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HR and Sales - Part 2: How HR Drives Effective Sales Recruiting

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 @ 14:02 PM

Interview 250W 2We’ve been talking a lot, this month, about how non-sales key executives in companies can impact sales. Chris Mott wrote about the role of the CFO in driving sales and Dave Kurlan wrote about the important and often overlooked role of the CTO in the sales effort. My recent article addressed Human Resources and specifically explored the traits sales people must possess to be successful. There’s a lot more to add in the HR category. Today, let’s look at what HR believes it should do when hiring sales candidates. And let’s talk about what goes wrong.

If you look at normal HR general procedures for hiring, you will find something like the following:

  1. Advertise for candidates
  2. Screen candidates
  3. Properly interview
  4. Understand personality
  5. Demonstrated skills
  6. Background checks
  7. Pre-hire physicals

The first five of these steps are meaningful for our purposes in talking about how to build a world-class sales organization. We’ll leave numbers six and seven for HR to work out on their own. I have heard that those two last steps are commonly skipped. So let’s look at the first five one at a time.

 

Advertise for candidates

Almost all companies advertise for sales candidates ineffectively. This is usually because they believe that sales candidates are simply another employee just like any other employee, to fill a vacancy or to add a position. They are not. We want to attract normal employee candidates to the company. In sales, we want to reverse that. The advertisement is the first step. The ad must be written with the position in mind and it should address the nature of the selling environment so that the right person will see themselves in the ad. Start by looking at the selling environment from every angle and build your ad from there.

 

Screen Candidates 

Since sales candidates are different, we need to screen them differently. The trick is to set up an environment as part of the screening call to reproduce a challenging sales environment. The best sales people rise to that challenge and even relish it. If you’re concerned that you’ll scare them off, then your still thinking this is a different position. It’s not IT, it’s not accounting, it’s not logistics, it’s not customer service, etc. It’s sales. Make them sell, or live to regret it.

 

Properly Interview 

Like the screen, the first interview must re-create sales challenges. Do they know what they really want or are they throwing darts at their career? Is their resume real and do they own it? Are their inconsistencies we can call out? At this stage, we also want to carefully integrate the resume and any assessment tool we are using into the interview process. Interview skills can be learned that help you explore for issues and then dive deeper to uncover what’s really going on. If more than 50% of your interviewees aren’t stumped a few times and aren’t saying, “I hadn’t noticed that” or “I’ll rework my resume after this interview,” then you’re probably not doing it right.

Again, don’t confuse interviewing sales candidates with other positions. The object is not to be a jerk. It’s to create context for understanding their true skills and sales “DNA” and to see it in action. Let them perform. A recent interviewee insisted that he always asked lots of questions of prospects but asked me zero.

 

Understand Personality 

This one is tricky. There are a bevy of personality tests and behavioral styles tests on the market and here’s what they all amount to: Something is better than nothing. The addition of thought and energy into the selection process does far more to improve the process than an inadequate personality test. Once you’ve decided to follow a process, to be highly selective, and to involve top executives, you’ve moved the needle as far as you can without adding tools that are scientifically proven to help in this area. Unfortunately, the more commonly used tools won’t budge the needle any further, if they are appear to do so.

Having analyzed over 650,000 sales candidates using the top-rated OMG assessment tool, we can confirm that there is no such thing as a sales personality. So why use a test that measures personality? There are also behavioral styles tests. While there are certain behaviors that a good sales person might exhibit, the behaviors must exist in a sales context independently of a social context or any other context. An example would be a CEO who is driven for success but not driven to be a sales superstar. If the test only measures drive, we’re lost.

 

Demonstrated Skills 

Selling skills are important, of course, and this was the topic of my previous HR-related article. Click here read it. The takeaway is that often, the most important determining factors for sales success are hidden from view. The resume won’t reveal them; the interview won’t reveal them. Only a targeted assessment that specifically looks for them will do the job.

Demonstrated skills usually refers to specific selling skills. Does the candidate do the kinds of things that help them hunt for new business? Do they have the set of skills required of closers? Do their skills fit better with account management? Can they listen? Do they understand consultative selling? To find out if they are comfortable challenging prospects in specific selling situations is more difficult to determine. Sometimes candidates have all the answers and say all the right things, but due to hidden issues, cannot execute.

 

Now What? 

Hiring good sales people is important. Getting it right the first time saves time, aggravation, and money. The typical HR hiring process, while generally sound, needs a few tweaks to make it work for hiring sales people, particularly in the area of selection process and assessments. Feel free to comment below if you would like to add to this discussion.

If you missed our recent webinar on sales leadership, you won’t want to miss Part 2 of the series. You can view Part 1 here.  Register for Part 2 here.  It will be held on March 12th at 11:00 AM ET.

You may download our White Papers on sales candidate selection by clicking here.

It is usually better to evaluate your current sales organization before bringing in new sales people. It helps in determining the ideal candidate and to setting up an environment conducive for onboarding and retaining top sales talent. If you are interested in an evaluation for your company, click here.

 

Image credit: nyul / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: sales, assessments, HR, human resources, hiring, sales candidate selection, recruiting, selling skill sets, sales skills, personality

HR and Sales - Part 1: The Challenge of a Sales Candidates' Market

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 @ 12:02 PM

NeedleStack 250Today, Human Resource departments must find ever more skillful sales managers in a market where the number of skilled managers is actually declining.  The data supports this odd trend, made even more interesting when you consider the vast growth in online sales content and the proliferation of sales books in the last 10 years.  Last fall, Dave Kurlan reached into our vast database of sales assessments and identified the trend.  Read about it and view the graph in this article. You will see the trend in the declining percentage of sales people and sales managers recommended by our sales and sales management candidate assessments.  We have seen reductions of 6% for sales people and 15% for sales managers.

If you missed our recent webinar on sales leadership, you won’t want to miss Part 2 of the series.  You can view Part 1 here.  Register for Part 2 here.  It will be held on March 12th at 11:00 AM ET.

What’s driving this trend, and what can business leaders do about it?  One of the most important reasons is that selling itself has changed.  When we assess candidates, we are looking for those who will actually succeed and make our clients successful.   While good selling skills have always been a virtue, it hasn’t always been necessary.  Not that long ago, during the internet age, but prior to the explosion in availability of fine-grained detail, sales people were needed to provide information that was relevant to prospects and unavailable any other way.  Today, they must reinvent their value to their prospects.

In 1995, there were 15 thousand registered domains.  Today, there are 350 million.  In 2000, there were 360 million internet users.  Today, there are 2.4 billion.  Do you think you should hire the same selling skills for 2014 as you did just 15 years ago?  This is a challenge for HR.

We no longer need sales people whose primary skill is giving presentations.  Prospects have quite enough information, thank you.  We need sales people who are more consultative, who ask good questions, enough questions, and tough enough questions to uncover the business needs and opportunities in a meaningful way for their prospects.  Salespeople who consistently hear the phrases, “I don’t know.” and “No one has asked me that before.” are doing it right.

HR owns the challenge of finding sales candidates who can do that.  What must they look for?

Some of the Required Skill Sets:

  • Consultative selling skills,
  • Modern hunting skills,
  • Lead qualification skills,
  • Account management skills, and
  • Business growth acumen.

Some of the More Difficult-To-Recognize Traits:

  • Rejection-proof,
  • Ability to listen,
  • Ability to stay in the moment,
  • Doesn't need to be liked,
  • Beliefs support success, and
  • Won’t get derailed at closing.

Some of the Near-Impossible-to-Recognize Traits:

  • Strong Desire,
  • Strong Commitment,
  • Positive Outlook, and
  • Takes Responsibility.

These are not easy to identify, but happily, there are ways to measure them.  Traditional selection criteria won’t work.  Most of the traits above cannot be easily discerned from an interview or a resume.  Have you ever made a bad hiring decision by hiring the one person who outshined the other 20 candidates?  Then you know this isn’t easy. 

We’ve already learned that traditional assessment tools won’t help either.  They are either based on personality or on behavioral styles.  Despite the sales jargon that might be added for effect, they are ineffective at predicting sales success.  We use the OMG tool which was built for sales and there is an interesting fact that emerged from a database of over 700,000 salespeople and sales management assessments.  Ready?  There is no such thing as a sales personality.  I was on the phone today with a self-described introvert who ran a public library.  He was an idea factory, full of passion for libraries and their many uses for making towns and cities wonderful places of learning and collaboration.  He too was surprised to hear that there is no such thing as a sales personality.

This is a good time to think about how to build a better sales organization by using the tools available today to find salespeople who can prosper in today’s market.  As we have seen, this represents a shrinking pool.  HR must elevate standards and find ways to efficiently and effectively do what Tom Hanks’ character described in Saving Private Ryan as “finding a needle in a stack of needles.”

If you are interested in learning more about sales candidate selection, click here.

If you are interested in evaluating your current sales team, click here.

Image credit: grekoff / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: sales, assessments, HR, human resources, hiring, sales candidate selection, recruiting, selling skill sets, sales skills, personality

The Overlooked Conversation Between Sales Managers and Sales People

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Jan 08, 2014 @ 11:01 AM

coaching,sales management,assessments,sales leadership,conversation,selling,consultative

Did you ever wonder what the sales conversation is supposed to sound like?  Not the one you’re thinking about (between the sales person and the prospect), but the other one.  The market is full of books, blogs, and articles on the important conversation between sales people and prospects.  This very blog space addressed the topic of using conversational skills to differentiate oneself in even the most lopsided of sales environments.  If you’re curious about that, click here to read the article.  And if you haven't read Frank Belzer's article from yesterday, click here.  He addressed the important topic of how organic growth impacts sales architecture.  In that article, he gets more to the point of today’s topic by looking at the structure of the sales team as it grows.  When it has grown organically (read “without strategic planning”), it is not always supportive of the kind of management required to compete and win in today’s business climate.  And it’s this very structure which helps create an environment to foster the right kind of conversation happening in your company, with discipline and skill, every day.

Very likely, the single most important conversation, which has to happen so that your salespeople can have the right conversation with prospects, is with their sales manager.  Do you know what that sounds like today?  We have metrics of all shapes and sizes.  We look at calls, leads, inbound leads, qualified opportunities, revenues, margins, recurring revenues, demos, proposals, and on and on.  Some sales organizations have a daily handle on these metrics and can even speak about the gap between exactly where they are today and where they want to get to.  Most can’t.

But, how many CEOs, sales VPs and other leaders understand what the conversation between sales management and sales people should sound like compared with what it sounds like today (that's if there is a conversation actually taking place)?  How many know how critical this daily activity is to the success of the organization?  How many are listening and measuring the quality of this conversation? Our research at Kurlan & Associates reveals that only a tiny fraction of companies can say they do.  And fewer know just what that conversation should sound like.

In today's sales environment, we now know that up to 50 percent of a sales manager's time should be spent coaching sales people.  This is not to be confused with mentoring, motivating, or jumping up and down with your hair on fire.  Coaching is different, and it's the key to sales success.

Coaching is a specific kind of conversation.  It is a formal meeting (not water cooler), occurs daily, and can last for 30 minutes with each rep.  That's every day, with each rep, talking about either an upcoming meeting or call, or a previous meeting or call that didn't achieve the desired result.

Do your sales managers know how to have that conversation the correct way?  Can they affect deliberate, incremental, meaningful improvements to the skills of each of their sales people everyday?  Here's an example of what such a conversation sounds like: [insert link to Dave's coaching call on Wistia]. 

  • How many of your sales managers could have a conversation like that? [Dave Kurlan 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they roleplay what the call will sound like before it happens?
  • Can they roleplay how the last conversation went and pinpoint where the wheels fell off? [Frank Belzer 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they make the proper corrections to prevent the problem from reoccurring?
  • Can they instruct how to salvage a deal going the wrong way? [My 2-minute video on this topic]
  • Do they understand the hidden weaknesses of their sales team and incorporate that into their instruction? [Chris Mott 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they help their people move past personal barriers and head trash to execute the skills which they are learning?
  • Do they understand their own weaknesses and work to overcome them?

What would happen to your company if your sales team were methodically improving every day for one month, six months, or even a year?  How much better would they be?  If you are not sure about some of these questions, you might be interested in learning more at our webinar on February 5th at 11:00 am Eastern Time.  And I recommend that you check back soon to read Chris Mott's article on the challenges of managing technical salespeople.   

The next time you think about the sales "conversation", think about the conversation your sales manager is having with the reps to understand the impact of the performance on the team. 

  • Does he or she have the capability, knowledge, and skill to impact the effectiveness of the team? 
  • Who on your team will accept daily coaching?
  • Who can improve, and by how much?
  • Is it worth training your sales manager how to do this? 
  • Can they learn or do they believe they have it all figured out?
  • How much better can this conversation be at your company?

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful one-hour webinar which will address this subject on February 5 when we discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time. 

Image credit: Public Domain

 

 

Topics: coaching, assessments, sales management, sales leadership, conversation, selling, consultative

Commitment to Sales, and Soccer in the Snow

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 @ 16:12 PM

CentralParkSoccer1 300 borderSomeone didn’t tell the people in this picture that there was a snowstorm and it was below freezing outside.  These men were playing a soccer game in Central Park and barely seemed to notice that it was so cold out and that the snow was coming down so hard that they should simply cancel their game and go home.  My son and I were on our way to the Frick Museum on the other side of the park when we walked passed them and took this picture.

We thought these folks were crazy, but it occurred to me that they must have known that the weather was bad.  We were quite bundled up and they were playing in it.  If I told them it was cold and snowing, it wouldn’t have been new information to them, and they probably would have just laughed.

Does that remind you of certain kinds of salespeople?  We have a finding on our sales candidate assessment that if too low, triggers a DO NOT HIRE recommendation.  About a week ago, I was asked to review just such an assessment.  The client was mystified.  This candidate had it all, they said.  He had “personality,” hunting skills, lots of excellent relationships, and he knew how to close business, but he wasn’t recommended.  How could it be?

The finding had to do with commitment.  He scored 33 out of 100.  Upon further investigation, we learned that there were issues in this person’s life that made it unlikely that they would stay in this job, no matter how good they were.  In our experience, when we have encountered this problem where candidates with low commitment, but excellent findings in other categories, were hired against the assessment recommendation, they usually left the company in under six months.

Both desire and commitment are needed as foundations for a successful career in sales.  Desire is how much you want to succeed.  Commitment is what you are willing to do to get there.  Dave Kurlan provides the clear difference in this blog post.  Imagine if your entire sales team was like the Central Park soccer players that day?  They played on Saturdays, period.  The weather didn’t matter.  They were committed to their group to be there.  They were committed to themselves to be there.  They didn’t make the obvious excuse.

When there is a “good” reason not to succeed, such as the economy is suffering, interest rates are going up, no one’s buying, or our products aren’t the best on the market, etc., those without commitment will fold.  People who are committed to their success and to the success of the company will ask, “What can I do differently to succeed in this environment?"  At some point during that day, each one of those soccer players asked, “What will I need to do to play in this weather?”  Sometimes, it’s only a matter of asking the right question. 

  • How many people on your team are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed?
  • How many are looking past the hurdles as if they are not even there?
  • How many are asking better questions of themselves and their prospects?
  • How many are using their resources to overcome unplanned obstacles?
  • How many people on your team would come out in the “snowstorm” and play full out?

The best way to find out might be to evaluate the whole team and see where improvement is needed.  If you are assessing potential new sales candidates, you can avoid the dilemma described above by assessing before you interview.  By placing only those candidates who pass the assessment into the continuing selection process, you won’t make the mistake of falling in love with a candidate who won’t succeed.  Envision your team bringing their top game to any environment and letting the worst of the unpredictable economic tundra keep them from asking how they can succeed against the odds, let alone a little snow.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, sales commitment, soccer, sales candidates, desire, whatever it takes



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