Below the Superficial Chatter Line


Our conversations with businesses and career seekers provide a fascinating perspective on the nagging topics that are bugging people or absorbing them. Taking the time to scratch below the superficial chatter line often reveals ‘gold dust’: insights that assists us enhance service offerings, make closer matching recommendations, re-think delivery models, research further, change pricing models, and so on.

For me, these revealing observations are often casually added as an afterthought in a conversation and provide a catalyst to drive innovation, education and redesign, on our part.  Which brings me to three observations that have cropped up recently.   One concerns a career area (sales) that is feeling very undernourished, another concerns the practise of hiring an old colleague, and the other is an age old perception that has no place in our fast world.

Sales:  We have been immersed in a research project regarding the changing face of sales careers since November 2015.  The aim is to sense check what’s still relevant regarding sales professionals and what thinking has become obsolete.  With the target sample of 150 interviews via Sales Managers/Sales Professionals nearing completion, a full overview will be available in coming weeks. By way of a sneak peek we can tell you that:

Undernourished:  64% Sales Managers are feeling ill-equipped when it comes to providing inspirational leadership for their teams.  Yes – running the numbers is second nature, email has become a key sale communication tool, concrete information is king.  But, when it comes to looking at the investment being made in their own personal development, a large gap is apparent.  Very little is happening.

The impact of this undernourishment reveals that a bland approach to motivation is in action, a conservative approach to locating talent is prevailing, safe talent is being recycled and sales teams are suffering from a lack of fresh thinking and innovation breakthroughs. The safe zone is very safe – too safe in fact.  If organisations are striving for quantum leaps, increased agility, bigger market share and competitive advantage, then look no further than investing in the holistic development of the Sales Manager to see what could be unleashed.

Hiring My Mate:  We have recently come across a number of incidents where a newly appointed Manager hires a previous colleague and while on the face of it there appears to be no problem, closer inspection shows another story and points to the issue of ‘robust hiring’.

One extreme case stands out:  The newly hired Sales Manager hired a new 2IC [his colleague from his previous role]. The 2IC, described as ‘an absolutely outstanding contract and proposal writer’ was let loose on responding to a contract renewal request for a long held $13m contract. Alarmingly, the contract renewal was firstly put at risk when the contract deadline was missed and the ‘cut-and-paste response’ was considered unacceptable by the customer.

‘Hiring My Mate’ makes for a very interesting conversation when discussing both the upside and potential pitfalls. In each of the situations we have been involved with this year the comment made was, ‘It just happened’.

‘I’ll read these CV’s on the weekend’:  High calibre individuals ARE [still] difficult to find. Just ask employers as to how long it is taking to fill a position and you will hear murmurs of ‘several months’ or ‘weeks and weeks’ in response.  Next, ask Candidates [aka your current or potential ‘customers’ in many instances!] how they feel about a prolonged hiring process and they will tell you straight,  ‘It’s not a good look. I lose interest.’

With today’s competitive talent market there is no excuse for poor preparation. The importance of  a) a sense of urgency  b) knowing exactly the skill set you are looking for c) knowing how to ‘sell’ your opportunity to high calibre people – are essential to the hiring process.

Recently we worked with an organisation that had been recruiting for several roles since November last year – yes, that’s 4 months that dragged by.  In short, because of the gaps and length of process, the team was under duress, the team leader became sick, the scope of the role changed twice, eleven candidates were wrapped up in the interview process and those who stood out did not wait around. ‘People gotta eat’, as they say.

The pace issue will continue to become amplified as the market continues to tighten and candidates [aka potential ‘customer’s] increasingly demand a respectful, seamless, hiring processes where they are kept informed and receive constructive feedback.  Miss on this and you’ll find they will politely move on to where they feel welcome.


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