This series of articles describes the various case histories, findings and entertaining stories from assessments used on sales candidates and evaluations of sales forces.
You know how this works. You're looking for one thing that you can't find and come across another thing that you couldn't find - in this case, three years ago!
I located some lost statistics relating to some of the more than 350,000 salespeople we have assessed, as it applies to sales candidates. While you (not me) like to look at industry experience, and who they know, and how sharp and friendly they are, I like to look at more objective data points. Try these on for size:
24% of all candidates will not prospect - at all!
Only 1% of all hunters have the complete Hunter Skill Set.
Only 8% of all candidates could be considered Hunters. And how many of you want your new salespeople to hunt for new business?
The typical candidate will have between 27% and 52% of the attributes of a hunter.
Why? Salespeople who dislike prospecting dislike it for a reason. They have beliefs and fears that cause anxiety and physical reactions to even the thought of prospecting. So some won't do it at all, some will have difficulty getting started and some will have difficulty finishing.
45% of all candidates will not close - at all!
Less than 1% of all candidates have the complete Closer Skill Set.
The typical candidate will possess less than 23% of the attributes of a closer.
Why? Salespeople confuse asking with getting. Most salespeople know how to ask for the business but very few salespeople know how to get the business when prospects resist. As with hunting, there are beliefs and fears that impact their behavior and when salespeople aren't comfortable saying the words you've taught them, they substitute words that make them more comfortable. What makes them comfortable? Presenting features and benefits, actions that don't put their prospects on the spot, that don't create stalls, put-offs, objections and excuses, that they absolutely don't want to deal with.
What does all this mean? You must have a structured, world-class, sales recruiting process that features a world-class sales specific assessment to consistently identify the sales candidates that will prosper at your company.
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan
George was at the house today, reinstalling our home theater projector. He asked what kind of work I did and when he learned I was a sales expert he told me two things. First, he said that his company needed some help. It seems that their salespeople were great when people were spending money but now that people have stopped spending money they're not really so great after all. He said, "they were great at being near the phone when it rang!"
Then he said, "I tried selling cars once - I wasn't very good at it so I quit. I went to the same training as everyone else, sold the same products as everyone else, had the same management as everyone else, but got different results. I don't know why I sucked, but I knew enough to get out."
I said, "I can tell you why you struggled. You're a nice guy and you want pepole to like you, right?"
"So you couldn't say, do or ask the things they taught you to do because it didn't feel right, right?
"You probably shop around and think things over when you buy things for yourself, right?"
"So none of the techniques to stop them from shopping or to stop them from thinking it over came from conviction, right?"
"You're a pretty trusting guy, right?"
"So when they told you they'd be back on Monday to buy the car, you believed them, right?"
"And you never handled rejection real well, did you?"
"So that's why you weren't any good as a car salesman, George."
"Thank you SO MUCH. I feel so much better knowing why."
Don't make the mistake of believing that this conversation only relates to selling cars. These are a handful of the common reasons why salespeople struggle and what's worse, is that many of the salespeople who are IN sales today and struggling have these among dozens of other issues getting in their way.
Recognize any of this in any of your salespeople?
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan
This blog began several years ago as a way for me to share real-world case histories from the world of sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments. Questions from readers often sent it off in other directions, covering development and leadership issues as well. Today's post is a throw back - anecdotes from the field...
Yesterday, one of our sales development experts delivered the findings from the evaluation of a company's sales force. We looked at their people, strategies, systems and processes. Two of the many findings we reported to the CEO were that 1) their Sales Manager was untrainable (won't change) and 2) he would agree with most of the findings relative to his sales management ineffectiveness.
The sales manager did agree with the findings and offered his resignation immediately after he completed reading his personal assessment. He said, "It says I need to set goals and I did that once and am not doing it again!"
You can't get better, faster feedback on the accuracy of the findings! He's not willing to change.
Our sales development expert told the CEO to accept the resignation and the CEO was thrilled with how quickly the situation sorted itself out.
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan
Executives in small to medium sized businesses have a tendency to become ecstatic when they have the opportunity to hire someone who was with a Fortune 1000 company. They immediately think, "Joe worked at Xorex" or "Suzie used to be at MBI" or "Phil was with Tfosorcim". And they think, "If they bring some of that big company magic to YSTI-YSTIB, we'll do great!"
If you are considering a salesperson, sales manager or VP of Sales from a big, name brand company, there is a crucial point that executives from smaller companies usually miss. You probably don't run a large, name brand company. Your salespeople probably aren't automatically invited in with open arms. Your company probably doesn't have a reputation that precedes it. Your company probably isn't the market leader. Your company probably doesn't have the lowest prices.
So how would one of these former big-brand salespeople or sales managers fare when they encounter the resistance, challenges, ambivalence and rejection that the rest of your salespeople endure? They didn't have to deal with it before, and their success was more likely the result of the company they worked for and what they were selling as opposed to their own ability.
Lesson: If your company is the underdog, get excited when you find a candidate who had success as an underdog! If you want to know whether a salesperson will succeed in your business with your unique challenges, use Objective Management Group's Proprietary Recruiting Process for Hiring Sales Winners, built around its Sales Candidate Assessment.
(c) Dave Kurlan
Did you ever have a new salesperson fail? Did you ever have one who was highly recommended fail?
Depending on how effective your recruiting, selection and on boarding processes are, you may experience new salespeople that don't work out. Let's explore some of the factors that impact short-term success.
- Ramp-Up Time - an important factor in determining whether a new salesperson is succeeding or failing is your baseline ramp-up time. When you don't know what your ramp-up time should be, you will be guilty of either not giving a salesperson enough time to succeed, or being overly patient, allowing too much time to pass before calling the newbie a failure. My formula for calculating ramp-up time is to add your sale cycle in months to your
learning curve in months and then add an additional 30 days. So, if you
have a six month sale cycle and a three month learning curve, your
baseline ramp-up time will be 10 months. Complicating the matter even more is the fact that some salespeople will not ramp up exactly as the formula suggests, based on three additional factors:
- Years of sales experience - fewer years = longer ramp up.
- Years in the industry - fewer years = longer ramp up.
- Compatibility (found on Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessment) - lower compatibility = longer ramp up.
- The Assignment - The assignment is a huge part of this equation. If your new salesperson is assigned existing accounts, you'll probably be happy with his work unless he quickly loses some accounts. On the other hand, if 80% or more of the assignment is hunting for new business, you may conclude that the salesperson is failing unless the pipeline gets filled rather quickly with new opportunities.
- The Assessment - Clues abound here. As long as you are using Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessment (92% of recommended candidates that are hired wind up in the top half of their sales force within a year, while 75% of those who were not recommended but hired anyway fail within 6 months), the answers are at your finger tips. Review these four sections:
- Hunter Skill set - which attributes are missing?
- Conditions for Hiring - what are the conditions listed and did you follow them?
- Likely Problems - are the issues your struggling salesperson is running into listed among the likely problems?
- Skills - how many are there and are they representative of the entire selling process or just the front end, middle or back-end?
- The Sales Manager - The sales manager is usually the biggest determining factor of sales success and the first place to look when it appears that salespeople aren't working out.
- Supervision - Are new salespeople being micro managed or at least closely managed? They should be. Are any of your new salespeople in a remote territory? A sure fire formula for disaster is a remote salesperson that is not being closely managed.
- Expectations - Have expectations been set? Do your new salespeople know what is expected of them in the first 30/60/90 days, how they will be measured and how they will be held accountable?
- Support - When two seemingly identical salespeople with identical assignments and territories have opposite results, it's usually because neither of them got the attention, direction, guidance, coaching, support, motivation and accountability that was needed, but one of them was better when it came to figuring out what it would take to succeed (see The Salesperson).
- Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) - Sales Managers that manage results (history) are months behind when it comes to being able to impact a salesperson using coaching and accountability. Sales Managers that manage activity (today) can see into the future and change it.
- The Salesperson - New salespeople can figure it out when the right mix of these next 14 factors, all found in OMG's Assessment, are in place - The "Figure it Out" Factor:
- 5+ years in sales
- 5+ years in the industry
- Strong Desire
- Strong Commitment
- No Excuse Making
- Self Starter
- Works well independently
- Works without supervision
- Will Prospect
- Prospects Consistently
- No Need for Approval
- Recovers from Rejection
- Greater than 75% Compatibility
- Effective Time Management
- High Turnover Factors - Depending upon these three additional factors, turnover could approach 150%.
- Compensation - Turnover is higher in straight comission environments. Straight commission with a long sale cycle will be even worse. Straight commission with a long sale cycle and a salesperson without the financial stability to stick it out will exceed 100%.
- Industry - Turnover in insurance (personal lines), telecommunications (long distance phone service) and automotive (car dealers) is very high because many companies in these industries don't have a selection criteria that extends beyond "breathing and willing" and don't invest time and money on development.
- Mindset - Companies that are resigned to high turnover and that are making a lot of money despite the turnover don't do anything to change it.
- Psychological Factors - Every once in a while you'll get a new salesperson who is emotionally unstable and you won't know it until it's too late. There is no better reason to use a psychological assessment at the time of hiring that to uncover this!
- Liars - I've even seen salespeople who took one base plus commission sales job while holding down another. The only thing better than getting paid for not performing one job is getting paid for not performing in two jobs!
Let's assume that you have the right people, compensation, incentives, systems and processes in place. Are you all set? Hardly. You still have to drive sales because in most companies sales don't happen by themselves. The companies that do that the best follow these steps:
- Evaluate their sales force
- Set clear expectations
- Identify necessary behaviors required for the results
- Get buy-in and commitment from their salespeople and managers
- Support the effort with training, development and coaching
- Hold their people accountable for behaviors and results
- Frequently and clearly communicate the expectations
- Demonstrate top management's commitment to the expectations, behaviors, training, development and coaching through participation and communication.
- Replace non-performers
- Hire A players
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan
The 4/30 Issue of Inside Training Newsletter, published by Training Magazine, lists Sales Representatives as the 5th most difficult position to fill. But that doesn't really tell the story.
If you have an ordinary sales position with average compensation, it's the 5th most difficult position to fill. But, in my experience, if your compensation is below average ($96,000), it's significantly more difficult to fill. According to the most recent National Sales Compensation Survey, $67,000 is the average compensation for underperforming and entry level salespeople. How difficult is your position to fill if the compensation falls below the average at any level of performance but your requirements describe someone better than that?
Chances are, the economy will loosen things up a little and there will be many more salespeople looking for positions as sales for products in their industries dry up. But employer beware, the first wave of available salespeople will usually be those that are least effective so make sure you are using a world-class sales assessment to differentiate the performers from the actors.
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan
This is a post on which you must comment after reading it - really.
As the daily stories of economic woes continue to be featured in the headlines, most companies have their own version of the current economy and its affect on them. From the perspective of the sales force, we help overhear your salespeople returning from calls with objections like:
- there's a spending freeze
- it's no longer a priority
- they're going out of business
- they're laying people off
- they're postponing the initiative
- they're only going to do half of what we spoke about
- they're too busy putting out fires
There are more but I don't need to list them here.
Chronic mediocrity, excuse making, under achievement, complacency and a selling skill set adequate only for better times are colliding head-on with a recession and possible depression. What could be worse? Lots could be worse. That's the reality but there are many things you can do about it.
- This is the best time to evaluate and identify the real issues
- This is the best time to train
- The strong sales force in a weak economy is the killer sales force in a strong economy
- This is the best time to coach
- This is the best time for incentive programs
- This is the best time for motivational programs
- This is the perfect time for new accountability initiatives
- This is the perfect time to install CRM
There are so many more things you can be doing. Here is the part where you get to comment. What are you doing in your company to motivate your salespeople and make them more effective when it's most important for them to be more effective? And if you're not doing anything special right now, why not?
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan
This post on the Blog at IDC said the the number one agenda item for CEO's in 2008 is sales. With a weakening, uncertain economy, that shouldn't really surprise anyone but thanks to the researchers at IDC, now we can confirm it. With CEO's now beginning to worry about the top line in addition to their existing concerns about the bottom line, I predict that we'll see a lot of fringe, underachieving, complacent, overpaid (paid as salespeople but actually performing work of an account manager) salespeople losing their jobs this year.
The question is, are those descriptions conditions or symptoms? The very reason to evaluate the sales force is to learn the difference between those salespeople who are exhibiting symptoms (are there reasons why and what are they?) and those whose conditions are chronic (they won't change or improve). A Sales Force Evaluation will answer those questions and more!