"Sell Me This..."

This One Exercise Tells You Everything You Need to Know

There are thousands of questions that can come up in an interview.

There are standard questions: “Tell me about yourself.”

There are abstract questions: “What’s your favorite fruit and why?”

There are behavioral questions: “Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult client. How did you handle it?”

No question can tell you everything you need to know about a job applicant.  However, this one exercise should sum up how a promotional product rep sells.

"Sell Me This..."

Hand the sales rep a blank promotional product and tell them, “Sell this to me.”

The sales rep’s response will to you a lot about how they approach promotional products. Responses will fall into one of three categories.

Product-based responses will focus on the specifics of the item that you hand them. They’ll talk about the imprint area, decorating options, or the great quality construction of the item. This is the worst of the three responses. These reps love and know the products, but don’t sell solutions.

Solution-based responses will address the business need that the product can fill. They’ll talk about the results achieved from using promotional products, such as an increase in trade show traffic, a boost in employee morale, or higher brand recognition.

Inquiry-based responses focus on questioning. These reps will need you to tell them more. What events do you have coming up that this product might be a fit for? What business challenges are you facing now? They’ll ask questions that give them all the ammo they need to sell you the item.  In fact, they might even have you sell yourself.

This exercise will give you a terrific insight into the thought process and value proposition utilized by a promotional product sales rep. Here are five additional questions that will help to fill out the picture even further.

  • “What do you like about prospecting?”
  • “What’s your social media skill level?”
  • “How do you feel about face-to-face networking?”
  • “How long do you think it will take you to put together a sales plan and begin to execute it?”
  • “What is the first thing you would do when you realize that you’re in a sales slump?”

To read more on how to evaluate promotional product sales reps read our article on the “6 Traits of Top-Performing Sales Reps”.

What are your go-to questions when interviewing sales reps?

Top Sales Rep Manager?

Why Are Good Managers So Hard to Find?

It seems simple enough to hire a good manager for a promotional product distributorship. You screen candidates with related experience, interview them, pick the best choice, and train them in the specifics of your business. Simple, right? Well, no. As you’ll see, it’s anything but simple.

Top Sales Rep Manager?

Source of Candidates

Many distributors look to their top sales reps to step into managerial roles within their company. This is rarely a good choice. First, the skill set needed to be a great promotional product sales rep is not the same skill set needed to be a great manager. Second, top sales reps often become attached to the open-ended income available on the sales side of the business. Owners aren’t likely to provide open-ended compensation in a managerial position. Often, the result is that the owner ends up distracting one of his top sales producers with a managerial role they may not be suited for. Also, what’s the plan for that rep’s book of business. Third, sales reps are used to focusing on their clients and sales. This is often to the detriment of relationships with other reps, co-workers, and the distributorship owner. Accepting a managerial position places the top rep in the middle of regular conflicts between sales reps, owners, and suppliers. Very often, it’s not a comfortable position for them.

Respect Comes With Sales Experience

Respect Comes with Experience

A salesforce will respect a successful sales rep who takes on a management role because they understand the sales side of the business and will work as an advocate for the sales team. A manager from outside the industry or one who has never sold in our industry often struggles to achieve the respect of the salesforce. They don’t have the credibility needed to address real-life sales challenges that are unique to the promo industry. “They’ve never sold anything.  What could they possibly know about what I need to be doing to make more money?”

The Three Masters

Three Masters

Some owners agree to let a top sales rep become a manager and keep their client accounts. This might sound good to the manager, but it is the worst possible solution. A selling manager is often viewed as competition by the sales reps. After all, they can now choose which clients they serve and which clients they pass along to other reps. Owners want managers who are focused on company profitability. That doesn’t always mesh with the sales team’s desire for a rep-oriented manager. Only a highly capable and talented manager can satisfy the owner’s goals, maintain and grow a client base, and gain the trust of sales reps looking for support and more sales.

Management Training Program

Think Long Term

The time to hire and begin grooming a manager comes long before the day you plan to need that manager. Advance planning allows you the time to slowly choose the right person for your managerial training program. A strong training program should last 3-5 years. It should consist of job rotations through every department in the business, with a heavy focus on sales and vendor relations. After each department rotation, the managerial trainee is evaluated and rated on performance in their most recent role.  If performance in a particular department is satisfactory, they move on to the next one. A trend of poor performance during the training period means that your candidate likely isn’t a good fit. Keep in mind that success in sales is a must before the candidate can proceed to any other department.

By creating a long-term managerial training program you can avoid many of the challenges that come with picking a candidate from your sales team or from outside the company. Sales reps respect sales experience, so sales is a critical building block for management training. The training period gives you a chance to round out a candidate’s skills and evaluate the cultural fit they have with your team.

With full awareness of the pitfalls of hiring a manager and a carefully outlined training program, you can make hiring for this critical position a positive point in your company’s history, and not a negative blip in your path to success.

12 Factors That Make Up Your Corporate Culture

What’s Your Corporate Culture Made Of?

Factors That Make Up Your Corporate Culture

The 12 factors illustrated above make up the unique culture of every business. Some factors may play a critical role in the day-to-day activities of your business, while others don’t come into play as often. If you want to have a comprehensive understanding of your corporate culture (and how to use it to attract top talent) you have to evaluate what that culture is made of.

Leadership

Culture starts at the top. Your CEO is responsible for setting the tone for your entire organization.

Strategy 

Your culture is shaped by your corporate strategy. The unique mix of business strategies employed by your company makes an indelible mark on your culture. The four chief business strategies are:

1) Operational Performance

2) Product Excellence

3) Market Growth

4) Financial Maximization

Change

A start-up will have a very different culture than a Fortune 500 company. Where you are in the life-cycle of your business plays a big role.

Competition

All businesses compete for something. It could be sales, recruits, investment dollars, or market share. The prize you covet says a lot about your culture.

Industry

The ebbs and flows of the industry you’re in make a huge difference. In the promotional product world, the summer is slow and we’re scrambling for holiday orders in the fall.

Resources

Sitting on a ton of cash or barely scraping by? The resources that you have (or don’t have) make your company what it is.

Resistance

Is your company open to change? Creating change is hard enough without internal obstacles. With them, it’s nearly impossible.

Management

Great managers build great teams, perform when it counts, and develop the new talent needed to grow. Lousy ones just collect a paycheck and bug you about TPS reports.

Fit

Are you hiring the right people? Can they excel in your business? Making hiring mistakes is very expensive and damages company morale.

Capacity

What capacity do you have for change? Can it be rapid or does it have to be slow? Planning processes dictate how flexible your business can be both now and in the future.

Performance

Are things on track or are you behind where you expected to be? How do you respond when things fall behind? In our experience, this is the critical deciding factor of what you’re corporate culture is.

Timing

Is your business driven by deadlines or is it more casual? It takes a certain person to thrive under a deadline. Hire carefully.

For more information on corporate culture read our articles on “The 3 Questions That Determine Cultural Fit” and “How To Maintain Your Company Culture While Hiring”.