Over the past week or so there has been a terrific discussion on the Sales Management Executives Group on LinkedIn that drew an unusually spirited discussion on the use of sales assessment tools. As of this writing, there were more than 70 comments, enough participation that I can easily break the comments into four types.
- Gut instinct
My regular readers know that I fall on the side of science, but the other three types of commenters feel so strongly about their positions that you would think they were talking science too. It's great when many people chime in with their comments. That's the beauty of a discussion forum or Blog - everyone gets to participate and weigh in. But in the case of a question where its author expects an answer based on science, it becomes more difficult to separate opinions from experiences, gut instincts and facts. Regardless of the type of comment offered, they all believe their comments to be factual.
Science shows that Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessments are highly predictive - 95%. But a very small group of clients may have experience that is inconsistent with that science, especially if they used it as a stand alone(without the process it was intended to be part of) tool, had a poor quality pool of candidates to use it on, if they failed to closely manage the people they did hire, if they ignored the warnings we provide on recommended candidates, or if there were non-performance issues (nut cases). Others could have an experience with assessments that aren't at all predictive of sales performance (personality and behavioral styles assessments) but used them with such a small sample size that luck led them to believe that those assessments were predictive. OMG's sample size is 500,000 salespeople!
Opinions about assessments, such as "they don't work", lumping dozens of brands, types, and results into a single category, is akin to making sweeping statements like, "cars aren't made very well", "cell phones can only be used for talking", or "X-Rays aren't dangerous". Opinions are often lacking in science and experience. On the other hand, Gut Instinct is great -- when it's right -- and sometimes it is right! But sometimes it's wrong and you can't make important business decisions on something as unreliable as gut, especially when you are more likely to try and force that kind of decision to be the right decision (in hindsight) by waiting too long to correct a mistake.
If you understand these four types of comments as they relate to a discussion on assessments, what happens if I suggest that prospects judge salespeople in the same four ways? They subconciously sort whether they are being fed science, experience, opinion, somebody's gut, or some combination, as well as how it all impacts the way they make their decisions. For simplicity, let's use the 4 traditional social styles - Amiable, Expressive, Analytic and Driver - as context. Analytics will only respond to science. If they believe they are getting anything other than facts they won't buy. Amiables need to trust the person they are buying from so when a relationship and trust have been established, Amiables could buy from someone who has strong opinions and good references and might even ignore the science-based salesperson who may not be a good relationship builder. Expressives have many ideas to share so they may not want to learn that they are wrong from someone who is basing his solution on science. Drivers want results - quickly - and may use all four - your science and the experience of others, and their own gut to form an opinion to quickly make a decision.
How much of today's article is science?
How much is opinion?
How much is gut?
How much is experience?
I always have an opinion and it's usually influenced by my considerable experience working with companies in more than 200 industries during the past 25 years. I try extremely hard to make sure that my opinions can be backed by science and while I use gut instinct, I only use it to choose which subject to write about on any given day - I never use gut to make decisions about who to hire, recommend, or how to hire them!