Critical Employee Insurance

In order to take out life insurance on a person, one must have something called ‘insurable interest’ in the individual in question. In laymen’s terms, this means that you would incur some kind of tangible loss in the event of …

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The Importance of Sales Training

A salesperson is the human contact that most potential customers come into contact with. The sum total of customer experience depends a lot on the quality of contact customers have with salespeople. On the other hand salespeople are not always equipped with everything they need to see a business opportunity through. They may be talented and enthusiastic about the products they sell, but if they have no skills in turning this into a transaction, then, they may remain ineffective. Coupled with the fact that most people require some kind of morale boosting, there are indeed strong reasons why every company needs to trains its sales staff.


A salesperson needs to understand the company in order to be effective. This includes the understanding of the corporate structure, the business environment, regulatory framework, and nature of competition. In the course of work, salespeople find themselves talking to all manner of people. Understanding the business is important because it prepares them to interact profitably with each of them. Some customers will be interested in the product itself, others may have a special interest in the social involvement of the company, yet others will seek reassurance that the company is here to stay through evidence of a stable corporate structure. This makes it very important for a salesperson to know as much about the company as possible.


The second significance of sales training is that a salesperson needs to know the products the company offers, intimately. Knowing the products makes it easier for the salesperson to talk about them more easily and naturally. It shows the potential customer that the company knows what it is selling and is clear about what it will deliver. If the salesperson does not know enough about the product, they could over-sell or under-sell it. Either situation is bad in the long term.

Thirdly, a trained salesperson achieves three things whenever they meet customers. In the first case, if they meet potential customers, they will portray more confidence if they are trained than if they are not. This impression never really leaves a customer and even if they do not buy during that first contact, they are predisposed to picking the companyís product at some point in the future. The second effect that salespersons with sales training have is that they create trust in new customers. Talking to a knowledgeable and confident salesperson makes the customer develop confidence in the company. It is customer confidence that makes them buy products and service. Thirdly, for existing customers who regularly use the companyís goods or services, contact with well trained salespersons improves their brand loyalty. Knowing that the company has people who know their products well makes the customer feel strongly about the company. It shows that the company is reliable and unassuming. It is such customers who provide repeat business for the company and assure long term profitability.


In conclusion, sales training has a positive impact on the salesperson. This impact translates into pleasant customer experiences that eventually lead to profitability for any organization.


How to Create Well-Formed Outcomes in NLP

Identifying and establishing outcomes is a central and first step in NLP. If s easy to say what you don’t want. Focusing on an outcome you do want creates a much more engaging concept and gives you a clear indication of your commitment. If you don’t make the choice for yourself in any aspect of your life then, by default, someone else will make it for you.


Creating well-formed outcomes


1. Positive

Every time you focus on what you can’t do or don’t want, you are creating a negative outcome and reminding yourself of what you want to avoid. How would you react if someone said to you: ‘Don’t look behind you!’? I know I would immediately turn my head. In order to avoid something, I have to think about it, and then to react to it. A much more useful instruction would be: ‘Keep looking ahead.’


Divya, a manager in a busy customer-care office, agreed to reduce poor timekeeping in the office as part of her annual appraisal. This was a negative and restrictive outcome. When she decided to put a positive angle on it, she considered the question: ‘What do I really want to happen?’ She was then able to think about the real issue. Poor timekeeping meant the office was sometimes empty. An empty office ted to the ‘hotline’ phone ringing continuously without being answered, meaning lost customers. What Divya wanted was to maintain existing customers and increase the number of new ones who joined the ‘hotline’ service. She was now able to think about changing conditions and creating flexible working patterns that would lead to at least one phone being operated all the time – a more creative and outward-looking outcome. She decided to introduce flexible rostering, particularly at ‘twilight” and ‘sunset’ shifts.


2. Specific

Be specific in describing your positive outcome, and use as many questions as you can to check how specific you are. Moving from general to specific enables you to concentrate on answers and solutions.


Divya asked herself the following:

Where? – in the red office.

Who?  – I need at least one member of the team to be available for customer calls.

When? –  from 0800 until 2200 hours.

What? – I will arrange a change of working hours.

How? – in individual and team discussions and meetings. We will review after the first three months.


3. Evidence

To enhance the energy and application of your outcome, it is useful to imagine as much sensory-based evidence as you can. This will increase your motivation too. If you don’t know when you’ve achieved your outcome, you could still be using up resources long after you’ve actually succeeded.


For Divya, this meant asking: what will I see, hear and feel, and how will others know this has been achieved?


- I’ll see at least one dedicated phone operator in the red room at all times.

- I’ll hear only three rings before the phone is answered.

- I’ll feel confident and relaxed about covering the lines.

- They’ll be able to see the roster every week, they’ll hear words of encouragement from me and they’ll feel acknowledged in their needs.


4. Ownership

Whose outcome is it? Be aware of whether you are dependent on someone else for your success. If you are waiting for others to change, you risk becoming a passive spectator. Consider your own part in and contribution to the process.


Divya’s key contribution is to identify what she wants, initiate discussion and, having agreed the procedures, to put these into practice.


5. Fit

How does the outcome fit in with other aspects of your life and your overall plan? Are there other people or factors to take into account? If you were to achieve your outcome, how would you feel about it? The response to this last question will indicate how important the outcome is.


In terms of Divya’s ‘fit’, knowing that customers’ calls would be answered and that staff would be clearer about their responsibilities tied in with her being a constructive and collegiate manager. Other areas of the company would be positively affected by additional orders, and they would need to consider the additional administrative impact.


6. Resources

Sometimes, we forget that our resources are internal as well as external. A well-formed outcome will include consideration of both for initial achievement and then continued maintenance. If you accept that you have all the internal resources you need, the skill is to relate them specifically to your outcome. The acquisition of external resources may need greater planning. If you know what you need, you have a much better chance of designing the means of acquiring the requisite resources.


Divya remembered the time she was on the receiving end of changes at work. She had felt involved and valued when Toby took the time to ask for her ideas and suggestions. She knew she had used his example to create an atmosphere of trust in her team, and felt confident of her ability to listen to their views.

How to Answer the Interview Questions about Your Career Track Record and Experience

These questions look at the length and nature of your work experience. In particular, interviewers will be keen to explore the positions that you have held, the responsibilities that you had, and the depth of your technical knowledge and expertise in key areas. They will also be looking to fully account for any apparent gaps or breaks in your career history.

Questions in this area can cover four themes:


1. Your career direction

These questions focus on your career path to date and where you would like it to go. Typical questions include:

-      ‘Tell me a bit about yourself.’

-      ‘Where do you see your career heading?’

-      ‘What were you doing between (a particular gap in your employment record)?’

-      ‘What attracted you to that role?’

-      ‘Why did you leave the previous role?’


Top tips

Plan your responses to these and related questions about where you have come from and where you want to go in your career. Pay particular attention in your preparation to your important lifeline junctions’, such as career changes, and to any employment breaks – particularly in the last 10 years. However, career paths, like train journeys, do not always proceed smoothly. At times they do not go as planned and to schedule! The key is to talk comfortably about the choices you have made, and the lessons and skills you have learned, and the positive aspects of the experience. In preparation for a question along the lines of Tell me about yourself?’, have in your mind a short (maximum 2 minutes) summary of yourself, covering your key experiences, key strengths, and the main reason why you are applying for the role, identifying how it fits in with your overall career goals.


2. Positions and responsibilities you have held

These questions focus more specifically on the positions themselves and their responsibilities. They will tend to focus on your more recent roles, but an earlier position may be explored more fully if it is felt to be particularly relevant to the job in question. Typical questions include:

-      ‘What were your main responsibilities in that role?’

-      ‘What was the purpose of the role?’

-      ‘Who did you report to?’

-      ‘What were you accountable for?’


Top tips

Plan your responses to these questions, particularly for your last three roles or for the last 10 years (whichever is the shorter). Differentiate clearly between the purpose of the job (why it existed) and the tasks you did.


3. Your technical knowledge and skills

These questions focus on the depth of your technical knowledge and skills in relevant areas. For example, an Office Manager may require technical knowledge about Microsoft Office and a Personnel Manager will be expected to have knowledge of employment legislation. Typical questions include:

-      ‘What are your technical strengths and limitations?’

-      ‘How do you keep your technical knowledge up to date?’

-      ‘What professional publications do you read on a regular basis?’

-      ‘What would you see as the key technical demands of this role?’


Top tips

Plan your responses to these questions. Be clear about your areas of strength and how you can tackle / are tackling any areas where you are not as strong. If appropriate, ensure that your professional memberships are up to date and keep yourself abreast of any relevant stories in newspapers/journals relating to technical products / processes in your areas of relevant expertise.


4. Your achievements and successes

These questions focus on your key achievements to date and the particular successes that you have had in relevant areas. It is less about the roles you have held and the tasks you performed (which are covered in questions about your position and responsibilities), but more about how successfully you did it and what you achieved. It is worth noting that candidates often sell themselves short in this area. This is a pity, because employers are looking for people who can replicate their previous successes in a new setting. Typical questions include:

-      ‘What are your key achievements to date?’

-      ‘What were your main successes in that role?’

-      ‘What challenges did you face in the role of…?’


Top tips:

Plan your responses to these questions, and in particular try to have at least two achievements for your last two roles clear in your mind. Focus on your achievements: avoid the royal ‘we’! Make your achievements as relevant as you can to the role you are applying for. Be specific if you can, and quantify your achievements as much as possible, for example:

-      ‘I improved the company’s financial performance by 10 per cent.’

-      ‘I reduced staff turnover by 20 per cent.’ ‘I was sales representative of the year.’

-      ‘I successfully passed my professional exams whilst studying part-time over those 2 years.’


Make sure your achievements are justifiable, because you are likely to have further questions on them during the interview. Your achievements may also be verified with your referees.

How to Answer the Interview Questions about Competencies

These questions look at when you have demonstrated the required Competencies in the past. A Competency – such as ‘Planning and organising’ – is a clearly defined grouping of qualities which is required to perform a job effectively. When assessing your Competencies, interviewers are still working on the premise that the best gauge of future performance is past performance. However, the focus here is very much on ‘how’ people have done things (the Competencies they used and clearly demonstrated) rather than ‘what’ they necessarily achieved. Competency questions will vary, but they often follow a particular pattern that you can use to good effect to help your preparation. Have a look at the example question below for the Competency of Planning and organising:


Opening question

‘Talk us through an example of when you planned a particular project…’


Follow-up question 1

‘What was the situation?’


Follow-up question 2

‘What tasks had to be done?”


Follow-up question 3

‘What actions did you take to plan the project?’


Follow-up question 4

‘What was the result?’


Top tips

As you can see, a Competency-based interview question asks you to describe a particular example or event. You are then often asked a series of follow-up questions to expand on the situation, what you did and what the outcome was. Candidates who have not had the opportunity to prepare can often find these questions very demanding. This is because you are having to talk through real events and in some detail. Preparation really pays dividends in this area. The preparation you will need to do for any Competency interview is to consider firstly what likely Competencies are required for the role. If possible, try to get the Competencies, or at least information indicating what they are likely to be, from the employer (such as the Person/Job Specification). Not all the competencies will be relevant for every role. Look to identify the ones which you feel would be the most important. Work on around a maximum of nine for any one role.


Having identified the Competencies, plan your preparation using the acronym STAR:

- S is the Situation that sets the scene for the particular Competency – this needs to be a real life example that you experienced personally

- T is the Tasks that needed to be undertaken to resolve the situation or problem represented above

- A is the Action or activity clearly taken, by you, in response to the situation

- R is the Result – think of it as the happy ending arising from the Actions you demonstrated above!


Ideally, draw upon a mix of recent examples (preferably from approximately the last 2-3 years, because these are easier to recall in detail) that cover different situations from your career to date. Also, feel free to include noteworthy examples from outside of work. In the interview itself, listen carefully to the phrasing of the exact question that you are given. Clarify the question if you are unsure, and take your time before answering. Be concise and focused – try to use no more than a couple of sentences on each STAR element. Remember to describe what you did rather than what the team did – do not fall into the trap of being too modest!


A good way to practice this is either to talk through your evidence with a friend, record it on tape or talk to yourself in a mirror. We suggest you do the latter in a private rather than public place! The key is to become comfortable when articulating your examples.

General Hints and Tips before the Assessment Centre

I’ve just received my invite to an Assessment Centre. What should I do first? First and foremost, check to see if a briefing or information pack is included with the letter. If not, ask if further information will be forwarded. Read the Pack carefully, and make sure you are clear on the following points:


- What exercises can I expect?

- What Competencies are being assessed?

- Where and when is the Assessment Centre?

- What is the dress code?


Also, action any requests, for example, confirming attendance or forwarding information in advance (such as certificates). Then, make a very clear check-list of which exercises and activities you need to prepare for in advance of the Assessment Centre. If not covered in the information pack, make an educated guess about the Competencies that you are likely to be assessed on and the exercises you can expect on the day. Remember, if you feel that you require more information or clarification – ask.


I have special requirements – what should I do?

If you have any special requirements – including disability, dietary or other – contact the organization. Organizations will look to make any adjustments that are reasonable, in order to ensure that no one is at a disadvantage. If you wear glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids etc. – bring them.


What should I take to the Assessment Centre?

If there is a numerical element to the day, pack your calculator (check if it needs a new battery). Always take along a spare CV and a copy of your original application. You may meet assessors who would find it helpful to see your documents on the day. Always take a watch – time is a critical issue at an Assessment Centre. Have some spare paper or a small reporter’s notepad to write down key names, times and learning points that you want to record for the future.


What advice can you give me about the travel arrangements?

Find out exactly where the event will be held and ensure that you get there in plenty of time. Remember to allow extra time if the venue is in a town centre, or if you are generally unfamiliar with the location. If your journey is a particularly long one, ask the organization if they are prepared to consider overnight accommodation for you. If you are driving, make sure that you know where to park and if parking spaces are available.


What about the night before?

Try to get a good night’s sleep!

Different types of Group Exercises at Assessment Centre

Broadly speaking, Group Exercises fall into two categories:


- Discussion based: where the group is asked to debate and often reach consensus and conclusions on a topic or on topics.

- Practical tasks: where the group is asked to design and physically construct something.


Discussion based

Discussion-based Group Exercises are the most commonly used type in an Assessment Centre. Individuals tend to be seated around a table in a group size of between four to six. There will tend to be two to three assessors in the room, set back from the group. Depending on the seniority of the role, Group Exercises will tend to last between 30-90 minutes. However, not all of that time will be taken up with discussion. It may include time for individuals to review the materials before the discussion formally begins.


The actual topic(s) may be completely unrelated to the work setting. For example, you may be asked to assume that you are all in a hot air balloon that is slowly losing height over the ocean. The group has to agree which items they need to discard, and in what order, so that height can be maintained until landfall is reached. At the other end of the scale, the topics will be work related and tailored specifically to the role being assessed. Here you are likely to find more complex briefing materials.


You may find that you and each of the other candidates are given different briefing materials or asked to play a particular role in the discussion (e.g. someone is representing Finance, someone else Marketing etc.). The topics may have no simple – or indeed single – answer and the candidates have to reach a consensus on the course of action.


Practical tasks

Practical task Group Exercises, though less widely used, do still occur in Assessment Centres. These types of exercises have moved on considerably from their military origins. The military made use of planks of wood, oil drums and ropes and still do! The principle underpinning the use of the practical task, however, remains the same. Their purpose is to place all candidates on an even footing by reducing the advantages of prior job knowledge and experience. The types of practical tasks that you are more likely to face in today’s Assessment Centres are indoor exercises involving equipment such as:

- Table-top plastic construction kits (often using K’nex and Lego style materials)

- Larger versions of the above requiring a reasonable amount of floor space for design and construction activities


The task will often require you to design and construct a particular object (car, bridge, chair etc.) within certain time and material constraints.

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