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 March 2012

When is bad really bad in Sales? A disgruntled customer’s view.

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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?

Guide to Job Hunting – Common mistakes people make at interview

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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.

Written by Cathy Richardson

March 1, 2012 at 11:06 am

Posted in Recruitment

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