Misleading Statistics and Hiring the Wrong Sales Candidates

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Nov 02, 2008 @ 20:11 PM

The November issue of Fortune Small Business has an article called Entrepreneurial Myth Busters. FSB has Ken Blanchard (consultant )and Scott Shane (academic) go head to head answering questions about small businesses and entrepreneurship.  While Blanchard provides insightful answers based on his years of experience working in, consulting to and writing about business, Shane provides surprising answers based on data.  I'm sure that if you read the article you'll agree that Shane's data lead to some very misleading conclusions. Academics who haven't been "out there" can fall in love with their data!

I "browsed" more than 400 articles that I have written for this Blog in the past three years and found only 22 articles where I reference Objective Management Group's data on the 400,000 salespeople that we have assessed. I've been researching, consulting to, evaluating, training, devloping and coaching CEO's, sales VP's, and their sales forces for more than 20 years.  Like Blanchard, I know what's going on out there from being out there but I also have the benefit of having data to back up my first-hand knowledge and resulting claims.

Data has its place.  For example, when Tom Peters said women make better salespeople than men, I knew that to be true - to a point - and then explained it with data.  I believe that the researchers with data should use it responsibly rather than to promote counter intuitive yet irrelevant findings to draw attention to themselves.

I'll illustrate my point by using some of our sales selection data. Take the following statistic for example:

70% of the very strongest salespeople take their assessments prior to 7 AM.

Wouldn't that fact cause you to select salespeople that take their assessments early in the morning? 

Not really. 

Additional Statistic #1 - We assess salespeople from around the world, so most of the European assessments and all of the Asian and Pacific Rim assessments are processed before 7 AM ET. 

Additional Statistic #2 - The very strongest salespeople make up only 6% of the sales population, 70% of that group would yield only 4.2 strong candidates out of 100. 

Without the additional statistics I could have led you to believe that the 7 AM statistic would be valuable!

Look at another statistic on sales selection:

80% of the strongest salespeople do not have Need for Approval.

Wouldn't this cause you to look for people who did not have need for approval?

As with the case above, no.

Additional Statistic - 38% of all salespeople do not have need for approval so you would select the right salesperson only 15% of the time!

This is one of the things that amuses me.  After developing familiarity and confidence with the assessment, a small percentage of clients will simply key in on one finding or another and believe that they can suddenly identify successful salespeople without having to use the assessment. 

Selection is never about one or two findings - it is always about a combination of findings and how that combination will impact the candidate in your business, where there is a unique set of findings that will identify a salesperson that will succeed for you.

Statistics are awesome when they're used in a way that benefits everyone.  When they're used to fool people it makes me angry.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Candidate, sales evaluation, sales personality, sales statistics, Fortune, Ken Blanchard, Scott Shane, hiring assessments

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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