Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

How an Evaluation Avoids Sales Training Failure

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Oct 08, 2018 @ 18:10 PM

69481636_s_Pre-Evaluating-MakeRightChoiceSix months ago, a large agency asked me to deliver a sales training program for their business development team. After listening, I recommended a detour that led to something rather unexpected. The business development/sales team at this company was a dedicated sales group with the goal of setting up new business that would supplement the business that was generated by repeat clients, by agent networks, and by inbound marketing programs. The company didn't believe the sales team was gaining much traction, resulting in wasted resources, particularly their marketing spend. So what was going on?

Why weren't they making enough connections with their leads? And when they did make a connection, why weren't they converting the lead into a conversation? Why weren't they gaining traction? What was wrong and how did it happen?

In July, I published a blog article that addressed the 7 Sales Training Success Factors and how to avoid sales training failure. If you missed it, read it here. By reader demand, I am doing a deeper dive into each of the seven factors. Tackling them in no particular order, I addressed Factor 3 in this article regarding the Trainability of Salespeople and the important role of Commitment. Factor 6 was explored in this article on Salesperson Training with Sufficient Time Scale which focused on the Learning Journey of salespeople and included some interesting research about memory. Today, we'll talk about Factor 1, and how and why pre-evaluating avoids sales training failure.

Getting back to our agency example, why was the dedicated sales team unable to reach prospects and set up the necessary conversations with their experts? Could it be an on-boarding problem? Could it be a training problem? Could it be a problem with recruiting and selection? Could it be messaging? Could it be sales process? Could it be coaching? Could it be accountability? Could it be motivation? Could it be their sales DNA or the presence of hidden weaknesses or what you might call, "head trash?" Could it be that this particular group just didn't have the selling skills? Or perhaps, could the company's expectations be unrealistic?

Looking at this another way, what if they had the right people, with the right skills, and the right DNA, but weren't on-boarding, coaching, nor motivating them adequately? What would standard sales training accomplish? How should the solution be designed to target the existing problems and build on their strengths? Might we focus more on management training in this case? 

What if they were on-boarding right, aligned in their messaging, had a motivated team, coached them properly and held them accountable, but were doing all this with sales people who weren't in the right role? In other words, management gets it, but they're spinning their wheels with the wrong people. Might we focus on structure, human resources (HR), and recruiting training?

What if management was doing all the right things, and HR was doing the right things, and the right candidates were selected, but they were failing anyway? Might we look at systems and processes, skills training, and overcoming hidden weaknesses?

So the problem in this agency could be summarized as stemming from one or more of these three major categories:

  1. Management
  2. Recruiting/HR
  3. Salespeople

And we could dig considerable deeper into each of these. For example, if we're talking about salespeople, in which of the 21 sales core competencies are they deficient? For an even deeper dive into understanding salespeople and the 21 sales core competencies, read Dave Kurlan's excellent article on that here. When we understand why they aren't getting the desired results, a training program can be designed and executed that will have sufficient impact. Without that foreknowledge, a sales training program that's broad enough might help, but it might not work, and we might not know why.

What was the problem with the agency I mentioned? We took a valuable stutter-step and evaluated the business development team first, and what we found surprised all of us. The team members, across the board, were missing enough crucial elements among the 21 sales core competencies that sales training would have been a waste of resources. They didn't desire enough success in selling or they lacked commitment to making the improvements to achieve whatever success they desired, or they weren't motivated enough, or their outlook was poor. In short, they were missing too many of the crucial elements that compose what many might simply call "grit." 

So I recommended against training the salespeople. Usually a pre-evaluation tells me what to train. In this case, it told me not to train. Instead, we worked on putting people in the "right seats," as Jim Collins put it in his oft-quoted book, Good to Great. Training was refocused to help HR and sales management. The sales team wasn't ready. 

What's the takeaway? One of the reasons sales training fails is because it either isn't appropriate for the team or wasn't designed to address the specific issues, competencies, and reasons related to the lack of results. Interestingly, this isn't the most important factor of the 7 Sales Training Success Factors as revealed in this article, but you can probably see why it's the most important first step.

 

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Watch Dave Kurlan speak about the value of a Sales Force Evaluation:

evals

Photo Credit - Copyright: Elnur Amikishiyev (123RF) 

 

 

Topics: sales training, recruiting salespeople, coaching salespeople, sales training failure, sales force evaluation, sales management, Jim Collins

Avoiding the Top Four Sales Leadership Interview Traps

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 @ 21:08 PM

93605889_s_InterviewTrapHave you noticed a rash of sales leadership recruiting lately? I wondered if it was a trend or a random bunching like highway traffic. Rather than answering that question, however, I'll just add it to the list of things that happen in waves. Since I have had the same conversation with different clients several times in the last two months, I'll use this opportunity to share with you my favorite tips about avoiding the most common traps when interviewing sales leaders. You will find that it applies equally well to sales candidates. There is a unique difficulty in recruiting for leadership positions. Hiring what we like to call "ghosts" can be costly and detrimental, negatively effecting the entire sales organization and corporate profits.

Most Common Sales Leadership Recruiting Challenges

  1. There are fewer capable people available than there are for front-line positions.
  2. Many were promoted from sales positions and lack the managerial skill sets, even if the job descriptions listed on the resume suggest otherwise.
  3. The accomplishment numbers that appear on the resume don't tell the whole story or don't tell the right story.
  4. The hiring managers don't know the right questions to ask and it's easy to get snowballed.

So here are a few tips to help you avoid falling in love, talking yourself into, leading the "witness" - anything to get out of the seemingly-endless task of finding this rare and critically important position that could make the difference between killing it and getting killed. There are several steps to getting this right.

Top 3 Sales Leadership Recruiting Program Must-Haves

  1. A well-executed, strategic, sequentially optimized, success-proven recruiting process.
  2. An accurate, predictive, sales leadership assessment (I recommend OMG)
  3. A set of interview questions specific to the job, integrating the information from the assessment and the resume, and taking into account the sales environment, the corporate environment, and the cognitive capacity level required of the position as it relates to the individuals being managed and to the specific individual to whom one will report.

The interview is where many hiring decisions go sideways. We get so wowed by their intelligence, upbeat personality, researched use of jargon, and brilliant answers to questions during the interview that we don't realize to the candidate, we have set up the practical equivalent of tee-ball.

While developing the right set of questions is a worthy investment for such an important position even if impractical to list here in a generic sense, I hope the following will help you avoid some common traps.

Top Four Must-Avoid Interviewing Traps

  1. Asking the Hypothetical 
    These are questions such as, “So if you run into a problem like this, what would you do?” It's easy to sound authoritative without having done anything. They get to talk about what they think is the right behavior without any evidence that it has happened to them. And most of us don't actually do what we say we would do if X happened anyway - it's aspirational but not historical.
  2. Talking About Tomorrow
    Do not ask questions that require digging for information about things that have never happened. “What do you see yourself doing in three years?” They can make it up. It just has to sound good. There is no way to verify it.
  3. Open-Ended Questions
    “What’s your idea of success?” Most interview "experts" encourage open-ended questions. I don’t.
    It allows them to talk about whatever they want, blathering on and wasting your time.
  4. Asking Leading Questions
    “Do you think coaching makes a difference?” The answer, of course, is given away in the question. The intent in asking the question is valid. You'd like to know the answer. Any hope of truth in the response, however is destroyed by the phrasing of the question.

If you stay out of these traps and focus on specific real experiences that candidates can relate about decisions they made and actions they took, you will dramatically improve your chances of hiring a sales leader, or any other sales position, that stands more than a ghost of a chance of being successful.

 

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Photo Credit - Copyright : alphaspirit (123RF)

Author's note: I urge those interested in developing their interviewing skills to read Tom Foster's excellent book, Hiring Talent, from which some of the ideas above are adapted. Foster based much of his work for this book on the pioneering behavioral research of Elliott Jaques and Samuel Clement, who notably shed light on how the time-span of discretion of an individual relates to her or his cognitive capacity. Getting that part right in hiring is the key to building what Chris Stark calls Lean Hierarchy in your organization. Getting it wrong results in frustration or boredom, states of mind that according to studies, are experienced by up to two thirds of the working population, whose leadership apparently was unaware of this research.

 

Topics: sales leadership, interviewing salespeople, interviewing sales leaders, sales management practices, recruiting salespeople, recruiting

What Do Partisan Politics Have in Common With Hiring Salespeople?

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 @ 12:12 PM

sales recruitingWelcome to a non-election year!  Isn’t it nice?  While last year is still fresh in our minds, I’d like to call your attention to that political noise once again.  Emory University did a study of partisan-political thought proving that we are not easily knocked out of our belief systems.  No surprise there.  More interesting about the findings is that once we believe something, our bias can run so deep that we’re unaware of our logical mind often disengaging when contradictory evidence is presented to us.  They could actually see this in brain scans.  Don’t we see this whenever we try to convince someone who just doesn’t seem to want to get it?  And how often are we that very person?

We get so much satisfaction, and as the study revealed, even pleasure from what supports our beliefs that we’ll actually construct evidence if necessary.  Our emotions overwhelm our ability to think rationally.  On the brain scans, the reasoning area of the brain goes dark in these circumstances.

Okay, here’s another one.  When we are distracted, it’s hard to stay focused.  Again, no surprise.  But see if you can pass this selective attention test.  Go to this site and click on the arrow to start the video.  Do not read below as you will see the answer.  Read the question and see if you can do it.  It’s a lot harder than you think.  Millions have already tried this and perhaps you are one of them.  But if not, you might be surprised at how difficult it is.  Some of you might follow the action well enough to get the right answer, but you would be among the very few.

So if I told you that there is no such thing as a sales personality, how would you change your thinking about salespeople?  If I told you that your social impression doesn’t count for much when selecting a sales candidate, how would that change how you hire?  After administering over 800,000 individual sales assessments that includes over 140 million data points, Objective Management Group concludes beyond any doubt that this is true.  It’s worth noting that this OMG test has won the Top Sales award for assessment tools for the fourth year in a row beating out nine other finalists (if that helps convince you).

So what does count?  Following decades of groundwork laid by Dave Kurlan, here is my Top 10 list in no particular order:

  1. Desire for success in sales (not just success)
  2. Commitment to do what it takes to succeed in sales
  3. A positive outlook
  4. Doesn’t make excuses
  5. Not too many hidden weaknesses
  6. An ability to prospect
  7. The skills to close a sale
  8. Account management and farming skills
  9. Trainability and Coachability
  10. Prior success selling in a similar selling environment in which you operate

What’s not on this list?  Drumroll, please.  Here is my Bottom 10 list:

  1. A firm handshake
  2. A warm smile
  3. The gift of gab
  4. Great looks
  5. Perfect diction
  6. Ready with a good joke
  7. Promptness
  8. Has all the right answers
  9. A great resume
  10. Excellent references

Gosh, “excellent references” is on the Bottom 10 list?  Yup.  A poor reference would be valuable information.  An excellent reference isn’t very useful.  It’s rigged after all, isn’t it?  Many items on this second list might seem like nice things to have, but they won’t predict success selling at your company.  The right combination of the Top 10 list, plus a few other dimensions, can make that prediction with very good accuracy.  To find out whether your candidate possesses these attributes, one must gather over 150 data points.  How many skills comprise the Closer Skill Set, for example?  Try this sample assessment on one of your candidates.

Are you using the right selection criteria to hire your salespeople?  Are you expert at interviewing sales candidates?  Do you attract the best candidates?  Do you cast your net wide enough to ensure the best candidates are in the pool?  Can you change your beliefs when presented with facts and data?  When focused on one set of attributes, can you shift your attention and notice what’s even more important?  Like in partisan politics, we often believe what we want to believe about someone, such as a sales candidate, and overlook what really matters.  Are you able to transcend the lens of your beliefs and see the truth?

 

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dennis Connelly, sales, sales recruiting, hiring, recruiting salespeople, hiring salespeople, sales selection tool, sales selection, objective management group



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