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How You Promote People Can Make or Break Company Culture

How You Promote People Can Make or Break Company Culture

Managing promotions effectively is one of the most powerful ways leaders can drive their company’s success. We surveyed over 400,000 U.S. workers in the past year and found that when people believe promotions are managed effectively, they’re more than twice as likely to give extra effort at work and to plan a long-term future with their company. They are also five times as likely to believe leaders act with integrity — a key underpinning of the high-trust, high-performing companies we’ve studied for the past three decades as part of the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For ranking.

The payoff is impressive: at these companies, stock returns are nearly three times the market average, voluntary turnover is half that of industry peers, and metrics for innovation, productivity, and growth consistently outperform competitors.

However, even these companies struggle when it comes to managing promotions. Among the 100 Best Companies, 75% of employees believe promotions go to those who best deserve them. That may sound high, but it ranks as the third-lowest of all 58 items we assess.

Why, even in the best workplaces, do promotions pose such a challenge?

Promotions are highly personal. At their core, they are both relationship-driven and among the most important indicators of how well leaders’ actions align to the company’s stated values. A solid promotions process allows leaders to elevate each employee to their full potential — while showing the company what type of results and behaviors are valued. However, if promotions aren’t managed well, one person’s success can foster feelings of resentment in others, and the career aspirations of employees across the company can be left unrealized.

Leaders can improve the effectiveness of their promotions process by re-focusing their energy on the people the process is meant to support, at every stage of the process:

Before the promotion: clarify aspirations. Setting the stage for effective promotions starts with defining each team member’s long-term aspirations, so you both know how they will contribute as the business grows — and how you can best support them. 

Consider a senior call center leader from one of our large technology clients. When she came on as the team’s leader, she held meetings with each employee to understand their current role and performance, their interests and ambitions, and gaps.

When a customer support employee expressed his desire to work in IT, she made him her “go to” person for all A/V needs in the call center. When senior leaders would come in to present to the group, she would introduce him, highlight his IT certifications, and invite him to set up their equipment. After months of advocating for this employee (as she did with all her team members), she received a call from the IT leader saying a support role had opened up on his team. To everyone’s delight, the call center employee was able to fill the spot.

This call center leader developed more high-performing leaders than any of her peers in the organization. That was not an accident; she was clear about her team’s aspirations, and supported each of them in realizing their advancement goals. What’s more, when her people were promoted, the full team celebrated — rather than questioning the promotion. After 14 months of her leadership, her center rose from being one of the lowest-performing groups to the highest performing of all.

When a new job posting comes out: encourage and advocate. A common complaint employees have about their company’s promotions practice is a sense that by the time the job is posted, “the fix is already in.” Regardless of how transparent the opportunity is, they believe there is already a preferred candidate who will get the position. This lack of faith in the system dissuades people from applying, even when they are interested and qualified.

When a new position is posted, even if you’re in lock step with your team on their career aspirations, don’t assume the people you expect to raise their hands will do so. Place the burden on yourself to encourage, advocate, and coach people to raise their hand. Let those you hope will apply know: “I want to see you raise your hand for this. Even if you don’t feel you’re ready, it will give you practice in understanding what’s required for the next step in your career.”

No tool or system can address a fundamental lack of trust in the promotions process. What will shift this type of mindset is a leader who reaches out when opportunities arise.

Once the decision is made: generate buy-in. Everyone is curious to learn the “who” component of a promotion decision. However, the opportunity to fully engage people lies in explaining why the decision was made. Rather than rehash criteria from the job description, share inspiring stories and examples of how the individual consistently met the criteria, and also, how their promotion benefits the broader team.

To illustrate this last point, we can look to a midsize biotech client of ours. A business leader there recently shared with us his frustration around competition for promotions within his team. There were not enough senior-level seats opening up, and he was losing team members to C-level positions in smaller companies. “Every time I promote one person, I disappoint 10 others,” he lamented.

His colleague, who led the company’s research division, said he too was challenged in this way. To address the dynamic, he partners with his leaders as a group to discuss how the organization’s growth goals will create opportunities for each team member to grow and advance over time.

“As long as my team knows I want them to go as far as they can, and understand how we can all contribute in a way that makes their ambitions a reality, they feel a sense of shared ownership in any promotion that happens,” he said.

He went on to share how he routinely anchors promotions announcements with recognition of people on the team who strengthened the business’ ability invest in a new role. That way, it isn’t about just celebrating the selected individual, but also all those who made the promotion opportunity possible.

There will always be some level of disappointment among those not chosen for the desired opportunity. But the next best thing to personally winning is being a valued member of a winning team, and nearly everyone can get behind that.

Post-announcement: re-calibrate. After the announcement has been made, circle back with those who didn’t get the job (or didn’t even apply for it) to re-calibrate. Was the issue a matter of readiness (“not now”), aspiration (“not this”) or an issue with the company overall (“not here”)? 

In all cases, your support at this juncture is critical to that person’s future success. For those in the “not now” camp, work together to secure the development and training they need for the next time a similar opportunity comes up. For those who say “not this,” you can help navigate the organization from a cross-functional and strategic investment standpoint to see what other opportunities are better-aligned to their career aspirations.

For those who are having doubts about the company long term, this may signal they’re not interested or feeling supported to advance over time. If you believe the employee is a good fit for the organization, it’s worth investing the time to understand the situation so you can determine how to support them.

By systematically empowering leaders at every level to use these principles within their teams, results will be remarkable as more people across the company re-connect with their aspirations, feel a sense of sponsorship, extend trust to leaders when promotions decisions are made, and get excited about what’s possible as a valued member of a winning team.

Promotions are about people. When leaders take a caring and coaching-oriented approach, every promotion can feel like a shared win.




Want to Know If Someone’s Actually Qualified for the Job?

Want to Know If Someone’s Actually Qualified for the Job? Ask this 1 Question

CREDIT: Getty Images

Why asking about an applicant’s work tools can reveal their job aptitude.

Back when I was a kid working on constructions sites in Boston with my Nonno (that’s grandfather in Italian, by the way), he taught me the most important interview question you could ask an applicant. Nonno was an architect and contractor, who came over from Sicily with his dad and brother with their trowels and pails. Together, they built up a pretty good sized company over the years, including building the Prudential Tower in Boston and several of the buildings at Harvard and MIT.

My grandfather was a smart man but he had a family to feed and a business to run–he didn’t spend his days reading business articles on the most revealing interview questions or the three most essential questions to ask. Nevertheless, when it came to interviewing, he knew just what to ask.

People would walk on his job sites all the time, asking for work. Nonno would look the worker over and ask, “What’s your trade?” They’d answer something like framer, carpenter, plumber, etc. He would nod his head sagely, and say, “Great, let’s go take a look at your truck and tools.”

If they were a framer, the worker should have had heavy hammers, T-squares, levels, etc. If they were a finish carpenter, their toolset would have included little pin hammers, miter boxes, etc. However, if the worker said they were a framer and didn’t have a T-square, my Nonno would immediately know the applicant was blowing smoke.

These days, most of us don’t work on construction sites and we can’t look at someone’s toolbox to know if the applicant would be a great salesperson, content marketer, or finance manager. All we have to judge a potential applicant before we meet them is what the person writes on their resume and LinkedIn. So how do we know if a person is just blowing smoke or is really qualified for the position?


Recently, I was interviewing a candidate for a sales position, but the experience on their resume wasn’t matching up with what the candidate was claiming on LinkedIn (which is usually the more accurate of the two sources). Alarm bells went off. I felt this person might be overselling their skills. However, I couldn’t be sure unless I talked to the applicant in person. What could I ask to determine what their true job skills were?

I thought back to my Nonno and how he asked what an applicant’s tools were. I couldn’t look at the person’s toolbox, but by asking about the applicant’s typical work day, I could find out what computer programs they used and tasks they accomplished.

Ethnographer’s call these “descriptive questions,” because they can help you understand the extent of the worker’s “cultural” job knowledge.

So when I meet a candidate and want to know if they are truly qualified to be a salesperson or a content marketer, I ask, “Tell me about your typical day: where are you, what are you doing, what tools are you using?”

This is a great way to flesh out what the candidate really does–not the fluff the applicant gives you on the resume/LinkedIn.

As the candidate responds, I listen for the keywords about the computer programs they use and what tasks they accomplish in a typical day, just like my Nonno looked at the tools in a construction worker’s truck, and I know right away if the person is what they claim to be.

It’s also a good way to know up front, what someone can really do, especially if they are what they claim. Then you’ll know what tools they can use and how they can help your team.


Inc. Magazine Bill Gates: Every American Who Lives a Comfortable Life Should Read This Book Jessica Stillman/Jan 2, 2018

Bill Gates: Every American Who Lives a Comfortable Life Should Read This Book

Jessica Stillman/Jan 2, 2018
CREDIT: Getty Images

Doing OK? Congrats! Now learn how and why so many of your fellow citizens are struggling.

How was your holiday season? If it was filled with love, plenty, and relaxation, congrats! I hope you enjoyed it to the fullest. But now that you’re back to work and settling into 2018, Bill Gates has a book recommendation for you that will remind you just how many of your fellow Americans aren’t so lucky, and why you should be grateful for your good fortune.

On his blog recently, he recommended a number of reads, including Evicted, by Gates Foundation grantee, Princeton sociologist, and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant winner Matthew Desmond. Gates showers praise on this exploration of poverty and housing insecurity in America, suggesting ithat the book is worth reading for every American who hasn’t personally experienced the threat of eviction and homelessness.


The book is a deep dive into a simple but horrifying statistic: millions of Americans are evicted from their homes each year. Why is that number so high and what are the knock-on effects of all those forced moves? In the course of digging into this important issue, Desmond paints “a brilliant portrait of Americans living in poverty,” Gates claims.

That’s a painful but important picture for those of us blessed with more comfortable lives to examine, Gates insists. “I have no personal experience with the kind of crisis faced by… the people profiled in Evicted, so I can only learn about it by hearing their stories. This book gave me a better sense of what it is like to be very poor in this country than anything else I have read,” Gates reports.

“I also got a glimpse of how gut-wrenching it must be when someone piles up your belongings on the curb and you don’t know where your family is going to sleep that night,” he adds.

Desmond offers nuanced and moving portraits of individual Americans struggling to keep a roof over their heads while also serving up startling statistics, like this one highlighted by Gates: “Most experts agree that the ideal is to spend no more than 30 percent of your income on housing; according to Desmond’s research, most poor families have to spend over 50 percent on housing, and for many it’s over 70 percent.”

“When you’re paying so much to keep a roof over your head, there’s no room for bad luck,” Gates stresses.


The book might be engrossing, but it obviously isn’t a cheerful page turner, so why take the time to read it? Besides offering a useful empathy workout to those of us who are more privileged, as Gates suggests, it’s also likely to help you appreciate what you have, and gratitude has been shown by science to be a key to both happiness and success.

The book’s exploration of the causes of this housing crisis and possible solutions (as of yet incomplete pending further research, Gates notes)will also make you a better informed citizen. “Evicted is well worth reading for anyone who wants to better understand poverty in America. It is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and unforgettable,” Gates concludes.

If you’re looking to be more clear-eyed, informed, grateful, and empathetic this year, consider picking it up.


Here Are the 50 Best Jobs In America, According to Glassdoor

Here Are the 50 Best Jobs In America, According to Glassdoor

Bill Murphy Jr./Jan 26, 2018

CREDIT: Getty Images

It’s based on salary, job satisfaction, and sheer number of positions available. Is your job on the list?

Of all the surprisingly high-paying jobs out there, the recent report that In-N-Out Burger pays its restaurant managers an average of $160,000 a year is probably the most surprising.

But, a lot of people probably don’t aspire to be fast food restaurant managers, even at that pay. Fortunately, the folks at Glassdoor recently compiled their list of the 50 best jobs in the United States, based on salary, job satisfaction, and just how many job openings there are for each position.

Here are the best highlights. For the whole list, check out Glassdoor.


For the third year in a row, data scientists hold the top job on the list.

While it wasn’t the top choice in any single category, it was near the top in all of them, including job satisfaction, (5th out of 50), salary (tied for 9th out of 50), and sheer number of job openings: 13th out of 50.


Jobs in the medical field always do well on this list, and this year was no exception.

Occupational therapists were tied at 12th in job satisfaction, and had the fourth-most openings (11,903). They were paid less than others on the list however; at $74,000 a year median, they’re fourth from the end.


Only a few years ago, in 2015, physician assistants held the top spot on this list, but they’ve fallen sharply since then.

PA’s ranked 45th out of 50 for job satisfaction, 14th for median pay, at $104,000, and 11th for number of job openings.


Of all the positions on this list, this is the one that surprised me the most. Executive assistants had the 46th best job in America according to Glassdoor.

Among the categories, they came in 19th for job satisfaction, and 14th for number of openings. The median salary killed their positioning on this list however: 50th out of 50, at a median of $55,000 a year.


In terms of sheer number of positions out there, nothing else really came close to software engineer jobs, with 29,187 currently available via Glassdoor.

They’re good-paying but not the best ($102,000 a year median, good enough for 15th), but the level of job satisfaction was low, ranking 46th.


Corporate recruiters were in a four-way tie for the most job satisfaction (along with creative managers, compliance managers, and reliability engineers).

The number of positions was just okay among the top 50 however (2,330 according to Glassdoor, which ranked 30th). The median salary was also low among the jobs listed: $65,000 which was 47th out of 50.


It’s good to be the boss. Both of these HR positions made the list, but HR managers were near the top, while HR generalists clocked in at 50 out of 50.

Salaries were higher for HR managers than for HR generalists as you might expect ($85,000 and $57,120 respectively), and their reported job satisfaction was exactly the same, at 17th.

Ironically, however, there were nearly twice as many jobs for HR managers as there were for HR generalists (4,458 vs. 2,705).

There are 42 other top jobs on the Glassdoor top 50 list, which you can find here.



Even If Your New Job Is a Bad Fit, Don’t Quit

How to evaluate whether the challenges can be overcome or it’s really a toxic workplace

Even If Your New Job Is a Bad Fit, Don’t Quit

You’re psyched for your first day on a new job—until you arrive and find your new colleagues miserable, the atmosphere stifling or the boss overbearing and obnoxious.

Is it ever OK to quit on your first day? Making a wise decision requires pausing for a moment. The key is to distinguish between challenges you should try to overcome and fundamental problems that are true deal breakers.

More new hires are heading for the exits fast, employers and career coaches say. Two-thirds of employees have taken a job only to realize later that it was a bad fit, and half of those employees quit within six months, says a recent CareerBuilder survey of 3,697 U.S. employees. Many young workers have two or three jobs listed on their résumés by age 30 and leave out those that lasted less than a few weeks.

Lori Cheek quit after a few days on a furniture-sales job several years ago. She was exhausted by dragging a suitcase loaded with heavy product manuals around New York City all day on the subway to meet with customers, then continuing to work at the office until 8 p.m. She snapped up what looked like a better sales job at a showroom nearby, selling stylish designer furnishings.

“It was the worst decision ever,” Ms. Cheek says. Her supervisor on the first job, who had spent time training her, was deeply disappointed, and one manager on her new job pained her even more. “At first sight he could not stand the way I dressed. He wanted an Ann Taylor look, and I’m more Gwen Stefani, edgy,” Ms. Cheek says. She grudgingly toned down her jewelry, makeup and hair. To avoid earning a reputation as a job-hopper, however, she stuck with the new position for almost a year. Looking back, Ms. Cheek, owner of a free mobile dating app called Cheekd, wishes she’d stayed on the first job and tried to negotiate better terms and conditions.

Starting a new job can be overwhelming. People under stress in situations that are uncertain or ambiguous tend to make decisions that are risky or unwise, according to a 2016 study by German researchers.

Quitting abruptly risks earning bad references from former bosses and their contacts. It also may mean living without a paycheck for a while.

Rob Hill was dismayed two years ago to learn that he was expected as a manager of a new manufacturing plant to work the 5 a.m.-to-5 p.m. shift, plus several more hours—a fact he says hadn’t been clear to him during interviews. He quit after two days. After working long hours on similar jobs in the past, “I just didn’t want to hurt like that anymore,” Mr. Hill says. He had to live on his savings for a month, but he landed a more fulfilling position, as director of operations for a Denver community foundation.

Before resigning abruptly, new hires should ask themselves if they’re giving the job a fair chance. New employees’ behavior helps determine the amount of support they receive, according to a 2017 study of 273 new hires and 203 managers. Those who seem committed to the job and ask questions get more help from managers says Allison Marie Ellis, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of management and human resources at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Having a new hire quit is costly for employers. It forces them to restart the hiring process and damages morale. Several people Julie Jansen hired and trained as recruiters on a previous job years ago quit after only one day. “It was devastating. You think you know if someone is a fit, and then they just disappear,” says Ms. Jansen, author of “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This,” a best-selling career book.

It isn’t wise to exit just because you don’t like the person next to you or have to do grunt work all day. If the boss is abrasive, push back a bit. One intern at a Wall Street financial-services firm whose boss seemed unduly brusque asked him, “Are you just having a bad day, or are you always like this?” says Rebecca Zucker, a career and executive coach at Next Step Partners in San Francisco. The intern not only survived the exchange but earned better treatment from the boss, Ms. Zucker says.

Quitting early may be warranted if an employer tries a bait-and-switch—promising one job and assigning you to a different one, or violating other agreed-upon terms, says Chicago career coach Jody Michael. “If you’re told you’ll be reporting to the CEO, but in actuality, there’s someone positioned between you and the CEO, that’s a problem,” Ms. Michael says.

One manager learned on his first day at an automotive company that his base pay would be cut in half under a new company compensation plan, says Carlos Kingwergs, Latin America regional director for AutoKineto, an international executive-search firm based in Columbia, S.C. The employer increased his bonus to make up for it, Mr. Kingwergs says, but the new hire quit, saying, “That’s not what I signed on for.”

Other job seekers take a position because it’s their only offer, then exit after receiving an offer for their dream job that requires them to start right away, Ms. Michael says. That’s not an ideal path, but some opportunities are simply too good to refuse.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to leave on as positive a note as possible, says Jill Tipograph, co-founder of Early Stage Careers, a New York City coaching service for recent college grads. Most employers won’t want to keep a new hire around if he or she gives two weeks’ notice right away. But ask if you can help with the transition in other ways, such as leaving notes on any work you’ve done. “First and last impressions are what people remember,” she says.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at


The Most Important Factor in Closing a Deal: 3 Ways Modern Sales Pros Build Trust

Great salespeople don’t focus on products or services, at least not at first. Great salespeople start with building genuine trust.


CREDIT: Getty Images
By Jeff Haden – Contributing editor, Inc.

And you’ll never get to that point in the sales process if you don’t start by building trust, especially since trust is the biggest factor buyers consider. So how do you create an atmosphere of trust with potential customers — and with current customers?

Let’s ask an expert. The following comes from Justin Shriber, VP of Marketing, LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions.

Here’s Justin:

Today’s B2B buyers are looking for information that is useful, relevant, and not overly “salesy.” More than likely, they’re subscribers to Amazon Prime and Netflix, accustomed to highly personalized experiences and curated content.

Meanwhile, at home and at work, they’re inundated with un-targeted ads and irrelevant marketing content. In this environment of heightened customer expectations and information overload, conventional sales tactics like cold-calling and blast emails no longer work.

Businesses are recognizing this reality and adapting. They’re hiring more specialized sales professionals with strategic skills, integrating their marketing and sales organizations and investing in technology to shorten sales cycles and close bigger deals.

All of this represents a necessary evolution of B2B sales, but it’s incomplete without a crucial ingredient: Trust.

My team at LinkedIn recently surveyed more than 1,000 B2B decision-makers and sales professionals to understand what matters on both sides of the buyer/seller relationship. Trust came out on top. For buyers, trust is the #1 most influential factor when closing a deal, ranking higher in importance than economic considerations like price or return on investment.

However, trust is a valuable asset that today seems to be eroding. According to Edelman’s trust barometer, trust in business is declining, as is trust in government and NGOs. Trust in the media reached all-time lows in 2017.

Here’s the good news.  Although it may seem counterintuitive, technology can help to build trust.

Establishing trust can be much easier if sales professionals leverage sales tech to do three things really well:

1. Learn about the buyer and their business.

Buyers expect and respond to personalized, relevant messages. Our study found that 77 percent of buyers want sales representatives to integrate customized data and insights into their interactions. The same percentage said they wouldn’t engage with a salesperson who didn’t do their homework or know about their business.

Sales technology helps to achieve this personalization. For instance, being in tune with a buyer’s social media activities enhances the seller’s ability to demonstrate their understanding of a prospect and relate to their particular context.

Of the top sellers we surveyed, 94 percent use social networks to gain insights into prospects’ trigger points, like job changes, promotions, and new mentions and personalize their outreach accordingly.

2. Find common ground.

While trust in institutions is declining, peers and subject matter experts increasingly are seen as trustworthy sources. Edelman’s study found that consumers are more likely to trust people who resemble themselves than they are to trust CEOs, board members or government officials.

In the sales process, finding common ground can take a few different forms. A mutual connection significantly builds trust: our research shows that buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales professional if the contact is made through a shared connection. Eighty-seven percent of B2B buyers have a better impression of sales professionals who are introduced through someone in their professional network.

Buyers are also more likely to trust a sales professional with whom they share an interest, skill, or industry group. On LinkedIn, sales professionals see a 46 percent lift in message acceptance rates when they have one of these things in common with the prospect.

These “profile” commonalities are almost as predictive of response rates as a shared alma mater. Automation and predictive analytics technologies are here to help and can even surface these connections at scale.

Using these insights, sales professionals can turn cold outreach into more strategic relationship-building.

3. Demonstrate sales professionals’ expertise and industry knowledge.

Sales organizations and sales reps are realizing their online presence and thought leadership are assets that can open the door to new, more relevant conversations with prospects.

Buyers prefer sellers who are educated about their business needs and are thought leaders within their industry. Sixty-two percent of B2B decision-makers say they look for an informative LinkedIn profile when deciding whether to work with a sales professional and 86 percent would engage with a sales professional who provided insights or knowledge about their industry.

We’re seeing a trend of buyers actively profiling sellers on social platforms to evaluate whether a response or intro meeting is worth their time. Social platforms make it possible for sales reps to show off their knowledge, expertise and who they are beyond the scope of a given deal.

Successful sales organizations have identified that trust is at the core of modern sales, and that technology is an important part of building trust at scale.

Today’s sales tech can automate and improve complex and time-consuming processes like culling through buyer profiles for relevant signals, identifying mutual interests and connections, and surfacing the right content to demonstrate subject matter expertise.

This can lead to new conversations, trusted relationships, and ultimately, closed deals.


3 Important Ways to Establish Your Expertise and Build Trust With Clients

3 Important Ways to Establish Your Expertise and Build Trust With Clients

Get your clients to trust you by using the principle of authority.

CREDIT: Getty Images


By Ken Sterling – Executive vice president, BigSpeak

Don’t you wish you could make deals faster? One of the reasons it takes so long to make a deal is the lack of trust between you and your client. As everyone knows, it takes a long time to build a relationship. The Online Marketing Institute has shown it takes between 7-13 touches with a client before you make a sales-ready lead.

However, if you want to quickly build your credibility and make deals faster, you can do so by establishing your expertise. According to social psychologist Robert Cialdini, we can quickly establish our expertise by using one of these three methods.

Display your diploma, award, or credential.

Enter the office of any doctor or lawyer and you’ll see a framed diploma hanging on their wall. Why? It’s not that they’re just proud of their accomplishments. They are. But doctors and lawyers also know that a framed degree in your eyeline is the quickest and most efficient way to give evidence of expertise.

In a study reported in Cialdini’s book, Yes, he shows the power of the paper credential. In his example, physician’s assistants were having difficulty getting their patients to listen to their medical advice. However, after the physician’s assistants openly displayed their medical credentials, patients were much more willing to listen.

Lesson: Next time you get a certificate of your expertise, post it where your clients can see it.

Advertise your testimonials first.

If you don’t have a fancy diploma or award to display, a great way to authenticate your expertise is with a testimonial. If someone else testifies you are an expert, clients are more willing to believe it.

For the strongest effect, Cialdini suggests placing the best testimonial at the top of your webpage or advertisement. If people read the testimonial first, it will lend authority to what is written afterwards.

In person, you can also use printed and verbal testimonials. For print, you can frame a letter of praise from a client and place it on your desk facing a client. Or have one of your colleagues speak highly of you.

Cialdini says in his book, Yes, you can easily establish authority to a colleague over the phone.

For a real estate firm, for example, the receptionist could say, “I’m going to put you through to Sheldon, our head of sales. Sheldon has twenty years of experience selling properties; in fact, he recently sold a property very similar to yours.” Once clients hear this verbal testimonial, they are more likely to trust Sheldon’s expert advice.

Lesson: People trust the advice of experts, so make sure people know you are one.

Acknowledge your weakness.

Want to gain someone’s trust for your expertise almost immediately? All you need to do is acknowledge your weakness early on.

Many presenters make the mistake of highlighting all the good features of a product first and leave any weaknesses until later–or never. However, in his bestselling book Pre-Suasion, Cialdini states that when you acknowledge a weakness early on (especially one that people are aware of), people are more likely to believe what you say about your strengths.

Cialdini says this strategy has been used effectively in trials (when an attorney admits to a weakness of the case), in politics (when the politician acknowledges the positive of an opponent), and in advertising.

For example, when companies acknowledge a drawback in a product or service before highlighting its strengths, they see sales increase. Avis Rent A Car did this in their very successful “We’re #2. We Try Harder” campaign. By admitting their weakness first, people were more inclined to believe their strength.

Lesson: By admitting your weakness early on, you can build authority for your strengths.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of PUBLISHED ON: DEC 18, 2017


#4 Challenges Startups Face While Hiring Young Talent

#4 Challenges Startups Face While Hiring Young Talent

Many startups don’t market themselves well in social media which is the only inexpensive way to create a brand visibility

#4 Challenges Startups Face While Hiring Young Talent
Image credit: Shutterstock
You’re reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Finding right talent is crucial part of any company. Recruiters and HR professionals make best recruitment strategies to attract the best-qualified candidates using various tools. However, the hiring process poses its own set of unique challenges.

Entrepreneur India spoke to few experts to find out what challenges startups face while hiring young talent.

Limited Resources:

Kamal Karanth A, TalentSpecialist & Co-Founder, Xpheno feels startups cannot afford high fliers available in the industries due to limited resources and market salaries.

“Mostly, startups limit themselves to their network which can be limited if they have entered a new industry. Another challenge is unstructured hiring process, not sure of whom to hire, interview processes taking long thereby frustrating prospective hires. Lastly, the founder’s inability to connect their value proposition to the aspirant’s career drivers,” said Karanth.

He further added that poor marketing orientation of founders also becomes the main reason why startups are unable to find a perfect candidate.

“Many startups don’t market themselves well in social media which is the only inexpensive way to create a brand visibility,” he added.

Offer Trading:

Chirag Joshi, Head of Marketing, Samco Securities feels the first and foremost challenge startups face is ‘Offer Trading’.

“Candidates usually come and say that they already have few offers in their hand and are looking out for more options. In some cases, these candidates display the offer rolled out from our end to other companies to obtain a better CTC. Now on this belief that we have got their enrolment we count the candidate in and reduce down the hiring process but eventually get a negative surprise, the candidate backs out, because of better CTC offer he/she has grabbed by exhibiting our offer letter,” explained Joshi.

He emphasized the second challenge is getting candidates with the same domain experience.

“Even if few candidates apply from the same domain, they were too costly for our P/L as we operate a low-cost model, or we got untrained, inexperienced candidates which required a lot of training and polishing in-house,” he stressed.

Hiring Curious Candidates:

According to Projjol Banerjea, Founder and Chief Product Officer, zeotap, the single biggest thing his company looks for is natural curiosity.

“It gives that extra willpower and stamina that empowers our colleagues to accomplish even the most difficult endeavors. And that, that is how you build a company full of entrepreneurs,” he said.

Finding Like-minded Individuals:

For Aditya Shah, Founder, Juno’s Pizza, to find like-minded individuals who can delay immediate gratification for a future greatness is makes hiring so difficult.

“Since our inception in 2015, we have been committed to providing our consumers best-in-class service, creating a “wow” experience with a distinctly unique dining experience and creating consumer’s delight by offering extremely prompt & efficient delivery offering. Often we are faced with a challenge of finding talent who understands our organizational goals and shows an equal amount of commitment towards our customers. Also as a start-up, we need to constantly keep our working force loyal and committed towards our brand so that they choose us each time over larger companies,” said Shah



5 Sales Lessons My Grandfather Taught Me

5 Sales Lessons My Grandfather Taught Me

5 Sales Lessons My Grandfather Taught Me
Image credit: Tom Merton | Getty Images
Some of the best lessons in entrepreneurship come from the people who have been in the game longer than we. For me, that person is my grandfather. While he was still around he taught me a lot about business and life.

Grandparents often have a special perspective about work ethic and how to build meaningful relationships with people professionally and personally. Grandparents have seen it all, and just because their careers happened in an earlier era doesn’t mean their lessons are irrelevant. Some of the most important sales techniques and life lessons from my grandfather’s sales career are still valid and valuable today.

Here are five lessons about B2B sales that I’ve learned from my grandfather:

1. Don’t rush it.

One of the first lessons my grandfather taught me is that you have to be patient if you want to make sales. Keep in mind that it takes time to close a deal. The more complex and high-dollar B2B sales deals might take 16-18 months to close.  Putting pressure on prospects will only slow things down or end the discussions.

Be patient and keep perspective. Build a relationship with the team you’re working with. Don’t treat people like transactions. Treat every sales deal as a unique learning process that you can get something out of along the way. Enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Related: How to Sell Anything to Anyone by Telling Great Stories

2. Talk to people.

Nowadays, everyone is using social media, email and digital sales tools, mostly to avoid speaking to each other. Digital tools can definitely be helpful, but take a page from my grandfather’s sales playbook, and start your sales process by picking up the phone. My grandfather liked to talk on the phone and valued the human touch. People in his generation didn’t have email, so they used the phone just to chat and connect.

One of the biggest surprises of working in sales in 2017 is that the phone is still an underrated, underutilized sales tool. Why? Because phone calls today are harder to ignore than email. A phone call can put you right through to the person you’re trying to reach. Sure, they can screen calls, but you often have better luck reaching your decision maker just by working the phones.

Also, just talking on the phone gives you unique insights into your prospect’s mindset and mood that no email can replicate. You can hear your prospect’s tone of voice, overcome objections, ask follow-up questions, resolve problems and explore new opportunities mid-conversation in a way that digital tools do not allow.

Related: 4 of the Many Reasons Why People Aren’t Buying From You

3. There are no shortcuts.

If you want something in life, you often need to make big sacrifices and be tenacious to get it. There are no shortcuts to success. B2B sales especially does not offer many shortcuts; building relationships with customers, closing deals and implementing B2B solutions takes persistence and hard work. You need to keep hitting the pavement and working the phones. Don’t stop until you reach the top decision makers on your list.

You need to be persistent, hungry and scrappy. If there’s a person who can help you close your deal, find a way to reach that person.

Related: The Many Ways You’re Marketing Even When You Don’t Even Know You Are

4. Think long-term.

My grandfather always choose long-term customer relationships over one-time transactions. It’s better business and a better way to treat people. Treat them so they know you’re interested in working together for the long-term instead of just trying to suck every dollar out of them in the short-term.

B2B sales is all about relationships. The best salespeople have repeat customers who keep coming back to them and referring new business opportunities to them. If you make every sales deal a win-win, with the potential for future opportunities to add value for each other, you’ll get more deals and enjoy more meaningful customer relationships along the way.

5. Integrity is everything.

My grandfather did business with a handshake. For his generation, a person was only as good as their word. No matter how many amazing 21st century tech tools we bring into the B2B sales world, the fundamentals remain the same: it’s all about trust. If people can trust you to keep your promises, they will be more likely to buy from you. If people doubt your integrity, you will lose.

A lot has changed in the business world since my grandfather was young, but many of the life lessons and insights from his career are still true. Build relationships. Be patient. Use the phone or in-person meetings to enhance trust. Above all, always work toward long-term value-added relationships so customers come to believe in you. Do that and they will keep coming back to you for many deals over the years. That’s how you build a great long-term career that you’ll be proud to tell your grandkids about.

Related Video: 4 Ways to Increase Sales with Video



So You Want to Be A Product Manager

So You Want to Be A Product Manager

Because I teach a course on Product Management at Harvard Business School, I am routinely asked “what is the role of a Product Manager?”. The role of a Product Manager (PM) is often referred to as the “CEO of the Product”. I disagree because, as Martin Eriksson points out, “Product managers simply don’t have any direct authority over most of the things needed to make their products successful – from user and data research through design and development to marketing, sales, and support”. PMs are not the CEO of product and their roles vary widely depending on a number of factors. So what should you consider if you’re thinking of pursuing a PM role?

As an aspiring PM, there are three primary considerations when evaluating the role: Core CompetenciesEmotional Intelligence(EQ) and Company Fit. The best PMs I have worked with have mastered the core competencies, have a high EQ and work for the right company for them. Beyond shipping new features on a regular cadence and keeping the peace between engineering and the des

ign team, the best PMs create products with strong user adoption that have exponential revenue growth and perhaps even disrupt an industry.

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Do you have what it takes to be the best PM?

Core Competencies
There are core competencies that every PM must have – many of which can start in the classroom – but most are developed with experience and good role models/mentoring. Some examples of these competencies include:

  • Conducting customer interviews and user testing
  • Running design sprints
  • Feature prioritization and roadmap planning
  • The art of resource allocation (it is not a science!)
  • Performing market assessments
  • Translating business-to-technical requirements, and vice versa
  • Pricing and revenue modeling
  • Defining and tracking success metrics

These core competencies are the baseline for any PM and the best PMs hone these skills over years of defining, shipping and iterating on products. These PMs excel at reflecting on where each of these competencies contributed to the success or failure of their products and continuously adjust their approach based on customer feedback.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

A good PM may know the Do’s and Don’ts of a customer interview, but the best PM has the ability to empathize with customers in that interview, are tuned into their body language and emotions and can astutely suss out the true pain-points that their product/feature will address. A PM with a high EQ has strong relationships within their organization and they have a keen sense of how to navigate both internal and external hurdles to ship a great product. Here’s a deeper look at how the four EQ key traits, as defined by Daniel Goleman, relate to the PM role:

  • Relationship Management: Probably one of the most important characteristics of a great PM is their relationship management skills. By forming authentic and trustworthy connections with both internal and external stakeholders, the best PMs inspire people and help them reach their full potential. Relationship management is also vital in successful negotiation, resolving conflicts and working with others toward a shared goal which is especially challenging when a PM is tasked with balancing the needs of customers, resource constrained engineering teams and the company’s revenue goals.Authentic and trusting relationships within an organization can lead to more support if additional funding is needed for a product or to sway an engineer to include a quick bug fix in the next sprint. Outside an organization, these skills could encourage existing customers to beta test a new feature for early feedback or convince a target customer to try the MVP of a product still in stealth mode. These relationship skills can also be what makes the difference between having irate customers because of a bug introduced into the product and those who say “no worries, we know you’ll fix this!”.
  • Self-awareness: PMs must be self-aware to remain objective and avoid projecting their own preferences onto users of their products. If a PM is in love with a feature because it addresses their own pain points (PMs are often super users of the products for which they are responsible), they may cause a user to say they love it too just to please the PM (“False positive feature validation”). If not self-aware, a PM may push to prioritize a feature they conceived even when all the customer interviews and evidence is stacked against it. This lack of self awareness could derail more important priorities and/or damage the PM’s relationship with engineers who may lose confidence in their PM when the feature isn’t readily adopted by users.
  • Self-management: Being a PM can be incredibly stressful! The CEO wants one thing, the engineering team another, and customers have their own opinions about feature priorities. Managing tight deadlines, revenue targets, market demands, prioritization conflicts and resource constraints all at once is not for the faint of heart. If a PM cannot maintain their emotions and keep it cool under pressure, they can quickly lose the confidence of all their constituents. The best PMs know how to push hard on the right priorities, with urgency, but without conveying a sense of panic or stress. These PMs also know when to take a breath and step away if needed, regroup, and go back into the game to get sh*t done (GSD).
  • Social Awareness: According to Goleman, the competencies associated with being socially aware are Empathy, Organizational Awareness, and Service. PMs must understand customers emotions and concerns about their product as much as they understand the concerns of the sales team on how to sell that product (or support team to support it, or engineering to build it). PMs have to have a deep understanding of how the organization operates and build social capital to influence the success of their product – from obtaining budget and staffing to securing a top engineer to work on their product. Finally, social awareness ensures the best PMs service their customers with a product that addresses their jobs to be done which is ultimately what drives product-market fit.

Read more about what Paul Jackson has to say about EQ and PMs here – including a sub-link of an interview with Sam Lessin, former VP of Product Management at Facebook, who says he has ‘never successfully trained empathy.’ (or as Lady Gaga would say “you were born this way”…or not!)

Company Fit

So if the best PMs have well-developed core competencies and a high EQ, does that mean that they are then destined for success no matter where they work? Going deeper, it is taking these skills and personality traits and applying them to the right company – amid a broad array of opportunities – that will ultimately guarantee success.

I have yet to see a standard job description for a Product Manager because each role is ultimately defined by the size, type of product, stage, industry and even culture of the company. Assuming the core competencies and high EQ as the minimum requirements, the next step is to unpack who’s hiring and what they are truly looking for:

  • Technical Skill – The type of product, who uses it and/or the type of company (e.g. Google who requires PMs pass a technical skills test regardless of what product they’ll work on) will determine how technical a PM needs to be. If the company is building a SaaS CRM, there may be more requirements for experience with go-to-market and customer lifecycles than how the product itself is built. If it’s a data science product with machine learning algorithms and APIs, the role may require a lot more technical depth to not only understand how to build the product but also how to talk, credibly, with the customers who will use it. That said, having a basic technical understanding of what is “under the hood” and mastery of the tools that PMs use is definitely important for the role, anywhere. Colin Lernell has more to say about these necessary skills here.If you are an aspiring PM concerned you lack the basic tech skills for the role, you might consider taking online courses such as the renowned Introduction to Computer Science (CS50) course offered by Harvard University or one of the many intro and advanced technology courses offered by The Flatiron School.
  • Company philosophy about PM – Every company has a different philosophy about the product development process and where PMs fit into that process. Below are the three most common types with pros and cons:
    • PM Drives Engineering: A “throw it over the wall” approach where PMs gather requirements, write the quintessential PRD (Product Requirements Document) and hand it off to Engineering to spec out the technical requirements. Contemporary organizations may do this process in a more agile and collaborative way, but the expectation is that PMs know best about what customers need and engineering is there to serve.
      • Pro: Engineering can focus on coding without a lot of distraction; tends to work well for Waterfall development shops with long lifecycles.
      • Con: Engineers lose sight of the big picture and do not develop empathy for customers which can lead to a poor user experience; often there are unhealthy tensions when tech-debt and “plumbing” work needs to be prioritized against customer requirements.
    • Engineering Drives Product: More technically oriented product companies (e.g., cloud, big data, networking…) tend to be engineering driven where engineers are advancing the science in their domain and PMs validate solutions or create front end access points (UIs, APIs) to tap into this new technology. There can be a collaborative relationship and feedback loop between customers, PM, and engineering, but typically, PMs are serving engineering in these companies.
      • Pro: Breakthrough technology can offer customers things they didn’t even know they needed (VMotion at VMware was a great example of this. An engineer thought it would be cool to do, a PM figured out how to monetize it and it became THE billion dollar game changer for the company).
      • Cons: Engineers chase the shiny new thing, over-architect the solution or iterate forever (seeking perfection) before getting customer feedback; PM input on priorities are ignored, which is sometimes the most basic needs of customers to encourage adoption and increase stickiness of the product.Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 10.52.40 AM
    • The PM<>Engineering Partnership: There is a strong yin-yang between PM and Engineering where there is joint discovery, decision-making and shared accountability. Engineers join PMs in customer interviews and PMs are insprint meetings to help unblock tasks or bring clarity to requirements, but the two roles respect the line where one starts and the other stops. PMs understand what’s being coded, but don’t tell engineers how to code and engineers have empathy for customers’ needs, but leave the prioritization to the PMs.
      • Pros: Streamlined prioritization process that values tech-debt/plumbing projects; better design processes leading to a more positive user experience; higher performing teams with improved product velocity, quality and typically, happier customers.
      • Con: Breakthrough innovation may not get light/investment; time-to-market may seem to lag (but I’d argue what’s released is far better aligned with customer needs with a far more scalable product).

I’m clearly biased (as is Fred Wilson) on the third type of philosophy about PM as I’ve experienced all three and found the yin-yang to be most effective, but it’s not to say the others are notably bad and, again, it really depends on what type of product, stage, etc,. Regardless, when considering a PM role, the philosophy of PM at the company could be the deciding factor on fit for the role.

  • Stage of company – The role of the PM at a startup is far likely to be responsible for “all the things” vs. a mature company where their role will be more distinctly defined. Eriksson, Banfield and Walkingshaw’s book Product Leadership has a section that has a lot more detail on this topic).
    • Startup: Beyond discovery, definition and shipping, they may also be responsible for pricing, marketing, support and potentially even sales of the product. These PMs thrive in a scrappy environment and are comfortable with ambiguity and frequent changes to direction as the company works towards product market fit and learns to operate at scale.
      • Pros: Likely to be more involved with company strategy, exposure to senior leadership/board, able to take more risks/make a bigger impact; more influence/authority over company resources.
      • Cons: Little-to-no mentorship or role models or best practice within the company (may have to seek externally); may not have requisite experience for some of the “things” (comfortable winging it); tight budgets.
    • Mature Company: The PM may have a more narrow scope (deep vs. broad), have co-workers who handle pricing, go to market strategies, etc.. and likely part of a larger team of Product Managers.
      • Pros: More likely to have mentoring/role models and development standards/best practice; close association with an engineering team can develop strong relationships over time (great for long term impact/career growth); if product has market fit, there is an established customer base and performance baseline to work from vs. guessing until you get it right.
      • Cons: Less exposure to company strategy; just one of many voices of the customer; can get “lost” in the system; more politics; tight budgets.
  • Founder/CTO/CEO relationship with PM – Especially in earlier stage companies, it’s important to know how involved the Founder/CEO/CTO is in the product process. If they are deeply involved, the PM role may play more of a support role to flesh out their ideas or validate concepts with customers vs. conceiving and driving ideas of their own. This can be great fun for some PMs who enjoy partnering with founders/c-levels and collaborate on the product evolution, but for some PMs, it can be very frustrating if they prefer to take more ownership of product direction. It can also be challenging if the more technical founders/c-levels prefer working directly with engineers. This can leave PMs out of the loop or undermined (even if unintentional) causing not just personal frustrations but delays if they have to play catch up and/or continuously recalibrate. When considering a PM role that may work closely with the founding leadership team, be sure to find out their expectations of the PM function and decide whether this is the right fit with your interests.

There are of course many other factors to consider for any role such as the type of product you are building (B2B, B2C, industry, etc.), the humans with whom you’ll work and the overall company culture (diverse, inclusive, flexible work hours, remote culture, etc.), and of course compensation and benefits. There are also a million articles on hiring product managers to get perspective on what the hiring managers are looking for – I especially recommend my friend Ken Norton’s piece How to Hire a Product Manager. However, if you are striving to be the best Product Manager, consider all of the above before signing on to your next gig. Developing core competencies will be an ongoing activity throughout your career and leveraging a high EQ will ensure a more positive experience, but where you work, how they work and who you work with/for will ultimately determine your long term success.