How Companies Routinely Screw Up Hiring the Right Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 22, 2015 @ 14:10 PM

The way that most people watch television these days is to fall in love with a continuing series, and then watch the episodes, on demand, when they want to.  I believe that when it comes to reading, Blogs work the same way as TV.  You find a Blogger whose work you like, who writes about things that interest you and you check back often or subscribe via email or RSS.  That is the case with the sales selection series that I've been sharing for a couple of weeks.  This series of articles is about crazy, stupid sales selection and how some executives say that they want to get it right, but won't allow themselves the leeway to actually get it right.  5 articles have already been posted about this and this article represents the sixth chapter.

Let's catch up.  If you haven't read each of the previous installments, you can find them here:

Sales Selection Case History of BigBrains
Benchmarking Misapplied to Sales Selection at BigBrains
Why Companies Always Get Sales Selection Wrong 
The SalesHack Weighs in on the Sales Selection Issue at BigBrains
The Follow Up Conversation with BigBrains Revealed

Why are so many people interested in this particular case history?  Is it because they can laugh at an executive's inability to see the obvious?  Is it because they could possibly be that executive?  Is it because they like all of the data and science?  Is it the comedy?

I am hosting a Webinar on Wednesday, October 28 at 11 AM when we will discuss this case history and how to improve sales selection.  If you would like to listen in and/or participate, you can register to attend here.

This is all very related to sales selection and sales coaching. If you haven't done a great job on selection, there will be much more pressure on the sales manager to perform great coaching instead!  I led a 40-minute presentation on coaching for Handshake and you can view/listen to the archived recording here.

It appears that I'm promoting things so as long as I'm at it, you absolutely must read this article by Hiplead.  They emailed me a link to this article and I wanted to share what they had to say about how you can get significantly more people to read your emails.

Finally, Top Sales Magazine is going from weekly to monthly and from small to big.  The premier issue is available now and you can download it here.  I contributed a feature article on the state of selling.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, objective management, top sales assessment, sales selection

Sales Selection Case History - The Fix for This Insanity Works 99% of the Time

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 01, 2015 @ 21:10 PM

If you had a crystal ball to predict whether or not your next sales candidate would succeed in a difficult selling role at your company, wouldn't you want to use it?  Heck, you would want to look into that thing even if it wasn't a difficult selling role.  But what if you were recruiting kids right out of college?  What would you do then?  Would you just recruit a whole bunch of kids and keep the ones who didn't quit?  Would you hire three times more than you needed and just keep the ones who were successful?  Would you just hire anyone who looked and sounded good and go from there?  What if you could use the crystal ball?  Could that even work with college grads?  Recently, we had an opportunity to study and answer that very question and the results will surprise you!

One company, we'll call them BigBrains, was hiring recent college graduates for an inside sales role where they would schedule appointments for the salespeople.  Lots of calls, a few conversations, and then convert those calls to meetings.  Some companies call these people BDR's, others call them SDR's, some call it Top of the Funnel, and others say it's Inside/Outbound.  Whatever you want to call it, I'm sure we can agree that it is very challenging, there is high turnover, and success is hard to come by.

They turned to Objective Management Group (OMG) and with BigBrains being as smart as they are, didn't believe the great results that others were achieving using OMG to help with sales selection would apply to them because they are different.  They target college kids and they are different.  Did I mention that they are different?  

I hate it when we have to prove over and over again that our sales candidate assessments are truly as accurate and predictive as all of our case studies, white papers, testimonials, awards and validations clearly state.  After all, OMG has legendary predictive accuracy and it's backed by science.  After assessing nearly one million salespeople over the past 25 years, the statistics show that of the candidates that are not recommended, but who brilliant executives hire in spite of that, 75% of them fail within 6 months.  And of the candidates that are recommended and are hired by other, not quite so brilliant executives, 92% of them rise to the top half of their sales force within a year.

So we offered to prove it to BigBrains.  We invited their top 5 and bottom 5 reps to take our sales candidate assessment and then we produced a comparison analysis as proof of concept for BigBrains.  From among our nearly 100 scores and findings, we identified 16 that clearly differentiated their tops from their bottoms and when we set the overall cutoff at 69%, 5 of their top 6 would have been recommended and 5 of their bottom 6 would not have been recommended.  For BigBrains, we had an overall predictive accuracy of 83% -  on predicting whether or not recent college graduates would succeed in this difficult SDR role.  In the image below, you can see the scores and findings for each salesperson.  Also note all of the green for the top performers and all of the red for their bottom performers.  Note that most of their bottom performers scored OK on the Hunter competency - the primary competency required for success in a BDR Role.  That's why, if we look at hunting skills alone, we will be fooled half the time.  Why is the closer competency used?  One reason is that they are closing for appointments and meetings.  But the other reason we used it is that the attributes within that competency are clear differentiators between their tops and their bottoms. 

But BigBrains didn't react the way most companies do.  Despite typically high turnover, they felt that OMG was unable to properly tune the assessment for their purposes.  What is normally a no-brainer for just about every company we talk with, caused just the opposite reaction at BigBrains.  They didn't think it would work on the college kids they targeted. 

But didn't we just prove that it would?  Doesn't our 83% trump their 33% 100 times out of 100?  I guess not.  Maybe the math works only 99 out of 100 times.  

Do you believe that they didn't act because they didn't believe the results?  Or that they didn't believe the results could be duplicated?  Or that it was too big of an investment?  Or that they feared something else?

Let's begin with the investment.  It wasn't much of an investment.  We would have saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars that they were paying college kids to fail.  We would have saved them thousands of hours that they were wasting on reviewing resumes, and phoning and interviewing the wrong candidates.  It was going to cost them significantly less than one entry level salary while at the same time, assessing thousands of candidates. It couldn't have been the money.  

Let's tackle whether or not it was duplicable.  Well, we already have a great track record for predictive accuracy and that was proven to be accurate again with their top 5 and bottom 5. So it couldn't have been whether or not it was duplicable.  And they had to believe the results - it was on their very own people.

No.  It was none of those reasons.

They were afraid that we would reject 90% of their candidates.  That's right.  They believed that the OMG Sales Candidate Assessment would recommend not moving foward with 90% of those kids.  Think about it...  Isn't that actually the point - to not move forward with those who we already know won't be able to succeed and/or won't stick around?  But the big executives at BigBrains believed that a 90% rejection rate would mean they would have to find more candidates and that might be too difficult.  Their recruiters would have to work harder.  Their recruiters might feel badly that their candidates didn't make the cut.

So their solution?  The very definition of insanity - just keep doing what they've been doing right along.  While only one third of their recruits might survive and succeed, at least that's the devil they know.  Can you imagine the expense, wasted time, frustration and stupidity of that model?  Continue to Part 2 - the follow-up article on Benchmarking BigBrains!

Their loss can be your gain though.  Just because BigBrains doesn't get it, doesn't mean you need to follow in their footsteps.  You can begin using the same accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments that 10,000 other companies use.  Learn more here.

I wrote a follow-up to this article on the Benchmarking we did at BigBrains.  You'll be even more amazed by what we learned with this exercise!

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, hiring salespeople, objective management, sales selection

Case History - Achieve Lowest Turnover in the Entire Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 27, 2014 @ 16:05 PM

turnoverFrom time to time, I get pretty cool emails that make me want to write positive articles instead of negative ones.  Today, I got one from an OMG (Objective Management Group) Partner, who wanted to let me know what he learned from one of his clients at a company that you all know quite well (but whose name will be withheld).

He wrote, "They have the lowest turnover of all the departments."

That's good, right?  Maybe not.

The Question That Must be Asked

Why would an enterprise (that has standardized on OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment, had OMG customize it for every sales role in the company, and has terrific data from its first year of use) have one department with significantly lower turnover than all the others?

Could it be any of the following 10 Reasons?

  1. Difficulty of the Role,
  2. Capabilities of the Different Sales Managers,
  3. Differences in the Various Selling Profiles,
  4. Differences in the Criteria for a Recommendation on the Assessment,
  5. Varying Interviewing Skills,
  6. Varying Expectations,
  7. Differences in Team/Department Cultures,
  8. Demand for the Different Products/Services,
  9. Varying Degrees of Competition Across Departments, and/or
  10. Luck of the Draw.

In most companies, each of those possibilities are always in play.  However, in this particular company, it wasn't any of them.

The Actual Reason

In reality, it was a very simple difference and you could say that this department was being really smart or that the other departments were being stupid.  

OMG's customized Sales Candidate Assessments could say that a candidate is recommended, not recommended or worthy of consideration.  They could also indicate that a candidate is recommended ideal or recommended perfect.  Each of these 5 possible recommendations is extremely accurate and predictive.

The department with the lowest turnover followed the recommendations, remained patient, and did not hire any candidates that were not recommended.  The other departments thought they knew better despite very strong statistical evidence to the contrary.  Our statistics AND THEIRS showed that 75% of the candidates who were not recommended, but hired anyway, failed within 6 months.  Why would anyone, anywhere go against a powerful statistic like that?  They're Smarter-Than-Us-Professionals, I declare - or STUPID.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel.  You don't have to be creative.  You don't need magical powers.  And you don't need to perfect your gut instinct.  Just use a tool that is proven to work consistently and reliably, and use it the way it was intended to be used.  And when it comes to sales selection, you'll be in good shape.

Image Copyright: sorapop / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales candidates, sales turnover, objective management, sales selection

All-Time Top Kurlan Sales Article

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 @ 10:12 AM

sales force evaluation,sales test,dave kurlan,sales candidate assessments,OMG,sales assessements,sales hiring test,sales hiring assessment,objective managementAs promised for today, I'm revealing the single article, from among my former 999 blog articles which my readers voted "best", to be my 1,000th post.  It's not my personal favorite, it's not the most well-written, it's not the most viewed, it's not the most entertaining, it's not the most insightful or the most linked to.  But from among the 15 for which you could vote, this was your choice:

Exposed - Personality Tests Disguised as Sales Assessments

(originally posted on January 28, 2009) 

Yesterday, I met with a longtime client who, in his previous company, used OMG's assessments to identify what needed to change in order to double revenue from $30 million to $60 million.  In his new company, which is already about twelve times that size, he wants to double revenue again.  He said, "I just wasted two years with the _____ assessment."  The assessment to which he referred was a personality assessment marketed as a sales assessment.  He could have referred to any personality or behavioral styles assessment.

Many people are not going to like this article.  I'm about to expose the findings in personality-based and behavioral-based assessments which assessment companies have been marketing as sales assessments for the last dozen years.

First, you'll need to read this piece, Personality Assessments for Sales - The Definitive Case Study.  Really, you need to read it first!

There isn't a tremendous difference between personality assessments and behavioral styles assessments.  Popular behavioral styles assessments, like the various versions of DISC, produce findings along four dimensions (categories) while some personality assessments, like those using the PF16 as their underlying engine or instrument, can measure traits in as many as sixteen dimensions.

But personality assessments and behavioral  styles assessments are not predictive of sales performance.  They don't conduct predictive validity studies, as we do, because their assessments don't predict.  Instead, they conduct construct validity studies, which only show to what extent an assessment measures a specific trait and not necessarily the traits which you want to know about, but the traits which they can actually measure.

So here's the problem.  Their marketing material usually says something like, "Salespeople must be able to Prospect, Question, Manage Objections and Close.  They must have Product Knowledge.  They must be accountable, have drive, be self-starters and be coachable."  You read those words and say, "Yes, yes.  That is exactly what we need."  And the masquerade is on.

As I wrote in the other article, personality-based sales assessments don't really measure what you need to know.  Instead they report on what they can actually measure.  In the table below, I'll list some of the most common "findings" in personality and behavioral styles tests which are marketed as sales assessments, describe what is really being measured and compare that to what Objective Management Group (OMG) measures and reports.

Finding      
 Measures
 OMG Finding
What OMG Actually Measures
Drive or achievement
General need 
to achieve
Desire 
How important it is to achieve success in sales
Resilience 
General ability 
to cope with
adversity
Bravery 
The sales-specific scenarios which will be problematic and the individual's ability to handle them
Rejection  
How the individual
reacts to
not being accepted or
not having their
ideas accepted 
Difficulty Recovering from Rejection  
The impact that "getting hung up on" or "getting a no" will have when they close and how long it may take to recover
Emotions  
Emotional
steadiness 
Ability to Control Emotions 
The likelihood that, when a salesperson is caught off guard or in an uncomfortable situation, they will panic and lose control of the sales call
Sociable 
How comfortable
they feel and how
appropriately they
behave in social
situations  
Bonding and
Rapport   
How quickly they develop relationships with their prospects
Confidence 
Whether they
are a confident
person  
Record 
Collection 
The sales-specific beliefs which support or sabotage their sales outcomes 
Coachable  
Whether they
are open to new
ideas 
Trainable 
Whether they have the incentive to improve their sales competencies 

These are just some of the most common findings.  Since OMG's assessments are so sales-specific, there are literally dozens of findings covering everything which can possibly happen in sales including, but not limited to, prospecting, closing, qualifying, account management, farming, use of the sales process, ability to handle stalls, put-offs, objections and work remotely, growth potential, development needs and more.  What's most important to understand about assessments is that: 

  • The questions in the personality tests are asked in the context of social settings, not sales settings, so none of the findings are sales-specific.
  • Because the findings in personality assessments are not sales-specific, they're not predictive.
  • Personality assessments are generally one-size-fits-all, without regard to your market, its challenges, your competition, your pricing, the resistance which your salespeople will face, your compensation plan and how specific selling strengths and weaknesses will impact those conditions.
  • Assessments of your existing salespeople should be useful for development.  If you don't have sales-specific findings, you're only developing them as people, not salespeople.
  • How is OMG different?  Assessments are only a minor part of an effective sales force evaluation.  The most important part is to be able to learn:
    • What impact sales management is having on the salespeople.
    • Whether you've been hiring the right people.
    • Whether your sales force can execute your strategies.
    • Whether your systems and processes support the sales force.
    • Whether sales management is effective.
    • If you can develop more of a sales culture.
    • Whether the salespeople can make a transition such as account manager types to hunters and closers; presenters and quoters to consultative sales types; transactional sale to a solution sale; etc.
    • Who can be developed?
    • If you're attempting to downsize or rightsize the sales force, which individuals actually have the ability to help you do more with less?
    • How much better can they get?
    • What it will take?
    • What would be the ROI on development?
    • Why do you get the specific results which you get?
    • What is the quality of your pipeline?
    • Etc.
  • When used for hiring and selection, an assessment must be an accurate predictor of sales success for a particular sales role in your particular company, calling on your particular market, with its particular challenges and competition.  A personality assessment won't consistently identify the people who will succeed, while OMG's assessment, with its 95% Predictive Validity, will.  We can differentiate between Recommended (they meet our criteria and yours); Recommended - Ideal (they are recomended and they will ramp up more quickly than normal); and Recommended - Perfect (they are recommended ideal and they meet additional customized criteria which match up with your most effective producers).

In summary, whether you're using a personality assessment, behavioral styles assessment, psychological assessment, or psychometric (describes all of the above) assessment, it's the marketing that's sales-specific, not the findings.  Use them at your own risk.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, omg, objective management, sales assessements, sales hiring test, sales hiring assessment, sales candidate assessments, sales test

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About Dave

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

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