Category: Company Culture

Company Culture

Just Landed The Interview? Here’s 8 Easy Ways To Ask About Company Culture

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“So, potential future employer: Would you say you’re a good or bad company to work for?” 

Eleven times out of ten, that question’s not going to lead to a transparent answer. But that’s not because interviewers are trying to lie to you. Their job is to recruit top talent, and they’re going to do their hardest to put their organization in the best light possible. 

It’s just a bad question. 

Let’s start over: congratulations on landing the job interview! It’s not an accomplishment that folks get to experience every day, and it should encourage you that you’re on the right track. Employers like what they see. 

Now, assuming you’ve done at least a bit of research, it’s likely that on some level this is a company you think would be a good fit—and you want to work for them. Great. You’ve read reviews online from past or current employees, you’ve maybe even talked to an internal reference or two who’s given you an honest look. But now, you’re about to have a one-on-one conversation with someone you’d be working with on a day-to-day basis. That means that this is the best chance you’ll get to get a picture of what your work life will be. 

But it’s all a matter of asking the right questions. As we hopefully exemplified up top, asking “How’s your culture” isn’t going to get you far. That, in large part, is because culture—and good culture at that—means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  So with that in mind, here are eight field-tested questions that can help you actually get to the bottom of what a company’s culture is like—and if it’s the right fit for you: 

“How Do You Generally Measure Employee Success?”

For starters, part of what makes this a great question is that it isn’t loaded. By asking it, you’re demonstrating to a potential manager that you’re interested in succeeding. But more importantly, their answer will reveal to you what kind of an organization they are. For some, success is simply results driven. For others, it can be more about collaboration. Maybe some organizations are run impeccably: straightforward KPIs, measurable goals, and even ways to improve for underachievers.  Some organizations won’t have any metric in place to measure success. And that’s the kind of red flag you want to know about early on. 

“Do Most People Here Work on a Flexible Schedule?”

As we talk about on here quite a bit, a flexible work schedule is a perk worth its weight in gold. And while it may not necessarily be important to you, it says a lot about the company you could end up working for. 

A flexible work schedule tells you that an employer isn’t concerned with folks simply punching a clock—instead, it’s about getting the work done while still allowing for a plurality of lifestyles.  If a company doesn’t have flexible hours, maybe there’s a reason. Maybe it simply doesn’t make sense for employees to be working from home—like, for example, at a zoo. But if they could, and they’re not allowed to, that can speak volumes. 

“What Do Most People On This Team Do For Lunch?”

No, you’re not asking because you’re hungry. Beneath this seemingly superficial question lies a whole world of information: do employees get the opportunity to break for lunch, or is it round-the-clock, eat-at-your-desk-alone type work? Does your manager like to mingle with the team? Do they have a great onsite cafeteria?  Okay, you’re a little hungry now. 

“What Was One Of The Major Challenges The Team Faced Last Year?”

Few things are more telling than a way a team—and a company, more broadly—handles a setback. Whether it’s circumstances under their control or not, you want to know if your boss is going to have your back, or just want to feed you to the wolves. 

“Are Most Of The People Who Work Here From The Area?”

Again, this is a really non-invasive way to field what kind of talent the company attracts. Is it all local folks, with a limited diversity of views and backgrounds? Are they attracting top talent from all over the country?  And beyond that, if you are thinking of relocating for work, you want to know if the city you’re going to transition to is a place where people settle in easily. 

“Are There Opportunities For Local Volunteering?”

Maybe you’ve never volunteered a day in your life. That doesn’t matter here. What you’re really digging into is if people have balance in their weekly schedule? It doesn’t have to be as robust as Google’s policy of dedicating 20% of your time to passion projects, but it’s good to get a read on if everyone’s life simply revolves around work.  Even—silly as it may seem—when they’re at work.

“How Long Have You Been With The Company/Team?”

While this question can certainly start a great, casual conversation that humanizes your interviewer, the answer can also be very telling about your own future prospects with the organization. Have they been there for 20 years and couldn’t picture anything else? Did they just get here and have some of the same hesitations you do?  Don’t let all the focus just be on your resume. Theirs can be very telling, too. 

“What Opportunities Are There For Continued Education?”

Whether it’s with an outside university or community college, or it’s just a matter of monthly seminars around the office, it’s always worth investigating what a company is investing in their employees You don’t want to take a job simply because it meets your needs right now.

You want to know that they’re as invested in your future as you are. You want a career, and the only way you’re going to get there is through growth. With so many great opportunities for continued learning, you don’t want to be in the dark about what paths for growth may (or may not) be available to you once you start work.   

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Company Culture

How To Break Into Sales: What Hiring Managers Want & Need

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How To Break Into Sales: What Hiring Managers Want & Need: Sell me this pen.  Just kidding, there’s no pen. This is the internet. 

So you’re looking to transition into sales: maybe you just graduated and are hoping to land that first gig—or maybe you’ve been stuck in an endless cycle of don’t-exactly-get-you-out-of-bed-in-the-morning jobs, and you’re ready to find a career that really excites you.  Or maybe you just want to make more money. That’s okay, too. 

Sales expert Grant Cardone put it pretty plainly when he wrote for Entrepreneur, “I am a salesman because I had to be, not because I wanted to be. Truth be told I hated sales when I got into it.” But instead of dragging his feet, Cardone decided sales would be something he’d be great at. In his words, when he “made a commitment to being great at sales, well, everything changed.”

You’re taking the first step right now: you’re asking questions, and trying to figure out if sales is right for you. Having worked with sales professionals across the spectrum, and at all levels, we’ve certainly gotten a birds-eye view of what it means to be a successful salesperson—both from the manager’s perspective, and the employee’s.

Take some of the below advice to heart, learn how to make it work for you, and then get ready to jump in the water. 

It’s Okay To Start From Scratch

A lot of times, it can be easy to feel impatient—you just want to be at the top now. And that’s okay—in fact, it’s a pretty human urge, and a great indication that you’re driven. But there’s also nothing wrong with learning and growing—even, and sometimes especially, if you’re moving over from another specialty.  Now the Director of Business Development for Performance Horizion Group, Cynthia Schames began her career much lower down the chain of command. “My first sales-related job was actually as the inside sales rep supporting an outside salesperson,” she recalled for The Muse. 

And she didn’t go to business school, either. She had a BA in communications. Her advice for folks who are looking for a way to transition in that don’t have the “proper” experience? “If you’re in this situation, don’t forget to highlight your extracurriculars. Even if it’s kind of nerdy, things like Debate Club can prepare you well for a job in sales.”

Chart Your Goals

As we mentioned above, there are plenty of different reasons to go into sales, but “Uh, I don’t know,” isn’t one of them.  No matter who you’re talking to—from informational interview to formal job meetings—the question is going to come up. And if you don’t know why you’re trying to get into sales, no one will—and down the line, your customers won’t want to buy from you.  Chart out some goals for yourself: do you want to travel more? Do you want to meet new people, or explore a new industry? Goals are equally important within the role itself (e.g. X sales for the 3rd quarter) as they are outside of it. Get in the habit of goal-forming now, and prospective managers will quickly realize that you’re a driven individual with a penchant for high performance. 

Make a Meal Out of It

Speaking of talking to folks, take time to get to know people in the industry. There are myriad ways to reach out to salespeople—from LinkedIn, to Facebook, even reaching out to friends and family members who can introduce you to someone.

Sales is a deeply interpersonal career. If you aren’t great at talking to new people, networking, and creating relationships, you’re going to struggle to get off the ground in any new sales role. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to quit before you’ve even started! Flex that muscle, get outside of your comfort zone, and offer to buy someone lunch. You’ll be amazed not only at how easy it can be to connect with new people, but also how much help folks are willing to offer when you just ask. 

Learn To Be a Team Player

Contrary to what most movies or shows about sales people project, a career in sales is not about being a lone wolf. It’s about knowing how to collaborate, encourage, and thrive together as a team. 

When you’re sitting down for an interview for your first sales job, managers aren’t going to expect that you have proven sales experience—that’s what the first job is for. But what they are going to be looking for is proof that a) you have the instincts to grow and learn, and b) that you know how to work within a team. 

Managers are going to be reliant on every member of their team to hit their goals—so the more that you’re willing to help out, and lend your time to assisting other goals, the more a manager is going to want to invest in you. 

Don’t Forget About Culture

It’s important that you’re a good fit—for you and your boss. Research the companies you’re applying to, don’t just take the first place that offers you “sales experience.” 

So how exactly do you figure out what a company’s culture is like? Pro tip: don’t believe it unless it’s in writing. People may have lofty aspirations for what they want their organization to look like, but as Fast Company’s Tracy Brower sagely teaches us, the best way to get to know an organization’s culture is through its policies and practices: “It’s essential to pay attention to formal policies as well as informal ones, which may be the result of a particular leader’s bent. …  Make sure that you’re comfortable with the written policies in place and that they’re robust enough to support your work-life priorities even in the case of a leadership shuffle.” 

Go For It

All right, now it’s your turn. Make the leap. Whether it’s a matter of making a few cold calls to current sales reps, sending a cold email, or reaching out over LinkedIn. Commit yourself, take that first step, and see where the path that you’re on leads you. You’re going to do great!

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Company Culture

10 Business Books Every Sales Person Should Read

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Look, let’s not kid ourselves here. The last time you read ten books was probably over the entire span of your college career—and even then, were you really doing the reading? 

Ten books sounds like an intimidating number, but what we’ve tried to do here isn’t about creating summer reading work for an already busy audience. Instead, we’ve put together a list of ten business books that—no matter where you start on this list—can be helpful to sales reps and leaders across any number of industries. 

Take a look at the list below, read a little bit of what we have to say about each, and then pick the one that most catches your attention. You’ll be amazed at what a little quality time with good business books can do for you and your team. 

 

SPIN Selling – Neil Rackham

As a technique, SPIN selling has become nearly canon in the sales world—it’s something you’ve undoubtedly heard of whether you know it by name or not. The method, which Rackham himself fathered, calls into action a sequence of questions: first the Situation, then the Problem, the Implication, and finally the Need-payoff. 

What makes this book so special isn’t simply that it gives you a road map to an extremely viable way of selling, but that it also helps you to own your process. Neil takes the time to go through every stage of what a sales person will face—and if you can manage to take some smart notes, you’ll be ready for nearly any curveball a client throws your way. 

Secrets of Closing the Sale – Zig Ziglar

The late Zig Ziglar is certainly not an unfamiliar character in the world of sales himself. He made a career not only as an author, but traveling the world inspiring millions of people across a multitude of professions. And that’s what makes his writing so special. 

Ziglar believed that everyone had something to sell—and a way to sell it. This massive four-hundred-plus page book gives you more than just a few simple ideas: he gives you actionable ways that you can fight past objections and get to the real close. 

New Sales Simplified – Mike Weinberg

Oftentimes here on the blog we’ll talk about what happens when salespeople get stuck in a rut—a low cycle where they don’t feel like they’re making much progress. This is often a time where employee engagement is at its lowest. 

One of the most effective ways to combat low sales numbers is by focusing on your pipeline—generating new sales, rather than simply relying on renewals. And that’s exactly what Weinberg gets into in this book. 

With a full pipeline, you take the guesswork out of your quarterly performance. By doing the due-diligence ahead of time, you’ll reap the rewards for months down the road. 

The Challenger Sale – Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon

This book has absolutely stormed the sales world in the nearly decade since it was published. It’s been so effective because it takes a look at one thing no good sales rep or manager can ignore: the hard data. 

When you look at top performers across the industry, what are the common denominators? Is there something that really sets them apart from the rest, or are they just a mix of right people, right place, and right time? 

Those are the sort of questions that Dixon and Adamson were willing to really dig into—and what they found is that top-performers all share the same quality: they’re challengers.

The Sales Acceleration Formula – Mark Roberge

Speaking of data, Mark Roberge has taken a look at the numbers, and developed a formula that every manager (or aspiring manager) should be thinking about: how to build the best sales team you can. 

We firmly believe that when you build a better team, everyone benefits. It gives your employees a roadmap that allows them to see what their best can and should look like, helping them to get better in touch with their own goals—ultimately pushing their performance to the next level. 

Business Adventures – John Brooks

When a young up-and-comer named Bill Gates refers to it as “the best business book I’ve ever read,” it’s safe to assume that it’s probably worth reading for yourself, too. 

Veteran New Yorker writer John Brooks tackles twelve engaging stories from across Wall Street and beyond that will fuel your imagination of what you can accomplish in sales. Sometimes, especially for newer sales reps, half the challenge is not knowing what’s out there. Consider this your crash course. 

Sales Development Playbook – Trish Bertuzzi

The world of sales, and especially the way we build teams—whether they’re in our physical office or an increasingly popular group of remote employees—is changing at a break-neck speed. It can be hard to keep up with the changes, especially as we seek to create repeatable paths for success. 

In this book Trish outlines a real path for development that gets into the nitty-gritty. It’s real world advice packaged in a totally palatable, hard-to-put-down package. 

Your Sales Management Guru’s Guide to Leading High-Performance Sales Teams – Ken Thoreson

Aside from being an industry leader in wordy titles, Ken focuses on the idea of building a high-performance sales culture. Whether you’re in leadership or this is your first week of inside sales, everyone should be on board with nature of a high-performance culture. And ideally, everyone should be on board with helping to build that culture. 

You’ll find that we talk often about creating a culture that celebrates healthy sales competition. High performance sales cultures, that produce high-performing employees, benefit immensely from this competition, as it gives everyone a chance to challenge each other as well as their perception of what’s truly possible. 

Agile Selling – Jill Konrath

As we’ve said before, making the transition from one sales role to another (or starting from scratch) can be a totally foreign leap—and one that doesn’t feel so easy to make. But with Jill Konrath’s ever-popular and helpful guide, you’ll find that transition is something you should welcome. And what’s more, it’s something that you can thrive in. 

Whether you’re going from an individual contributor role to a manager’s seat, or you’re simply looking to break in to a new industry, Jill’s absolutely got you covered. 

From Impossible to Inevitable: How SaaS and Other Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue (2nd Edition) – Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin

SaaS companies have been able to create rapid growth from basically nothing. But how did they do it? In this recently revised book from Aaron ross and Jason Lemkin, they explore how you can double, triple or even 10x your sales efforts through a template to success. 

If you’re new at sales management and looking to build a team, or want to find a way to make a greater impact at your organization, this read is for you!

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Communication Company Culture

Ditch Your Email: 5 Reasons Every Office Should Prioritize Visual Communication

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Pop quiz: without looking, how many emails have you received today? Can you even begin to guess? Now, we’re not trying to pick on innocent old Email—but it’s a fact of our business lives that we receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails every day.  From marketing messages to fantasy sports alerts to calendar invites, there’s no stopping the deluge of communication that flows through our inbox twenty-four hours a day.

So should we really be relying on email for all of our inter-office communication? You can see where this is going: no. Here at Hoopla, we’re digital signage junkies. We’ve spent years working with businesses and sales organizations of all shapes and sizes, honing our digital communication platform to be an industry standard-bearer.

And it’s not just about our product. We simply believe that visual communication is a deeply effective (and cost effective) way to transform your office culture and bring the best out of your employees. Here are a few reasons why:

We’re Visual Creatures in a Visual World

Think about just how much of our society has transitioned away from text and toward visual stimuli. The dominance of Instagram alone should tell you something about how we prioritize visual communication.

But beyond that, look at the way that advertisers have evolved.  Ever see an ad from a hundred years ago?  Today, it’s huge images and a handful of words—or better yet, it’s videos, and no text at all.

That’s in part because nearly two-thirds of the population are visual learners. That means that while we can certainly retain information in other ways, the most effective way to receive communication for most of us comes in the form of charts, pictures, infographics, and the like.

So how can you expect your employees to be ingesting huge volumes of text and retain that information when virtually no major advertiser expects the same? If your employees are your target audience, maybe it’s time to start thinking like a marketer when you communicate.

With a visual communication platform, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Rather than letting another email go unread in your employees’ inboxes or get lost in the cloud, you’re sending out quick and effective communication that gets to the point, and helps the point to sink in.

It Empowers Remote Workers

Beyond the benefits simply inside your own office, digital signage is a great way to communicate with your remote workers that can make them feel more included and part of the team.

Think about the simple difference between a phone call and a video chat. In one instance, you’re probably half tuned in, browsing your favorite [insert literally anything except your actual work here], or just joking around with a coworker who’s in the next cube over. But when you can see each other, and even make digital eye contact, there’s an elevated level of focus and attention that can give your remote employees the sense that they’re really with you.

Visual communication platforms have a similar effect. When you’re broadcasting the same message to remote employees that you are in the office—and they know it—there can be an immediate sense of pride and inclusion. Imagine seeing your big win posted for the whole office to admire!

Now that person’s not just another anonymous remote employee, they’re an integral part of the team.

It Engages Employees

While it may seem obvious, we often miss the connection between our daily communication and how it affects employee engagement. It’s sort of like when you’re talking to someone, and they’re responding, but you know that they aren’t really listening.

If we don’t think creatively about how we communicate with our employees, some of the traditional methods can become rote—and in the process, folks become disengaged. And when they lose touch with their coworkers and bosses, they begin to disengage with the work itself. Visual communication like digital signage, leaderboards, and even simple messages of recognition are the perfect way to get your employees out of that communication rut.

One key way that this manifests itself is in the concept of sales gamification. Rather than simply sending someone a report of their performance, weekly numbers, or even their quarterly goals, visual communication can turn a sales office into a healthily-competitive environment.

Your reps will be able to visualize not only their own numbers, but also how they compare to their coworkers. With a leaderboard, they’ll be able to see themselves moving up or down on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Suddenly, they aren’t just seeing numbers—they’re engaging with them.

It Aligns Everyone To Their Goals

And moreover, that gamification concept then bleeds over into giving your employees a broader sense of purpose in their role.

Ever play a new board game? You have that one eager friend who’s desperately trying to explain the rules to you, but no matter how much they say, there are just certain things that don’t click? For sales reps, a lot of their initial onboarding can feel the same way. You have to see the game in action—sometimes you even have to see someone else win—before you can fully grasp it.

When your employees engage with the work, and in turn better understand their roles, then they can more closely align themselves with personal goals—as well as, more broadly, the goals you have as an organization.

And when you and your employees are all aligned on the same goal, there’s no stopping you.

It Drives Performance

But, ultimately, what this comes down to is improved performance—both for the individual, and the company as a whole.

What we all dream of as managers is a room chock full of top-performers. So much of what we do in sales is driven by looking out for number one. But when we do that, we miss the opportunity to elevate the whole group. With visual communication, you’re simply reaching a broader audience with a focused message.  And that message is: our best quarters are yet to come.

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Company Culture

What The NBA Draft Can Teach Us About Building A Better Sales Organization

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So your team had another tough season, huh? You didn’t post the numbers you were hoping for, you didn’t achieve some of the goals you had targeted, and you’re starting to get the feeling your fanbase—er, the people to whom you are fiscally responsible—are starting to get a little annoyed.

What if one night could change all of that? That seems to be the promise of the NBA draft, year in and year out. It’s the capstone to the season—a chance for teams and their fans to head into the summer with some hope of a change for next year. But inevitably more teams leave disappointed than excited.

Whether you’re a fan who’s worried about your franchise, or a GM who knows she needs to make some serious moves this offseason, here are four real lessons you can take away from the NBA draft as you try to build a better sales organization and turn your business into the dynasty you know it can be.

Changing Your Office Culture Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Have you been starting to get the feeling that the culture in your office is that of a losing organization? Do you feel like folks don’t have the right sense of drive or engagement? Are your salespeople just plain old not winning? The first step is identifying the problem.

For NBA teams, it’s easy to let the years dictate your reputation. Constant attention from the press, endless analysis and stat breakdowns, all coupled with personalities of your players leads to one kind of culture or another: the winners and the losers.

Fans often make the mistake of thinking that Draft Night is a golden ticket: if things go well, everything’s going to turn around. But that’s simply not true.

Let’s start with this author’s favorite team: The New York Knicks. The last few years have not delivered very stellar records for the Knickerbockers—which subsequently has left them with a top-ten draft pick several times. And yet, none of those draft nights has been the singular reason they’ve turned themselves into a Championship team.

In fact, they aren’t a championship team. Struggle has simply begotten more struggle.

For the Knicks, every fan has a theory why they aren’t able to turn their culture around—but none would say it’s just about good or bad luck on draft night. Our last great draft pick was Patrick Ewing in 1985. To fix an organization’s culture, you have to start from the top down: it’s about coupling great leadership with smart personnel decisions. And if management isn’t making the right calls, you’ve got to know when it’s time to show them the door.  

One Great Talent Won’t Solve All Your Problems

Now, let’s take this analogy out west to sunny Los Angeles and a young up-and-comer named Lebron James.

This isn’t about knocking Lebron’s talent. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game, as a matter of fact. But you wouldn’t be alone in believing that talent so great could go to any team he wants and immediately turn that organization into a championship contender. That’s certainly what Lakers fans thought.

But the truth is you can’t put the burden of your organization’s future on one great hire. This season, Lebron absolutely had his moments of greatness. But he also had some unexpected injuries. That total dependence on his superstar abilities left Los Angeles without a spot in the playoffs—something that could have been expected if you looked at the rest of his team’s performance.

If you’re waiting for that silver-bullet sales person, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Rather than hoping that free agent comes along to rescue you, start to develop smart hiring practices that create a culture of winning. Find folks at every talent level who are willing to do the hard work, develop their skills, and work toward the shared goals of your organization.

People Want To Work Where They Can Win

The other half of draft season is all the time spent speculating what free agents around the league are going to do once draft picks are set and the top talent gets distributed. Whatever the speculation may be, it always comes down to this: top-tier free agents want to go to teams where they can be winners.

While draft picks often go to low performing teams, and those talented young players have no say in the matter, free agents never intentionally sign up for a bad organization. Plain and simple, you’re not going to see Kevin Durant go sign a big contract with the Phoenix Suns this year.

Sales people are the same way. If they know that they’re not going to be set up for success at your organization, it doesn’t really matter what your benefits package looks like—because it’s not going to help them grow and achieve their maximum goals.

Instead, you need to develop policies and an environment where every single sales person can challenge themselves, lift each other up, and shatter their old records.

Competition & Incentives Work

In the NBA, the system of incentives is pretty cut and dry: if you play well, and help get your team to a championship, you’re going to be able to turn around and sign a better contract down the road—whether it’s with that team or someone else. It’s about winning.

Without that prospect of a championship, the NBA would be extremely boring—and most players would probably just take their paychecks and go home. We wouldn’t see the sort of greatness that gets exerted in these late springs and early summer months, when teams are vying for the chance at greatness.

Don’t deny your salespeople that same opportunity. Whether you’re giving them a leaderboard to compete on, or you’re offering a great vacation package to the top performer, it’s profoundly important to give your salespeople incentives and opportunities to compete that allow them to see beyond just punching the clock every day.

When faced with the opportunity, you never know where greatness might shine through.  

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Company Culture

Why Public Employee Recognition Is Crucial For Your Business

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How much is an Oscar worth to you? For the average movie-goer, it probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. You might like watching the Academy Awards every spring, you may have a favorite actress that you’re always rooting for, or a film that you feel especially deserves the recognition. But after the big night comes and goes, for you, it all gets little more than a conversation around the water cooler.

So why is it then that studios spend an average of $20-30 million on their Oscars advertising campaigns alone? Startling.  And telling.

Awards are a big deal—for both the recipient, and the audience. Because it’s not just about acknowledging that one film or actor might have been better than another. It means more people are going to watch it, remember it, and even simply regard it in the canon of greats.

Talking about giving one group of people—the Academy—some pretty serious power.

Well, guess what? As an employer or manager, you have that same power within your office. But the best part is that it doesn’t have to be once a year, there doesn’t have to be just one winner.

And you definitely don’t have to spend $30 million—or any money for that matter.

Public recognition is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to make your employees feel like they’re walking their own red carpet.

And the benefits extend far beyond a simple ego-boost. Here are just a few of the ways public recognition is something you simply can’t afford not to do:

Engaging Your Employees

According to Harvard Business Review’s David Sturt, when a new manager recognizes the efforts of employees who’ve never been recognized by previous managers, engagement can rise by as much as thirty-one percent.

That should give you great pause.

Huge swaths of our workforce report low employee-engagement numbers. Low engagement leads to lowered effort, higher turnover, and—generally speaking—a poor office culture. And here you have the hard evidence that simply recognizing employees can turn all of that around.

And that’s why making that recognition public is even more important: your employees are already aware of the deficit.

By taking the time to put your employees’ accomplishments out on a public platform like a sales leaderboard, you’re communicating a message to your entire office—that you see them, that you value them, and that you’re working on developing a culture that rewards dedicated work.

Aligning Purpose With Goals

In a brilliant writeup for HR NEWS magazine, Craig Southern explains how things like rewards and public recognition are one of the most cost-effective ways for an organization to keep its employees loyal to their job and the business itself. He goes as far as to say that “use of employee rewards and recognition as performance motivators must … be considered as part of any organization’s competitive advantage strategy.”

In other words, if you’re not recognizing your employees’ hard work, then you probably aren’t operating at your most competitive—and you’re certainly not setting your employees up for optimal success.

When you take the time to call out your employees’ best work in front of their peers, you’re communicating what in fact you consider to be the “best work.” As any manager knows, a hard-working employee is not always the top-performing employee, because often times we can get caught up on the wrong tasks—ultimately keeping us from staying focused on the larger goals of our organization.

Through the simple power of public recognition, you’re able to connect the dots for your entire office between your organization’s goals and how each employee’s work fits into them.

Staying On Message

Southern goes on to explain that for any business to be operating at its most competitive—from both an output and hiring standpoint—they must always be “striving to deliver on the expectation of the mission of the organization.”  And that means that the public recognition you choose to go with for your employees, “no matter the perception of how large or how small, must always be tied to an organization’s mission.”

We don’t always like to admit it, but the truth is that not all of our employees are always on the same page with the greater mission of their employers. So it’s important that when you do recognize employees, you’re not just shooting from the hip.

Take the time to really analyze an employee’s behavior, make sure that it’s tied to your overall success strategy, and then use that opportunity to shape your messaging across the organization.

Public recognition presents you with the opportunity not only to reward good behavior, but influence the behavior of everyone else.

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

It’s not hard to connect the idea of recognition with employee satisfaction. But if you had any doubt, the proof is certainly in the pudding: According to the folks at SHRM, “68 percent of HR professionals agreed that employee recognition has a positive impact on retention and 56 percent said such programs also help with recruitment.”

They go on to point out that, “Organizations consistently recognized as “great places to work” are typically those that frequently recognize, validate and value outstanding work—not only by telling employees they are doing an excellent job but also by giving them cash rewards or noncash incentives.”

Employees want to be where they’re valued. Even for the highest achievers, it isn’t simply about punching the clock and seeing that direct deposit come in. It’s in our nature to want to be seen and valued.

So whether you’re a little fish or the number one landing spot for top-talent, showing your employees why they matter is paramount to keeping them on the team.

Incentivizing Better Performance

But let’s not lose sight of why public recognition is so crucial for any organization: it leads to better performance.  Not only does it create a sense of healthy competition among employees, but it gives them a reason to strive for better.

Public recognition sets a benchmark against which all of your employees can grow and achieve. When they know the stakes, and they can feel that achieving new levels of success is possible, there’s no stopping even your lowest performers from seeing new heights.

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Company Culture

Here’s How To Fix Bad Company Culture and Transform Your Office

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Work gets a bad rap. Can you think of a single movie or TV show that’s set in an office where people absolutely love what they’re doing? If you can, keep it to yourself. We’re trying to make a point here. One persistent problem is that a lot of organizations out there aren’t doing the work to make their offices more than just a place to… work.

If you’ve gotten the sense that everybody in your office dreads Monday mornings and lives for Friday afternoons, you may have what we call bad company culture. And the truth is, it’s bad for business.

Why Good Culture Matters

Aside from the fact that bad corporate culture often leads to high turnover and lowered performance, good company culture is the tide that helps every ship rise. It empowers employees to perform at their best.

In fact, as Irlana Ho points out, one Harvard professor’s study shows us that “companies with ‘remarkable’ cultures performed 20% to 30% better” than other organizations.

If you don’t feel that your corporate culture is exactly “remarkable,” here’s the good news: you can fix bad company culture. In our experience implementing employee engagement software across all sorts of different industries, here’s what we’ve found makes that possible:

It Starts at the Top

Believe it or not, the blame for bad company culture doesn’t fall on all employees equally. When you look at toxic organizations or institutions—and similarly at great, inspiring ones—what you’ll always find is that behavior is learned from the top down.

Writing for Forbes, Nadidah Coveney has some invaluable questions to be asking of your leadership team: “Do your senior leaders lead by example? Do they expect employees to do things they, themselves, would not do? Are they leading with heart? Do they have the ability to plan, persuade and solve problems? Do they motivate or demotivate their teams?”

To start to fix bad company culture, hold your leadership accountable before anyone else. You’ll be amazed what a good example can do for everyone’s behavior.

Self-Assess

Let’s get real for a second: who among us is willing to volunteer the idea that our company or team is “toxic?” More likely than not, if your employees are underperforming, or just aren’t engaged with their work, you’ve got at least one or two blind-spots.

Are you really doing the most that you can to promote a healthy culture? Do you even concretely understand what a healthy, strong corporate culture looks like?

It’s OK to not be able to answer those questions. Where the real breakthrough starts is when you simply ask what good looks like:

What Healthy Culture Looks like

Leadership expert Christine Comaford presents us with the idea that a healthy culture revolves around four key indicators: growth, appreciation, measurement, and engagement—what she calls a “GAME plan.” Do you think your team can say they’re getting each of those things?

Comaford explains that “A GAME plan is essential to provide the most fulfilling work experience, which will yield the happiest and most committed, productive, loyal, long-term, constantly evolving team members.” Sounds like a no-brainer then, right?

But let’s beat out what each aspect of the GAME plan really looks like: We all understand growth on some level—are you better today than the day you walked in? But in the world of business, “growth” can feel somewhat nebulous. Often times, growth happens without us really knowing it. But that’s passive growth. What we’re talking about here is the opportunity to expand knowledge, skill and ultimately performance.

A culture of growth happens when you present your employees with the opportunity to actively learn and grow: do you offer classes? Are you providing opportunities for mentorship? Seminars on different subjects? Hey, even sending out weekly sales-related blog posts can’t hurt.

Appreciation is a lot more immediately tangible. The more cynical among us might as, “Isn’t a paycheck enough thanks for a job well done?” The short, gracious answer to that is simply: no. It’s not.

All of us, as humans, want more from life than simple idling. We want to feel like we have purpose, and that we have relationships. Given that we spend most of our lives at our jobs, appreciation—otherwise known as recognition—is a really easy way to make your employees feel like they have purpose, and that they’re seen and known. Take some time to call out employees for performing well this week. Encourage everyone—not just the top performers—and you’ll be amazed at the kind of positive energy that will reverberate.

And while measurement may sound cold and not-very-culture-y, measurement is a great way to help your employees wrap their minds around their own work, and recognize their own potential. Here on the blog we talk a lot about how measurement can take the form of KPIs—key performance indicators.

Are you giving your employees concrete ways to measure their performance against key metrics? Are they able to see week-in and week-out how they’re performing against your expectations? Or are they simply sitting in fear for six-month stretches, waiting for a performance review where you decide how they’re doing on a whim?

The distinction should be pretty clear. Finally, there’s engagement. Most simply put, engaged employees care about their job and the organization they work for. Do you have a clear mission statement? Is the work that your employees are doing reflective of those values? Are your employees actively working to lift up those values? Or are they just punching a timeclock.

For engaged employees, work is much more than salary or a timecard. If your employees aren’t doing more than the minimum, you probably have an engagement problem.

And at the end of the day, that’s what all of this is about. If you and your team are all just barely scraping by, then you’re missing out on so many of the joys that a great office can bring.

There’s a deeper sense of purpose, of belonging, and of success that’s waiting around the corner for any organization that’s willing to do the work of creating healthy office culture. The question is: how bad do you want it?

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Company Culture

3 Proven Tips When Changing Roles From Sales Rep To Sales Manager

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Salespeople are usually bad managers. It’s just the truth.

According to Peake Sales Recruiting, over 75% of sales reps who are promoted to sales manager will fail out of the role within two years. In other words, only 25% of sales reps can last more than 24 months as a manager.

So what gives? Sure, there are myriad factors that contribute to the collective failure of sales reps who become managers. But one that stands out for us is the fact that most sales reps tend to think of the promotion to manager as if it wasn’t a real job change.

Being a manager is just like being a rep, only more. Right?

Hardly. Management is worlds away from the life of an individual contributor. Not only are you now responsible for your own numbers, but you’re also on the hook for that of your whole team. And at the end of the day, you can’t control other people’s decisions the way you can control your own.

So rather than waiting and hoping for the day you get called up to management, we thought it might be useful to get in the managerial mindset now. If you’re an aspiring sales leader who wants to be a part of the 25% who make it more than two years, here are three essential habits you should be forming right now:

Understand The Role

Like we mentioned before, the role of a sales manager is vastly different than an average sales rep. And it’s a whole lot more than just being in charge of a team.

As HubSpot’s Phil Harrell smartly points out, “Training yourself in managerial duties and habits will make you a standout candidate — and ensure that your transition from rep to manager is smooth.”

Why would it be that so many successful individual contributors fail in their attempts at management? In large part, making the shift in your mindset starts with transitioning your focus away from the individual to the organization as a whole.

As an individual contributor, you could easily find success simply by hitting your KPIs. As long as you made your numbers every quarter, everyone was happy. As a sales manager, success comes in helping to guide your team towards meeting the broader needs of the company. What’s your team’s pipeline looking like? Are certainly employees falling behind or feeling less engaged? How do you inspire lagging employees to perform at a higher level?

Alternatively, many managers aren’t prepared to face the challenge of managing a remote team. Are you experienced in communicating with members of your team who regularly work outside the office?

Really start to dig in and ask those questions of yourself now. When you truly understand what the role of manager entails, you won’t be so surprised by these challenges down the road.

Embrace Feedback

One of the scariest questions you can ask your boss or your colleagues is also one of the most important: “How am I doing?”

We all wrestle from time to time with that lingering “imposter syndrome,” the lie we tell ourselves that we’re not good enough to be in the place we are—and that eventually someone’s going to find us out.

But in reality, that lie is keeping us away from finding out the truth that you are good enough to be here—and if you do have some room for improvement, there’s help waiting on the other side of a good conversation.

What’s more, Dave Mattson, writing for the Sandler Training blog, lays out the stat that “15% of all sales managers spend as much as 25% of their time on coaching.” Right out of the gate, as much as a quarter of your time as a manager will be dedicated just to coaching and feedback.

Feedback is a two-way street, as much as a rep needs to be able to take and handle feedback, a  good manager needs to know how to give good, constructive feedback.

The best way to learn how to give good feedback? Take as much of it as you can. Mattson continues on to point out that it’s deeply important for aspiring managers to ask for honest feedback: “Getting accurate and honest criticism will help you learn and refine your leadership style.”

Don’t Wait For The Promotion

Even more importantly, good leaders don’t wait for the accolades to start leading. If you’ve got the stuff of a good leader, then you should be exemplifying that in your work long before anyone’s recognizing you for it.

If you take nothing else away from this post, please remember Michael Pici’s words, which he shares from his own experience making the jump from Account Executive to Director in less than five years:

“Advancing your career is about more than doing a good job and waiting in line … It’s about understanding where your company is growing and identifying how to serve the needs of the business before those needs become problems or major initiatives.”

So many of us have made the mistake of thinking that a promotion is simply waiting for us on the other side of a hard day’s work—and in a picture perfect world, it might be. But the problem with that mentality is that it gets us into a cycle of entitlement, which can lead to bitterness: I work harder than X, I should have their job by now. But as Pici tells us, it’s not just about working hard at the job you have. It’s about showing your bosses that you’ve already got the qualities of a great leader—and they’re not contingent on a salary bump or a title change.

 “Do the work,” he says. “Be exceptional at more than just your job.”

It may be tough, and it may not always feel like you’re getting the recognition you deserve in the moment, but when your ticket finally gets punched you’ll be glad you put in the effort.  

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Company Culture

5 Lessons Sales Managers Can Learn From Game of Thrones (No Spoilers!)

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All right, all right, it’s official: we’re jumping on the hype train.

But aside from being an easily-exploitable topic to market our blog with, there really is a lot to learn from the world of Westeros when it comes to sales and leadership. After all, it does take a bit of hero-complex to survive this fantastical world of sales—doesn’t it?

Dragons and magic notwithstanding, the stories from Game of Thrones are an invaluable mine of lessons about the real world that we deal in day to day—because at the end of our day, sales is about people: people who experience love and loss, people who have deep pockets and deeper ambitions—people who simply want to create better lives for their families.

So with that in mind, here are the very real-world nuggets of knowledge that GoT has for those of us brave enough to take on the realm of sales management:

Everyone Wants A Queen (Or King) To Follow

Right from the very first episode, it seems there are dozens of people who make claim to the “Iron Throne,” that is, seat of the one true ruler in all the land.

And sure, what man or woman of great ambition wouldn’t try to become ruler of the world?

But what’s more interesting than that is all of the people throughout the series who have no claim to the throne—and yet will live and die by the man or woman they believe is the rightful heir. Without even the slightest hesitation, scores of people are willing to risk it all to defend the bid of their respective “king” or “queen.”

The lesson? We all need a leader. And if we have one that we truly believe in, we’re willing to sacrifice everything for them.

That’s the power of good leadership. And it’s something that every sales manager needs to wear with weight. We’ve been given our roles because someone believed in us. Someone in an even greater position of power saw our potential—and now it’s up to us to inspire the members of our team to rise to their potential.

We Prove Ourselves In Battle

Thankfully, battle in the sales world doesn’t quite look like what it does in Game of Thrones.

And save for the occasional papercut or two, it’s a heck of a lot less blood.

But what you’ll see on Game of Thrones is that a house that’s not fit for battle is a house that doesn’t last very long.

Enter: Healthy Competition.

Healthy competition is a drum we beat quite frequently here on the blog. It’s not about last-woman-standing, or even necessarily crowning a victor. It’s about giving everybody the chance to prove their fighting power—and much like the old truism, allowing iron to sharpen iron.

Without the chance for your employees to see where they stand amongst the rest of their coworkers, it can be easy for their skill to dull—getting comfortable just coasting along. But when a “stronger army” comes along, they’re given the opportunity to stand up and show their true potential.

This is often most easily captured through concepts like a sales leaderboard, where employees can see their numbers stacked up against the rest of the office.

The upside? Way fewer sharp objects.

Remember Your House

The concept of family is one of the strongest through-lines in Game of Thrones. People live and die by their “houses” or “banners.” Their allegiance means everything, and it almost always comes back to who their father or mother was. Without any allies, you probably don’t have many pages left in your story.

In sales, we can often feel like we’re off on our own islands. We’re just operating as individual contributors, clocking in and clocking out.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Thankfully, our houses in sales aren’t just our siblings or parents—in fact, we get to choose the sales team that we’re a part of. And those members of our sales team are a huge asset. They can be allies on major negotiations, or simply a soundboard when we’re feeling stuck in our strategy.

Don’t allow yourself, or the members of your team, to get stuck in the mentality that they’re only out for themselves. Our teams are the greatest resource that we have—let’s use them to our advantage!

Don’t Forget To Send a Raven

If you hadn’t caught on, GoT takes place in a world that’s come and gone long ago—way before the days of direct messages, smartphones, or even the pony express. It’s likely that the word “instant” doesn’t even exist.

In fact, the most efficient form of communication in Game of Thrones is to send a raven from one castle to another—all communication flowing through a single source, taking days or weeks at a time to send a single, short, hand-written message.

Sometimes it seems like some managers in our world haven’t gotten the message that it’s not the same for us. Communication is open, and easy, and free here.

So why don’t we do it more? Writing for Inc., Kenny Kline explains that “When you focus on enhancing communication within a team, you facilitate higher productivity, improve morale, and build a healthier office culture.” Sounds like a no brainer, right?

We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the tools—so don’t skimp on creating a culture of consistent, effective communication. Just send the raven already.

Winter Is Always Coming

The phrase you’ve probably heard more than a hundred times, fan or not, when you think of Game of Thrones, is that “winter is coming.”

We don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of what it means for the show (Though, speaking of open lines of communication, why don’t you ask one of your GoT-fan coworkers today?), because you probably already know all too well how it applies to us in sales.

It’s just a fact of life that we’re going to have hard months as sales people.  We get into slumps, deal with rejection after rejection, and have to weather any number of storms. But here’s where we don’t need to wait on television, blogs, or George R. R. Martin to understand the truth: in time, winter will pass. In the world of sales, the good guy does win. It’s about learning to persevere, making the most of your mistakes, and growing into the hero that you deep down know yourself to be.

Now get out there and claim what’s yours.

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Company Culture

Hire the Best Sales Candidates Out There with These 5 Tips

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If you’ve spent any time trying to hire a sales rep, then you know how daunting it can feel. Are you ready to invest a huge amount of time and money into this person? Can you trust that your read on them is correct? Who’s to say they’re as good as they came across in their interview?

Well, we’ve got good news: you don’t have to rely on your gut. With the wealth of experience and advice from managers we’ve gathered over the years, we’ve distilled some of our key hiring best practices down so that you don’t have to shoot from the hip anymore.

If you’re looking to hire the best sales candidates possible for your organization, take a look at these strategies and see how you can develop a hiring process that truly works for you.

Understand Your Team’s Needs First

Before diving in to some of the more specific parts of the hiring process, it’s important to start by understanding what it means to hire “top talent.” There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sales, and the sooner that you can get that ingrained in your hiring process, the easier time you’ll have finding the best candidates for you.

Every sales organization has its own story, its own mission, and its own goals (more on those below). So it’s important that you take a look inward at your team to assess what they need, so that you can then set parameters for your candidate search.

Do you need field sales? Are you looking for managerial-minded folks? Do you need a team of twenty right now, or are you trying to build a solid foundation with a few seasoned—and potentially more expensive—associates? Once you’ve got that down, then you can really start your search.

Cast a Wide Net: Forget Everything You Learned About Geography

News flash: It’s 2019, and you’re reading this post on a thing called the Internet. Not only does this Internet have great blogs like ours, but it’s got a whole system in place for communicating, task-management, networking—and even hiring!

Hell, our entire sales gamification system is based on this whole Internet craze.

But light sarcasm aside, long-gone are the days where you are fully dependent on an in-house sales team. Beyond just having field sales positions, you can rely on an entire fleet of inside sales associates who never have to leave the comfort of their own home. Remote working, as we’ve covered countless times on here before, is more prevalent now than ever. And not only is hiring remote workers a great way to save on your bottom line, but it also helps you to cast a much wider net in your search for sales talent. You don’t need to limit your search to the local metropolitan area, or worry about paying for expensive relocation. The best candidate for you could really be just a couple of clicks away.

Develop Short- & Long-Term Goals

Writing for the Spiro blog, Adam Honig makes the excellent point that “It’s not just about finding a great salesperson, it’s about finding the right one for you. You want to find someone who believes in what you believe in.”

At the end of the day, your team will be defined by shared goals, and this is what makes the hiring process so crucial: you’re not just trying to sell someone on your goals, or get a candidate to tell you what you want to hear. You need to understand each candidate’s personal goals, and assess if they do or don’t align with that of your own organization.

Are you looking for candidates who want to grow within an organization, or who are simply happy as individual contributors? Is your candidate interested in management long term, and are you going to be able to provide them with adequate training to be successful in that realm?

When it comes right down to it: if a candidate’s short- and long-term goals don’t align with yours, then save yourself the pain and don’t make the hire.

Invest In Culture

“Corporate culture” can become an almost meaningless piece of jargon , but beneath the almost-too-common alliteration lies a deeply important aspect of the hiring process: finding people who fit in.

Are we suggesting that you try to build a team that looks like the human form of a suburban housing development? Absolutely not. There is too much to be celebrated and gleaned from a company that’s built on a plurality of people and personalities. But that needs to come into focus: what sort of mindset, or, dare we say… culture are you trying to create?

Writing for Forbes, Beth Kuhel puts this into perfect perspective when she addresses screening for “emotional intelligence”: “

Screening for traits like empathy, mentorship ability, self-awareness, humility, curiosity, resilience, flexibility and creativity will help improve your company’s chances of finding people who will fit in your culture and contribute to it.” And in doing so, she goes on to say, you’ll find candidates who will understand “how they can be a part of your company’s solutions for success.”

Investing in culture goes beyond buying bean bag chairs and high-quality coffee (though nobody’s complaining about the latter!). It’s about taking the time and care to encourage a like-minded desire for success.

Don’t Skimp On Compensation

Finally, let’s stop beating around the bush. If you want to attract top talent, you’re going to have to pay for top talent. And this crucially goes back to the above steps.

You may not need the world’s top individual contributor of 2019 on your team to hit your goals. In fact, that may lead to you way overspending for a salesforce that can’t deliver on your needs. But somewhere in between the polar extremes lie the sort of numbers that you can afford to attract the best candidates for your actual needs.

As you’re building your team, take the time to map out with your finance team what you can really afford, and how you can creatively offer competitive contracts that are going to get you real-world talent. Don’t be so naïve to think that your company’s vision is compelling enough on its own.

At the end of the day, these simple fundamentals are the core of what we believe it takes to hire the best possible candidates. Take some time to assess your current hiring process, see how you can incorporate these best practices, and watch as you begin to see great talent rolling your way.

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