• Growing your team, why is it so hard?

    One of the biggest leaps a business owner takes is hiring that first employee.  When is the right time? What role should they do? Can I afford it? How do I know they are the right person? All big questions need to be overcome.

    The problem is that for a lot of businesses recruiting subsequent employees doesn’t get much easier either. It may be less of a quantum leap adding more employees but some of the same questions remain in particular how do I know they are the right person?

    Research suggests that hiring the wrong person can cost businesses at least 5 times their salary, which is a hefty price to pay whatever the size of your business. But why is it so hard to find the right candidates?  According to recent research interviewing is only a good predictor of a candidates fit for a role 50 per cent of the time. I was pretty shocked when I read that, that feels a lot like guessing to me. Especially as most of us are interviewing on a pretty infrequent basis, we are not honing that skill. And remember that if you are hiring for a sales role, sales people are good at interviewing but that doesn’t mean they are a good salesperson. Too often I see companies hiring candidates first and foremost because they like them rather than because they are right for the job. Try doing some anti-bonding and rapport with sales candidates and then see how they work to build that rapport when they are out of their comfort zone. After all that’s what prospects will do to them every day.

    So what’s the alternative to interviewing?  Behavioural profiling such as the Devine Inventory provide a more evidence based check from which to screen out candidates or interview more effectively. Good tools like these enable you to highlight flags in the candidate’s profile which can then be probed more robustly in interviews. I don’t know about you but I don’t have time to be hiring people who either can’t do the job, or can do the job but won’t. I only want to be investing my time in those that can and will and 50 per cent isn’t a high enough ratio for me to want to trust my gut through interviewing alone.

    Induction is another equally important part of hiring. Too often I see new hires start in companies, get introduced to everyone, taken for lunch, given a high level overview and to all intents and purposes left to get on with it. Hideous for the new starter and risks the employer waiting too long to know if their new employee is going to make it and what additional support they need to be more self reliant.

    Companies that do this part really well have a very comprehensive induction programme running for at least 90 days, supporting the new hire in all aspects of the role, but crucially making it very clear what the new hire has to do on a weekly/monthly basis to be successful and ensuing that progress checks happen.  If it’s so hard to find the right candidates in the first place let’s make sure that we set them up to succeed, or work out sooner rather than later if we’ve made a mistake and deal with it accordingly.


    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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    Harvard Business Review recently quoted “At most companies, people spend 2 percent of their time recruiting and 75 percent managing their recruiting mistakes” Harvard Business School article.

    It’s certainly an easy trap to fall into…

    Here are some excuses from those who have fallen into the Hire Fast, Fire Slow trap.

    “But I needed to hire someone right away”
“But they came with great referrals/industry knowledge/product expertise”
“But I didn’t realise the cost of a bad hire before it was too late”
“But they interviewed so well, and my gut told me they would work out fine”
“But I thought I’d hired a Superman. I didn’t know he was a David Brent”


    MYTH - We hire when we need someone.

    FACT - An interview with two needy people, one who needs to fill a vacancy, and another who needs a job, results in a bad hire.

    MYTH - My gut will tell me. I know a good sales person when I see one.

    FACT - All sales people, good and bad, have great CVs and interview well.

    MYTH - I need to be good at identifying people who can sell

    FACT – There is a huge difference between those who can sell themselves once in an interview and those that WILL. Charm and being personable are not indicators of being able to behave consistently on a daily, weekly monthly basis as a sales machine.

    MYTH - We have a long sales cycle, so it will take a long time for us to determine if they are working out.

    FACT - With an appropriate on-boarding process, hiring mistakes can be identified in 1-3 months, no matter how long the sales cycle.

    Just as top sales people recognise prospecting is key to sales success, top performing companies, recognise that searching for talent and creating the appropriate systems and processes, is key to business success.

    Ask your local business advisor for help with building your own “Hire Slow, Fire Fast” process before you spend 75% of your time in 2015 managing your mistakes.

    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand runs Sandler Training in the Midlands based at the Innovation Centre in Longbridge.

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  • How to differentiate your business

    As businesses continue through uncertain times, I thought I would look at how differentiation could be the key to your success.

    Has the word “differentiation” started to sound a little tired? If so, this is because it is both misused and over used.

    We need to pause and think about what differentiation actually means to businesses. In business, when we talk about differentiation we are talking about separating ourselves from our competitors. Ideally, we want to achieve two things by doing this. Firstly, to attract customers to buy from us, and secondly, to have them buy at our price. Working with businesses from a number of sectors, I find that they don’t always realise that a key purpose for striving for differentiation is to maintain their price point; as a result they often end up selling themselves short. This doesn’t look like real success to me.

    Differentiation should therefore not be seen as an end in itself but a means to an end, namely to sell on terms that make sense. Additionally we need to adapt our attempt to differentiate our businesses to today’s tough and increasingly cluttered marketplace.

    In a series of 2 blogs I have looked at the 5 things you need to consider when striving for that all important differentiation.

    1. Know your competitors

    Understanding your competitors is at the crux of differentiation – it’s only by doing this, that you can carve out your own market segment. However, this again requires a new way of thinking.

    Your competitor isn’t necessarily the shop next door. You need to think wider than this.  There are obvious competitors here such as similar products/services, geographies or employee pools. There are also the less obvious ones such as people who provide a very different solution but one that fixes the same problem, meets the same need as yours.  There is also the frequently overlooked ‘competitor’ which is the option to do nothing or to do it in-house.

    It is therefore important to think carefully about your competitors, know what they offer and know what you have to do differently to deliver a more attractive proposition for your customers.

    1. Authentic differentiation

    We hear a great deal about developing our unique selling proposition.  However, your USP, like differentiation, is a concept that can come across as trite and pedestrian in customer engagement as we all work so hard to prove how different we are from competitors and as a business. As brand-savvy consumers, expectation of differentiation had grown.

    There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to crystallising your USP or point of differentiation. I quote Steve Jobs here when I say, quite simply, “Brands are themselves”. You need to know – beyond making a profit – what the purpose of your business is and what you believe in it. There has to be that authentic core at the centre of what you do, rather than merely focusing on “What will sell more?” Customers today are sophisticated and discerning – they will see through the empty promise. Working with CEOs and business owners, I constantly encourage them to go back to the seed of their business.  To identify your business essence, get back in touch with yourself and your business to create that consistent and genuine proposition.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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  • Ever thought of how “Change” effects selling?


    This blog looks at change from the context of buying – and selling.

    Buying and selling can defined be in its broadest terms – selling a product or service or an idea. So it applies to a non-sales selling situation such as being persuaded to do something, support something and persuading someone to do something, support something etc.  It can also be applied to more traditionally defined sales situation – exchanging a product or service for money.

    Looking at buying.  Any purchase of any kind – thing, service or idea – requires a change.  Looking at some examples:

    • Buying new clothes or new shoes – they will feel different (and make you feel different) and thus are a change
    • Commissioning a new website – this requires a change in the look and feel of your online brand, new processes (if it includes different functionality), new opportunities
    • Investing in sales training – this requires you to let go of some of the things you do, change what you do and take some risks
    • Agreeing to do something different at work, or adopt a new work practice – this changes your actions or your beliefs

    It follows therefore that when we are selling we are actually facilitating a change.

    Looking at our change equation, change is a function of:

    • dissatisfaction with the present
    • a vision of the future
    • some first practical steps

    And to be personally motivated to make the change the sum of these needs to be equal to or greater to the cost or pain or effort of making the change

    Therefore before we can sell something to someone they need:

    • to be dissatisfied with what they have at the moment
    • a clear vision of the future – of where they could be, what could be happening
    • an idea of how to get there and confidence that it is possible – and then in turn, the actual route map
    • for the above to be equal to or great to the cost or pain or effort of making the change.

    If any of these elements are missing you will not make a sale.

    Taking an example of investing in sales training.  If I am happy enough with my client acquisition processes, even if I know at one level that I ‘should’ be bringing on more clients, unless something more compelling drives me (and creates dissatisfaction) I am not going to make a change.  Equally if I cannot imagine a future where I have more clients and enjoy some real benefits from this, I will not make the investment (in time, money and personal upheaval).  And finally if I do not think that you are the person to take me there I will not buy from you (i.e. I need to see my ‘first practical steps’).  And even if those things are in place, if I am not convinced that the cost – in terms of my time, my money or the demands placed on me – will be met or exceeded through the investment in training I will not buy.

    To sell effectively we need to facilitate our buyer in exploring the change equation for themselves and making a decision to change or not to change.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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  • We don’t need a Sales System. We already have one, thank you!

    I slapped my forehead in pure exasperation. “I don’t believe it! All these years, decades, when I thought I had a sales system! Turns out I didn’t” This was the painful moment as a Sales Director that I first saw the Sandler “submarine.”

    I am sure your company has a sales system. After all, you have a system for Accounts. You would hardly expect your accountant to say, “Well, some months we allocate these expenses this way, other months like that, and usually we just guess…” Nor would you expect Production to say “you see, normally we do it this way, but, if the client has asked for it, we re-build the whole assembly so it comes out twisted.”

    And yet, when we ask Sales for their system, we get an answer just like that. “Well, basically, once we have uncovered some interest, we do whatever the prospect wants and, if we remember to, we ask for the business.”

    Exaggerating? Try the experiment. Ask them for their system. Don’t forget to check consistency. “So, what happened with Prospect Z, then?” “Ah, well, that was different, let me explain…”

    So Sales is the one area that there is often no system. Not in the sense you expect from the rest of the business; Logistics, HR, Legal, Accounts, Production. And yet we treat Sales as having a predictable system. We need correct forecasting to plan our business. So we are forced to look at historical data for “conversion rates”. So many leads go in at the top, these few fall out the bottom. You would not accept such a haphazard forecasting strategy for any other part of your business.

    So it is all the Salespeople’s fault! Not really. They are following what they firmly believe is a system. Moreover, if your production machinery started to be a bit creaky, you would not say “No, we will not invest in maintenance and upgrades, the warranty promised years of trouble-free operation”. When it comes to Sales, the money-making bit, we often hear “No, we will not invest in upgrading our Sales and we will not regularly maintain it with expensive support. After all, in the interview they promised they were seasoned Sales Professionals.”

    So when you checked your sales system, what did you find? Now you have been shocked, what do you intend to do about it?

    Paul Glynn

    Paul Glynn

    Paul’s experience spans over twenty years of selling, sales management and training. He has worked in the financial services sector including accountancy and has been responsible for the commercial success of sales departments at director level in advertising. His clients report up to 300% increase in turnover by working with him. He is dedicated to helping businesses grow through assessments, training, coaching and mentoring. Tel: 01784 390623 Mobile: 07866 518848

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  • Two minds are better than one

    Many business owners, department heads and sales professionals can feel like their days are spent on some form of never-ending hamster wheel. They are in a constant state of ‘action-mode’ because being ‘busy’ feels like it should equate to accomplishment. And of course this is a great place to be, some of the time.

    When I take on new clients, some of their current challenges can result from recent hiring mistakes. On further analysis I sometimes find that they made the same hiring mistakes two years ago as well, and even two years before that! This indicates that there has been little or no review of their hiring process over this period despite the costs and consequences to the business.

    Likewise when I speak to sales people I often find they are wasting time on opportunities that don’t close and doing a lot of ‘free consulting’ with prospects who don’t buy. More digging often reveals that they had this same problem two years ago!

    When a business owner, sales manager or sales professional brandishes their 20 years of industry or sales experience, is it really two decades of learning and development or one year repeated over and over? Most businesses do not have a process in place for continually assessing and improving how they are hiring, prospecting and selling. The market is evolving – but they are not.

    I have just returned from a three day conference in Florida where I spent time with 300 other Sandler Training professionals reflecting and reviewing how I am doing things. My own natural orientation inclines towards being in action-mode. It provides me with a (false) perception that I’m ‘moving forward’. The conference allows me to take stock and re-assess where I am, re-charge and return with new and improved ways to grow my business.

    If you are a business owner, sales manager or sales professional, make sure you have a regular forum for learning. Failing to do so can result in today’s headaches coming back to haunt you again and again.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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  • Ever made a poor hiring decision?

    Is hiring new sales staff the Sales Leaders most important role?

    Have you ever calculated the cost of a failed sales recruitment? Recent studies have calculated the direct cost at between £50k – £150k dependent on industry and level of seniority. Though total cost including management time and wasted sales support time is greater still. For most businesses this is a staggering amount of money.

    With these types of figures at risk you would expect the recruitment process to be highly structured and controlled. The reality, in most cases, is that sales recruitment is a pretty ad hoc process relying more on luck and gut feel than science.

    Gut feel should not be underestimated, every time I have over ridden my gut feel over the years I have later regretted it, but maybe a combination of a structured approach and gut feel is even better.

    We would suggest that a 5 step approach should be adopted:

    1) Preparation – keep a file of possible recruits – people who you meet or who are recommended. Get in the habit of asking for recommendations. Ask for names of competitor’s sales people who beat you on deals. Ask current staff for names of ex colleagues. Not only will your quality of prospective recruits be better you may save money on recruitment agency fees when the time comes to look for new staff.
    2) Hiring Template – Decide what mix of skills and experience you need as minimum and preferred level. Think about the importance of soft issues such as determination and resilience.  Think about whether a less experienced, more hungry salesperson who can be taught is better for you than a more experienced, more conventional hire? What type of personality would fit best within your culture – a team player or a lone wolf? Do you need a hunter or a farmer? Write down the template and use it as your guide for future steps.
    3) Assessment - For a few hundred pounds you can buy tailored assessment tools that give a highly accurate profile of sales strengths and weaknesses. Things like prospecting behavior, qualifying, negotiating, work ethic and much more can be accurately predicted. This combined with structured interviewing techniques and possible a mock sales meeting role play to measure gravitas, personality and communication skills can give a complete picture.
    4) Due Diligence - Make the reference calls yourself. Check for mutual contacts via LinkedIn and call them. Check Facebook and twitter. Find former colleagues of your potential recruit and call them. Too time consuming? HR’s job? No – think of the time you will have to waste on a poor sales person in the team!
    5) Offer – If you have found the right person find a way of making it happen. An additional £5k on a base salary or a higher grade / band on entry is not important in the wider scheme of things. The best people are the hardest to recruit but are normally worth the effort.

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool is Managing Director of Sandler Training in Cheltenham. He works with companies who wish to increase their return on the investment made in their sales team and with local business owners who need to improve their own business development skills. Prior to starting Sandler Cheltenham, Steve had a 25 year sales career including Sales Director positions with CapGemini and Capita. He also specialised in leading major deals in the IT, BPO and consulting markets. Tel: 01242 420750 Mobile: 0750 750 5996

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  • New Scheme Aimed at Unemployed

    Originally Published on ‘Students Love Uni’ 20/06/12

    According to The Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are 1.013 million unemployed 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK. With the 2012 graduates about to add to this number, competing for graduate placements at a ratio of 48 applications per vacancy, it’s clear the market has never been tougher.
    A viable career option for unemployed youth of today is sales. In the UK alone, 2.2 million people work in sales – 10% of the overall workforce. But employers have a clear criterion – ambitious, driven and personable individuals that can sell themselves and the company they represent.

    With that in mind, Sandler Training, a leading sales, management and leadership training organisation, is launching a UK wide competition for 18-24 year olds that want to kick- start a career in sales. Up to 50 training places will be available across over 20 of its training centres across the UK, where they will learn the skills that will enable them to enter the sales sector and ultimately become successful in their quest for employment.

    The “sales explorers” training will include an initial three months of Sandler’s weekly President’s Club – which includes the Sandler Sales Skills Foundations Programme. This takes the trainees through real life scenarios and best practices, such as how to develop a prospecting plan, setting goals and the importance of attitude in building a successful career.

    The successful candidates will receive certifications, references and will also be heavily promoted in Sandler’s newsletters. A further year’s weekly sales training and support will be offered to the candidates, after securing a job in sales, which will help them flourish in their first crucial year’s employment.

    Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training in the UK: “The job market can feel like a brutal place – consecutive knock-backs can really impact a young person’s confidence and motivation. However, double dip recession or not, businesses always need good sales people. A career in sales should be viewed with aspiration. These people form the crux of their business and ultimately determine whether it sinks or swims. For today’s lost generation it provides them with an opportunity to be a master of their own destiny – they just need a helping hand to make it happen.

    “As part of this initiative, we plan to give away up to £400,000 of sales training across our network of centres. We all remember what it was like to hit the job market and we want to be able to give something back to people that just simply need the confidence to get the job they deserve –this support, could be the first step of their journey to become business leaders of the future.”

    Application process

    Interested 18-24 year olds should go to the Sandler Training
    website, www.uk.sandler.com, to find their local participating training centre and online application zone.

    Over 50 training places will be available across over 20 of its training centres across the UK.
    As part of the application process, candidates will be encouraged to think about “why a career in sales” would suit them.

    Originally Published on ‘Students Love Uni’ on 20/06/12

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Younger people offered training opportunity

    Published on the ‘institute of Leadership & Management.’

    June 20th 2012

    Younger people struggling to find a job may wish to participate in a new scheme buy cymbalta generic online created to boost employment opportunities for 18-24 year olds.

    Sales, management and leadership training body Sandler Training has today (20 June) announced the launch of a new UK-wide competition for individuals in this age group aiming to forge a career in sales.

    The group is making up to 50 training placements available in more than 20 of its centres across the country, which will provide people with the valuable skills and professional traits they need to be successful in this arena.

    Under the terms of the Sandler’s “sales explorers” programme – which lasts for three months – individuals will be taught through a series of real-life scenarios, such as planning ahead and setting achievable targets for the future.

    Those who complete the training successfully will then be awarded certificates, references and the offer of a further year’s worth http://buyambiencheap.com of training.

    Shaun Thomson, chief executive officer of Sandler, commented: “We all remember what it was like to hit the job market and we want to be able to give something back to people that just simply need the confidence to get the job they deserve.”

    By Sam Williams

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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