high levels of customer service exist in all internal sales and distribution operations across all branches and to enhance existing methods of customer service measurement.

This role touches on all areas of their business, so the ideal candidate will be a seasoned automotive aftermarket professional with a real grasp of  how the industry operates. You will have the skill set necessary to actually run a successful parts factor branch, whilst at the same time have a strong sales profile to engage with customers and to provide sales training where necessary.

In return, the company offers a stable and supportive working environment, the opportunity to be part of  a dynamic and entrepreneurial management team, and real involvement with all aspects of their business in terms of change management and the facilitation of world class customer service standards.

For more information, please call Cathy Richardson on 0845 269 9085 for an informal discussion

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 20 – Task Based Presentations at Interview

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Often, my clients ask candidates to prepare a case study or task for presentation at second interview. And I have seen many a seasoned sales professional crumble under the pressure of rising to this relatively simple challenge!

My advice is always to keep things as simple as possible.

Remember that the interviewer or panel wants you to do well. They spent enough time with you at first interview to talk through your CV, so they are probably convinced by now that you have all the skills required to do the job. So second interviews are about going back over the presumptions they made at the first interview, to test their opinions and to make sure you can do what they thought you could. But if they didn’t at least like you, you would not have come this far!


This meeting is not really about whether you can create snazzy looking presentations: At face value, it might LOOK very good but remember, with any presentation, it’s what you SAY to support your slides that really makes the difference. A weak presentation that misses the point, even if its fully loaded with graphics and bells and whistles, is still a weak presentation.


If you are applying for a sales job, they will be looking for your commercial angle, how you approach the numbers or ideas they gave you and what recommendations you made based on this data. There is usually no right or wrong answer, as long as you give answers to the questions they pose at the end of the task and are able to explain how you came to those answers


If you had to analyse data, it makes sense to explain how you went about reaching your conclusions. This way, even if you process was flawed or if you didn’t quite get it right, you can display how you deal with problems and find creative solutions.


Of course, they also want to see how good you are at doing presentations so WHAT you say is equally important to HOW you say it! Know what you want to say and how you want to say it, explain when you want them to ask questions and what your objectives are. It is always wise to start with a clear goal and to revisit that at the end to package everything properly.


They already went through your CV when they met you the first time. The presentation provides grounds for new interview questions, and opportunities to talk about skills and abilities you did not cover the first time around. Think about what you want to show them of yourself during the presentation to reinforce what they already think.

BUT MOST OF ALL: Keep positive! This is your chance to convince them that you are the person for the job – Grab it!

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

Posted in Recruitment

Presenting a really exciting new Aftermarket opportunity: Take parts sales online!

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We are delighted to be working with the worlds largest online marketplace. They have created a powerful online presence for the sale of goods and services by a passionate community of individuals and small businesses, and now have a global presence.

In line with recent developments in the parts aftermarket, with several of the larger factors and distributors developing online parts sales strategies, they are now looking to maximise on this trend by developing a new vertical offering to market.

This will be focussed entirely on both the independent and dependent aftermarket channels, offering a platform for factors, distributors and sellers to utilise.

This exciting opportunity requires a sales professional with a real in-depth knowledge of the automotive aftermarket. You will understand the commercial drivers as well as the complex relationships that exisit in the aftermarket. You will also have a strong sales profile, with a real drive to develop fruitful and long standing client relationships. You will also be able to develop commercial proposals based on client needs.

In return, they offer an outstanding opportunity to diversify your skills away from the mainstream parts aftermarket whilst still maintaining a detailed relationship with the industry. There are also excellent benefits, career prospects and a world class working culture from which to benefit.

For more information, please make direct contact with Cathy Richardson on 0845 2659 9085 for an informal discussion.

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 24, 2011 at 8:29 am

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 19: Sample Questions to ask at Interview

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How frustrating when, at the end of interview, you get an opportunity to ask questions and you can’t think of anything! This happens to many candidates – Interviews are stressful situations, they can be emotionally draining and mentally challenging. So at the end of it, interview fatigue might set in and your normally sharp and inquisitive brain can freeze up when you are put on the spot.

This is an important moment in the interview, where you get to show serious interest and initiative. You can also gain critical information about the job, organisation, supervisor and colleagues by asking good questions, whilst also demonstrating your knowledge and research. Of course, don’t ask obvious questions!

Here are a few examples of things to ask – But remember, if the issue was already discussed don’t repeat the question! Take a few sample questions into the interview with you on a note pad to help you along.

  • What are the most important characteristics someone in this position should have?
  • What attracted you (The interviewer) to your current role or organisation?
  • What do you enjoy most in your job?
  • What do you expect from your staff?
  • What is your management style?
  • How would you characterise the management philosophy of the organisation?
  • What are the current strengths and weaknesses of the staff that would report to me?
  • How has the organisation changed in the recent past, and where does it expect to go in the future?
  • What is the top priority of the person that accepts this job? How would this be measured?
  • What opportunities are available for professional development?
  • Why are you hiring for this position?
  • What are the next steps in the selection process?
  • What is the timeline for hiring?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?

NEXT WEEK: Answering those tough interview questions

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 22, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Recruitment

Can sales people really be professional?

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Over the past few years, I have increasingly developed a resistance to the word “sales”.

 I know this seems a bit odd, given that I am a Specialist Sales Recruiter and for the past few years have made a living from this very vibrant industry.

 However, it irks me that the word has gained so many negative connotations and that there are so many paradigms associated with it.

As soon as you mention that you are involved in sales, the immediate assumption is always that old stereotype of the fast talking, money hungry salesman who will sell his own mother if it meant that there was a profit involved. And dare I say that TV shows like The Apprentice and Only Fools and Horses (Delboy being the quintessential stereotype!) don’t do much to improve that view.

The problem is that we have a very limited range of words in the English language to specifically describe exactly what KIND of sales we are involved in. In fact, it is the product and route to market that defines the HOW and WHY of the sales process involved to bring any product to market. This is what particularly defines the role of the sales person.

And there’s the rub: “Sales” can describe anything from the simple yet annoying door knocking tactics of the energy companies to the very complex process of commercially developing and delivering an aircraft turbine engine, and everything beyond that.

Clearly, a Door Knocker is going to have a different skill set and remuneration package to an Aircraft Turbine Sales Engineer. But because the Door Knocker is visible interrupting meal times and disturbing peaceful  evenings, that is where the paradigm sticks. Because not many people have to deal with buying or selling aircraft components so they lack the frame of reference to change their opinion.

Not that I have anything against Door Knockers – In fact, they perform a highly important commercial role in that they give us choice, and a convenient one at that, on our own front door step. Indeed, this is true for the entire sales profession: It’s about providing choice and solutions to customers, thereby generating profitable turnover. In turn, this keeps the wheels of the economy turning.

With the increasing departure of manufacturing to lower cost countries, the UK remains a highly desirable component of the world’s distribution network. A lot of manufacturing has now gone, but the need for services, equipment and distribution of consumables and products, whether technical or otherwise, has remained the same. This demands a particular commercial presence in-country to facilitate the commercial management of these relationships: Sales and the Supply Chain is still here and going as strongly as ever, regardless of the credit crunch or other factors. Because, in order to survive recessions and other economic challenges, companies have to continue selling what they have to offer in order to remain liquid and profitable.

So without sales people who make the all important first contact with potential buyers, and then facilitate the buying process to a successful conclusion, no organisation will continue to exist. Those that survived the recession, I’m confident to guess, would be the ones who had sound sales strategies in place and teams committed to deliver those strategies.

In my book, this makes sales a crucial and non-negotiable component in any business. And as customer expectations and buying patterns become increasingly sophisticated, the demand for highly qualified, talented and dynamic sales people will keep increasing. Because companies who want to be the best have to employ the best in order to achieve this objective.

The one thing that has remained consistent throughout is the definition of the successful sales person: Well educated, a specialist in his/her product field, he/she has a high degree of emotional intelligence and balances this with an equal measure of interpersonal ability and communication skills. They display exceptional listening and facilitation skills, a high degree of empathy and the ability to formulate solutions to problems very quickly and simply. They are financially competent and commercially aware, understanding the need for profitability whilst retaining trust and loyalty. They also possess a high degree of ethics, respect and stewardship. In some industries, all these skills sit alongside a high degree of technical or engineering ability, depending on the particular product or service on offer.

Not all sales people are professional – There are many who do not rise to the challenge, disappoint their clients and employers, become over-involved in competition and lose sight of their own true value. But those who do step up, take ownership and deliver for both their employer and clients enjoy success and achievement.

There might not be a recognized qualification in existence labeled “Professional Sales Person”. But then, since when did gaining a qualification actually define professionalism? Even in those professions where there are defined parameters (E.g Finance or Legal) gaining the qualification does not guarantee success nor professionalism in the true sense of the word.

I know a very large number of highly successful and well-respected people who have made it to the top of their sales career through hard work, integrity, objective decision making and service excellence. And if that isn’t professionalism, then I don’t know what is!

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Posted in Recruitment

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 18: Interview tips (Continued from last week)

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Continuing the interview tips offered by Toastmasters International, let’s talk about the personal elements of the interview so that you can channel those nerves and be your best. Make the interview experience work for you, and get that job!

Be Yourself

One of the most important interview techniques is to be authentic. Otherwise, you will be lost during the conversation trying to remember how you started out!

You want to be positive and enthusiastic, but your words must always sound natural. If you’re not being yourself, you won’t know if you’re the right fit. Remember, it’s just as important for you to decide whether you fit into the organisation as it is for the potential employer to decide. If either party feels uncomfortable with the real you and the real them, then it’s a good indicator to keep looking.

However, you always want to be your most professional self at all times. Turn off mobile phones and noisemakers, and stay focussed on the interview and interviewer.

But don’t be too formal. Try to get the balance right between being warm, friendly and open with being professional, detailed and focussed.

The money question

Never discuss salary during the interview. Rather wait until the time is right before talking about money, perhaps once you know an offer will be extended or that you have been successful. You have more influence when you know you are the candidate of choice. If the interviewer raises the question, answer it specifically but then try to redirect the conversation to other topics to avoid being caught up in a negotiation before you even have an offer. Not all interviewers are highly experienced – Talking about money too early can kill the process for both parties because ultimately, it is not only about the salary, a job offer is about an exchange of values.

NEXT WEEK: Sample questions to ask at the interview

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 15, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Recruitment

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 17: Tips for answering interview questions

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Following on from last week’s Toastmasters inspired blog; this is how they suggest interview questions are handled:

When it comes to interviewing, the key word is relevance. You always want to respond to questions in the most relevant way. Don’t tell your life story if the interviewer asks about your background. Instead, mention only those experiences, skills and other qualifications that would apply to the job or organisation.

Be sure to listen to the entire question before answering. Interrupting the interviewer with rehearsed chunks of information about yourself can be perceived as being rude and interruptive, and also reflect poor listening skills. Always ensure you take the time to fully listen and understand the question being asked, and do your best to answer it directly.

You also want to be concise and concrete in your replies. Share specifics about things you have done and relate those to how you can contribute to the organisation by noting similarities between your background and the job or company.

Never answer questions in a negative fashion, such as saying something bad about your current job, supervisor or organisation. If you don’t have experience in a specific area, don’t lie, be defensive or apologise. Remember you’re being interviewed, so you already have enough on your CV of what the employer wants. Instead, talk about how you’re a fast learner and give specific examples of how you developed a new skill or knowledge base quickly in the past, or offer ideas of how you would tackle the challenge.

Taking notes can help

Help yourself to focus on specifics during the interview through jotting down relevant discussion points, or preparing some beforehand. Notes can help you remember what was said when you evaluate the opportunity objectively later. It also provides specific information to incorporate in your thank you letter later. Just make sure you keep it brief and maintain eye contact throughout the interview.

Having a notepad with you can be very helpful during the interview. You can have your questions written down to help you remember them. You can also have a small list of the points you want to make about your background, your relevant skills, and other things you want to share. But don’t have your CV in front of you; you should know all that information without prompting.

More interview tips next week!

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 8, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Recruitment

Where have all the UK Automotive Aftermarket BDMs gone?

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We are currently recruiting for a number of regional sales positions across the UK.

Our customers are all well-respected, key OE brands supplying the independent automotive aftermarket. The traditional routes to market are followed, with business relationships through all the major buying groups (Parts Alliance, IFA, GA, CAARS and Rapid) as well as all the major distributors and range builders (FPS, ECP, Unipart, Firstline, ADL, etc).

All these roles offer some form of career advancement opportunity, whether  in the short term due to planned growth or in the medium term due to succession planning. The product ranges are diverse, ranging from exhausts and catalytic converters to spark plugs, engine electrical parts and steering / suspension components, all targting the passenger car industry.

I would be happy to speak to anyone working in a sales role in the aftermarket to find out if these roles will tick your boxes, and whether you have the skills and experience to fulfill my clients needs. Please call me on 0845 269 9085, or send your CV to so that we can have an informed conversation.

Or, if you are not actively job searching yourself, what about referring your friend? We offer £350-00 for quality referrals that result in placements – More information can be found in the candidate area of  our website at

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