More Junk Sales Science in HBR Blog

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 @ 15:04 PM

science

What do donuts, chips, cake and ice cream have in common with some of the articles that are written and published about salespeople, sales selection and assessments? That's right, they are all junk and junk is bad for you to consume. Over the years, there has been no better source of junk science written about sales and salespeople than the reputable Harvard Business Review Blog. Recently, they put out another absurdly awful piece, this one written by sales consultant, Steve Martin. As most of these articles do, "What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest" attempts to use personality and conditions to differentiate the two groups. This comes on the heels of another horrible article I called out in March 2015, which led to this amazing epic debate on the science of sales, sales assessments, and sales selection. This is why this latest HBR article is yet another example of junk science.The sample size of his research was 800 salespeople plus more than 1,000 interviews he has conducted. In this case, his research consists of a survey, and surveys are not a source of qualitative or quantitative data. As far as the interviews go, if each salesperson was asked identical questions, then they actually would be surveys, and if they were asked different questions, then it's not scientific! Compare his sample size to the salespeople that we have assessed at Objective Management Group (OMG).

He said the information provides interesting insights.  Insights are opinions - a far cry from the conclusions that come from science.

He identified 6 differentiators:

Verbal Acuity - Martin said that top performers were more articulate and communicated their messages more effectively - 11th and 12th grade skills versus 8th and 9th grade skills. I agree that words are important, messaging is crucial, and presenting in a way that works for the prospect is critical. But it's not about scores in English composition. It's about being concise, simple, and targeted - things that can happen only when salespeople have good listening skills. We've all seen articulate salespeople fail, and we've all seen simple-minded salespeople succeed. 11th and 12th grade communication skills are not predictive and not what should be measured. We should be measuring listening and questioning skills. Top salespeople are great listeners and ask great questions. Those two capabilities cannot only be measured, but they are the causation for verbal acuity .

Achievement Oriented Personality - Martin said that 85% exhibited this personality, which included Goal Orientation, participation in high school sports, and being power users of CRM.  These behaviors are symptomatic, not sources of causation. We all know salespeople who bury themselves in technology, played sports and are goal-oriented, but who can't sell space heaters in Alaska.  At OMG, we measure Strong Desire for Sales Success, and Strong Commitment for sales success, along with Motivation for sales success.  This is not the catchall finding of Drive, but sales-specific measures which are responsible for the behaviors that Martin observed. In the end, for findings to be useful, we must be measuring the right things!

Situational Dominance - He talks of the salesperson who is relaxed and able to guide the conversation. Maybe. But you can't measure that. What you can measure, and what is proven to accomplish the same outcome as the customer taking the salesperson's advice, are Consultative Selling Skills. Martin said test scores for situational dominance were 20% higher for top-performing salespeople, but that's not a big difference. When we look at consultative selling skills, there is a huge delta between top and bottom performers. The general population has on average 21% of the attributes of a consultative seller. The top 26% of all salespeople have more than 56% of those attributes, while the bottom 74% have fewer than 12%!

Inward Pessimism - Martin said that 2/3 of the top performers had inward pessimism. We might be in alignment on this one. We call it healthy skepticism or not being too trusting - not accepting at face value that which a prospect says. According to OMG's statistics, 86% of all salespeople are too trusting, but only 56% of the top performers have the healthy skepticism. I agree that Inward Pessimism is measurable and found in top performers, but his number is not consistent with OMG's data.  Additionally, when this finding is combined with an individual that does not need to be liked, and who has over-the-top assertiveness, we have an individual who comes across as condescending and arrogant - not someone we would want selling for us!

Sales Management Impact - I'm sorry, but sales management impact is not a differentiator between top- and bottom-performing salespeople.  If it were, a sales manager would not have both top- and bottom-performing salespeople!   Sales managers can have a tremendous impact on sales performance overall, especially when they spend half of their time coaching, and when their coaching skills are top-notch, but in most cases, the top salespeople became top salespeople independent of the sales manager.

Sales Organization Influence - Martin stated that 39% of top performers versus 23% of bottom performers were held accountable. That is not a very big difference. Of greater significance is that he said 60% of the top performers are not being held accountable, meaning that the top performers are likely to perform regardless of whether or not they are being held accountable. Being a top performer is not sales organization dependent!

###

There are significant differences between top and bottom performers, but you won't find them in the HBR article or any others like them.  With rows of data, across industries with sales organizations of every size, shape and configuration, the differences reported by OMG between top and bottom sales performers can be seen in both a macro and micro view.  And our data does not come from surveys or interviews!

From a macro view, we can look at OMG's Sales Quotient. This score, between 0 and 173, weighs 4 findings that make up a salesperson's will to sell, the 5 most important Sales DNA findings, and the 6 most important Selling Competencies.  The elite 6% of sales performers have Sales Quotients of 140 and higher.  The next 20% have Sales Quotients above 129, and the remaining 74% typically underperform.

From a micro view, each finding (over 100) is sales-specific, and together, they are extremely predictive of sales success. Unlike personality and behavioral styles assessments where the names of the findings are modified to appear (marketing) as if they actually measure sales skills and behaviors, OMG actually does.

But don't take my word for this, experience it for yourself. A sales force evaluation provides you with answers to 26 difficult to answer questions about your business and the sales force that is your economic engine. OMG's award-winning sales candidate assessments will accurately identify only those salespeople who will succeed in the particular role you have identified for them.

It's important to differentiate between the best and the worst, but you need the right tools to help. Without those tools, you'll find yourself coming up with insignificant differentiators like those identified in the HBR article, or in the Epic Debate. Stay with science and you can't go wrong. Follow faulty conclusions and you'll have more hit or miss sales selection results with an emphasis on miss.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, harvard business review, hbr blog, sales selection, sales science, objective management group

How to Close a Sale using Proof of Concept

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

proof

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

You feel very confident when you buy from a company that is the best in their industry and has achieved a long track record of success by consistently delivering great results. Your company could be one of those great companies, but it's more likely that yours is a company that must repeatedly prove itself. 

New salespeople have even greater challenges when they sell products and services that must be proven.  Do they have to prove that they're better, quicker, smarter, cooler or easier?  Do they have to prove that their ROI is better?  Do they have to prove a new technology or concept?  Do they have a powerful, consistent way to do that?

There's something even more powerful than the actual proof of concept and that is whether or not it is timed correctly.  Do new salespeople attempt to prove something before an opportunity has been thoroughly qualified?  Our statistics show that your proof of concept may not be at fault when a deal doesn't close.  Oh no.  It's more likely that your salespeople failed to thoroughly qualify the opportunity first; and as a result, a great deal of time, resources and energy were wasted on a prospect that couldn't or wouldn't buy even if the proof of concept was top notch.  Other times, salespeople forge ahead with the proof of concept without an up-front agreement that, if successful, the prospect will buy! 

Now stay with me on this...a quick example and then back to you...

Objective Management Group (OMG) is one of those companies too.  It doesn't seem to matter how many years we've been doing this (25), how much success we've had (tons), how many companies use us (10,000+), how many industries we help (all of them), how many awards we have won (#1 sales assessment for 4 consecutive years), how accurate and predictive it is (75% of the candidates we don't recommend who somehow get hired anyway fail within 6 months), how strong our predictive validity is (highest in the industry), or how strong our science is (more research behind this than Neil Rackham has done on salespeople).  Because we are a relatively small company, executives still want us to "Prove it!"  They say things like, "Well, it might work in medical devices, but that doesn't mean it will work for _____."  Or, "It might work for SaaS, but that doesn't mean a thing when it comes to _______.  Our business is different!"

Sometimes, we must prove it by assessing a company's top and bottom salespeople just to show how accurately we can differentiate between them.  It usually ends up looking something like the images below where you clealy can see the green representing specific findings that most of the top performers possess, versus a sea of red, showing that most of the bottom performers do not possess those same findings and scores:

proof-1

In the image above, this compay's top 3 salespeople had 81%, 94% and 81% of the specific findings we identified that differentiate their top salespeople from their bottoms.  Their bottoms had only 25%, 38% and 63% of those findings and/or scores.  Over and above our standard level of customization, we can identify a candidate that is a Perfect Fit for their company when the candidate meets or exceeds 81% on our Perfect Fit Index.

proof2

The second example is from a smaller company that had only 2 top performers and 4 bottom dwellers.  Their top reps had 92% and 75% of the specific findings and/or scores that differentiated them from their bottom dwelling colleauges, who had only 25%, 42%, 42% and 0.  While there is less data to work with at this company, we still managed to identify 12 findings and scores that clearly differentiated their tops from their bottoms as seen by looking at the all of the green on top and the sea of red on the bottom.

proof3

The last example represents 6 top performers that were all hired during the course of the previous year using our standard customization.  We used this analysis to further refine our findings and/or scores that would allow us to identify candidates that were a Perfect Fit for them.  While we found 16 scores/findings that their top performers shared, without comparing them to bottom performers we cannot be sure that these findings differentiate their top performers from bottom performers.

Most companies don't need this level of proof.  A sample, along with our reputation for accuracy, testimonials, and the sales-specific information that we provide are usually more than enough to convince them that we could only improve on their hit or miss (emphasis on miss) track record at sales recruiting and selection.

So how can you build and deliver proof of concept?  What are the various ways that you can proove to a prospect that what you do works as promised, works better than your competition, works equally well for less total cost of ownership, or returns greater value than the rest of the field?

Prospects like seeing validated data. Prospects love talking with customers who faced similar challenges, who are from the same industry or vertical, who are in the same size company, or who bought the same solution.  Will your proof of concept include a demo, trial, test, pilot, tour, samples, or something else?  The key is, what will convince the prospect you have today?  Many salespeople fail to ask what will work and assume that providing the same proof that they provide to everyone else will get the job done.  But that's like fitting a square peg into a round hole - it never works.  Ask, clarify, agree to a timeline, define success, and gain commitment to move forward upon completion of a successful proof of concept. 

Proof can be difficult.  When it comes to winning a deal using proof of concept, the key is to have proof that differentiates you from your competition, validates your claims and promises, and exceeds a prospect's skeptical expectations.

Would you like to give OMG's legendary Sales Candidate Assessment a test drive?

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales assessments, objective management group, OMG Assessment, proof of concept, sales proposal, winning a sale

Beach Ball of Death Predicts Lack of Sales Growth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

Every Mac owner knows about the dreaded beach ball of death.  For those who have never experienced the Mac equivalent of a computer crash, a beach ball that won't stop spinning appears on the screen and when it's more than a simple application crash, the death reference implies impending doom to the Mac itself.  This is what it looks like:

spinning-beach-ball

During the summer, beach balls can also be seen floating among fans in the center field bleachers at Fenway Park. This is especially true when the Red Sox are losing or playing a particularly boring game.  Death quickly comes to those beach balls when players, security guards or grounds crew stab the beach balls with a bullpen rake!

floating-beach-ball

And then there is the beach ball I want to share today - the sales beach ball of impending doom.  You might be wondering how there could even be a sales beach ball, never mind one that spells impending doom; but, there is.

Last week I saw it for the first time on a slide from a deck that Objective Management Group (OMG) prepares when we evaluate a sales force.  This particular slide answered the question, "Why Aren't We Generating More New Business?"

Here's the slide:

slide-new-business-w-beach-ball
Do you see the beach ball at the bottom in the center of the slide?  If it was all green, that would mean that the salespeople would be capable of finding new business and building a better pipeline.  But it is far from being all green.  There is a lot of red and coral, suggesting that there is an even bigger problem than anything that a change in behavior, strategy or tactics might solve.  Let's take a closer look at that beach ball and the legend that accompanies it:

slide-sales-beach-ball-of-doomThat big red area tells us that 33% of their salespeople are classified as People for the Ethical Treatment of Prospects (PETP).  Like their friends at PETA, who protect animals, the members of this group have a strain in their Sales DNA that prevents them from hunting prospects for new business.  In addition, the coral area tells us that 17% are fishermen.  They won't hunt either, but if a prospect bites, they'll reel in the opportunity.  The most a company could hope for is that the coral group of salespeople will follow up on leads.  The light green is represented by another 33% who will prospect if only a sales manager would hold them accountable.  But if you scroll up and look at the right-hand side of the slide, you'll see that sales management's ability to hold their salespeople accountable also falls into the red.  When all is said and done with this question about finding new business, only 17% of their salespeople will voluntarily go out on hunting expeditions. 

As presently constituted, their ability to find new business is extremely limited - a sales growth beach ball of impending doom.

This slide represented only one of more than two-dozen difficult business questions that we answer where we use science to explain why companies get the results they get, whether or not the sales force is capable of improving their results, and to what degree those results can be improved.  Are you interested in learning more about a sales force evaluation?

evals

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales growth, sales prospecting, objective management group, revenue growth, OMG Assessment

Rebuttal to What Elite Salespeople Do Differently

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 04, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

needle

Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo

Yesterday, the Sales & Marketing Analytics Blog ran this article on the 8 Things That the Top 1% of Sales Reps Do Differently.  Cara, the author of the article, wrote that she extracted these 8 things from a discussion on Quora, a discussion where sales leaders contributed their opinions on what they believe the top 1% of all sales reps do differently.  While the disclaimer was in the first paragraph, it is very clear to me that this discussion wasn't based on science - not by any stretch of the imagination - it was the opinion of SaaS sales leaders - so it's also industry specific. The article title makes it sound like science, and Cara is contributing to a Blog that has Analytics in the title.  It seems as though the article was more marketing than analytics...

First, here is their list extracted from the opinions of sales leaders:

  1. Time Management
  2. Handling Day-to-Day Stress Levels
  3. Effective Questioning
  4. Understanding of the Prospect's Buying Process
  5. Extensive Knowledge of the Competition
  6. Willingness to Walk Away
  7. Always Learning
  8. Drive to Win

There is no question that good reps do these things, but I'm also certain that the SaaS sales leaders did these things back in the day when they sold.  Today they teach these things to their reps and observe that only 1% are able to do them.  So what is it that prevents 99% of the reps from doing this when their sales leaders tell them that it's a formula for success in SaaS sales?

Objective Management Group (OMG) does have science to reference so I can confidently share exactly what the difference is between the top 1% and the bottom 1%, based on the evaluations, assessments and data from nearly 2 milloin salespeople.  Here is my comparison:

Pct of the Top 1% Finding on OMG's Evaluation or Assessment Pct of Bottom 5%
94% Take Responsibility for their Results - They Don't Make Excuses 20%
78% No Need for Approval - They Don't NEED their prospects to like or love them 6%
59% Don't Become Emotional - They stay in the moment 10%
98% Comfortable Talking About Money 2%
79% Supportive Sales Beliefs 0%
76% Supportive Buying Behaviors (they don't comparison shop, price shop or think things over) 8%
95% Rejection Proof 18%
100% Goal Oriented 16%
95% High Money Tolerance (big amounts are not big amounts to them) 35%
77% Hunting Competency 31%
59% Qualifying Competency 11%
66% Consultative Competency 0%
45% Closing Competency 8%
100% Strong Desire for Sales Success 0%
99% Strong Commitment to Sales Success 33%
99.5% Trainable 0%

 

The way to read this table is to word it like this: 94% of elite salespeople don't make any excuses, compared to only 20% of the duds.  

Did you find anything in common between the top 8 opinions and the 16 differences that science provides us with?  

They had Drive on their list and we have Desire for Sales Success. It's important to distinguish between the two because people with Drive may not be successful salespeople while people with strong desire for success in sales often are.  

They also had Questioning on their list.  Asking questions - good ones and a lot of them - represent two of the attributes of the Consultative Selling competency.

You won't find any others in common.  The science doesn't back it up.  Yes, successful salespeople may have some or all of their 8 - but the unsuccessful salespeople have some or all of those 8 as well.

Most of the authors who make up lists like theirs are, well, making them up!  Just as the business of sales analytics is based on data and science, so should any compilation that claims to differentiate top from bottom sales performers.

This article appeared through syndication on some other sites.  On CustomerThink, an epic discussion followed this introduction and I have included more than 50 comments that appeared there. It started with this comment from Bob Thompson, who also happens to own the CustomerThink website:

"Dave,
I agree that the other blog post wasn’t science. But can you share more about the science behind your assessments?
For example, are the reps doing self-assessments? If so, it’s common for self-assessments to have a form of confirmation bias. Reps tending to make quota would tend to rate themselves highly on other attributes, yet these correlating attributes might not actually be ‘driving’ their performance at all.
Also, how do you decide what segment a rep is in? Based on making quota? Growing revenue? Scoring well on certain questions?
I’m not disagreeing with your list, just hoping for more details on how you developed them. I’ve read so many posts on what a top rep should do, from following processes to “challenging” prospects, that these days I have no idea what a top rep really does.
Thanks,
Bob"
 
I replied with:

"Great question/request Bob,

It’s extremely challenging to explain the science in this limited amount of space so I’ll just give you a few powerful snippets.

We evaluate entire sales forces and we assess sales candidates. In either case, we combine criteria for what it takes to succeed in sales at the various difficulty levels that salespeople encounter; and we combine that with the criteria for what it takes to succeed in a specific sales role at a specific company.

Salespeople must then answer around 150 questions – only 11 are self-ratings and the self-ratings do not determine any findings or outcomes – they only serve as comparisons of how they see themselves versus how we see them.

We look at their Sales Competencies – their capability for hunting, consultative selling, qualifying, presenting, closing, managing existing accounts, farming, and posturing – these are primarily skill based competencies; and we look inside their Sales DNA – the combination of strengths and weaknesses that will either support or sabotage their ability to execute the skills they possess.

There is a top 6% of elite salespeople with sales quotients are 140 and higher.
The next tier has another 20% of salespeople that are good with sales quotients between 130 and 140; and then the most interesting thing of all – then there is a bottom 74% that are awful. There is no bell curve.

The best way to illustrate accuracy is to look at the results of the candidate assessments where we use predictive validity – the most time consuming and expensive validation available. With predictive validity there must be a correlation between assessment results and on-the-job performance.

Of the candidates who are NOT RECOMMENDED but HIRED ANYWAY (by clients that are smarter than we are) 75% of those candidates fail inside of 6 months.

Of the candidates who ARE RECOMMENDED and HIRED 92% of those candidates rise to the top of their respective sales forces within one year.

For HR Directors who understand the technical side of assessments we have a technical manual available and it explains everything in technical terms. Please email me for one of those.

For those who want to give it a test drive, we have a free trial that you can use on a candidate and it’s available here:

https://www.objectivemanagement.com/omginfo/ExpressScreenTrial.aspx?DistNum=1DaveCustomerThink

And for those who simply want to get a sample, those are available here:

http://www.objectivemanagement.com/omginfo/page/Sample.aspx?DistNum=1DaveCustomerThink

And if one of my White Papers is more up your alley, those are available here:

http://www.objectivemanagement.com/omginfo/page/Whitepaper.aspx?DistNum=1DaveCustomerThink"

### 

Then, Matt Heinz contributed:

"Here are six attributes I believe the modern buyer demands/requires of great salespeople today:

Transparency
You don’t always have good news. But even the bad news is easier to swallow when you know someone’s being straight with you. If the prospect or customer feels like they’re getting the real story, they’re more likely to work with you on the solution or next step. Transparency and trust go hand in hand.

Expediency
If they ask for something, you get back to them quickly. You can’t always deliver the request or solution right away, but you can always respond quickly with an answer or timeline for resolution. Speed of service means a lot, especially with prospects and customers who want their information in real-time.

Advocacy
Do you stand up for your customers? Do you advocate for their needs internally and externally? Are you a champion for their objectives? Do you treat their priorities as your own? Think about some of your own vendors. There’s a difference between those who are mere vendors and those who are advocates.

Honesty
Say what you mean, mean what you say. Be honest about whether that requested feature is coming soon, or not yet on the near-term product timeline. If you screwed up, admit it, make it right, and move forward. It’s amazing to me how many companies are literally afraid to be honest. But if your relationship isn’t based in honesty and trust to begin with, there’s no amount of spin or messaging strategy or tap-dancing that will save the relationship long-term.

Availability
This doesn’t mean responding to requests at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Depending on what you do, that might be acceptable. But for most of us, it’s still OK to set some boundaries. That said, your availability – to answer simple questions, attend to a service request, or simply to discuss or brainstorm something – makes a big difference. Two of our clients, for example, don’t have a voicemail system in the entire organization. Your phone call is always answered by a live person, who can either track down the person you need, get you to someone else, or take a message and get you a response ASAP. There’s a big difference, of course, between leaving a voicemail somewhere and reaching a live body every time. And there’s really very little price difference in those solutions too if you think about it.

Creativity
Your customers are smart, but they also stare at the same four walls every day. They want you to help them think outside of the box, bring new ideas, identify new solutions to their problems. Doesn’t mean that every idea is a winner. Sometimes bad ideas are just the spark you (or they) need to come up with the next innovation. But proactive creativity (meaning you’re doing it without the customer having to explicitly ask for it) shows that you care, shows that you’re striving to get better, and shows that you’re not OK with the status quo if your customer isn’t getting the results they need."

I responded to Matt and said:

"These are great Matt – and as you spelled out, these are attributes that customers demand from salespeople. That’s different from what differentiates a top 1% from everyone else. Customers demand these things from all salespeople and while not all salespeople are capable of delivering on these demands, you will see these attributes distributed equally between both good and bad salespeople.

Unlike Sales DNA which is somewhat hard-wired, or sales skills which are learned, or the Will to Sell which comes from the heart, most of these customer demands are decisions. Buyers decide they are important to them, and salespeople decide whether or not they want to deliver. The only one that some might have trouble delivering even if they decide they want to, is creativity which, not everyone is capable of."

###

Andy Rudin chimed in next.  He said:

"There is so much heterogeneity in selling that science notwithstanding, I don’t think it’s possible to make generalizations about successful behaviors in salespeople. The competencies that make a person effective at selling elder care services are probably not the same as those that are required for selling corporate jets. The temperament needed to sell to services to stodgy state and local government bureaucrats isn’t the same as what’s needed to sell mobile apps to milennials. There’s a near-infinite list of comparative examples, and I am sure there are extremes more polar than the ones I have cited. I don’t argue with what Dave and Matt have identified – all seem reasonably important. But for me, they’re not especially revealing in that they’re extensible to many different jobs and professions, not just salespeople.

The other factor that limits our ability to generalize is the fact that measurements that define selling effectiveness are across the map. One company’s “elite” is another company’s “meh.” I think attributions such as “elite” are compatible with professional sports, where there is more consensus and understanding about what constitutes top performance. I don’t sense anything close to that level of agreement in the selling community.

What I’d love to see requires a much wider and more challenging study. One that more clearly defines the meaning behind the variables, the specific selling environment or context, and most important, considers buyer results and opinions, not just revenue achievement, in the measurement of 'success.'"

I responded to Andy with:

"Andy,

You are much smarter than me. i had to look up heterogeneity. Cool word! I must try to use it in a Blog post in the near future.

You are exactly right that success is measured differently in every company, industry, role and vertical. You are correct that one company’s great is another company’s second stringer.

Unfortunately, you are wrong about our science. The top 6% could succeed in any role, in any industry, and into any vertical. They wouldn’t want to…the compensation would be inadequate, there would be little in the way of a challenge, they would be much stronger than the sales managers to whom they would report, and they wouldn’t have any fun.

The science behind sales performance doesn’t vary, is not inconsistent and is not debatable. There simply isn’t anyone else applying science to sales performance."

###

Next to comment was Michael Lowenstein who said:

"I’d suggest that the sales leaders got it right, especially zero-ing in on items 3 through 7 in the list. Hunting skills can be taught and honed, but the real expertise comes from knowing the customer’s real needs and purchase trigger points and knowing the competitive landscape and battleground.

And, even with the most assertive of hunters, they will be well-advised be even more sensitive to the individual sales situation by taking Kenny Rogers’ sage advice on #6: “Know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.” Sometimes its better to take a tactical retreat, rather than lose a strategic and trust-based customer relationship."

My response was:

"Thanks Michael,

Hunting skills can be taught – agreed – but the Hunting Competency measured in OMG’s evaluations and assessments include the elements of Sales DNA that impact hunting – things like whether or not they are rejection proof, need to be liked, or have beliefs that would prevent them from prospecting. Those cannot be taught and sure as heck can’t be observed in an interview. So without that science, going on skills alone, which are also difficult to measure in an interview, we would hire someone who looked and acted great, but might quickly fail. Have you ever hired someone you thought was great who failed?"

###

Then Christine Crandall:

"Qvidian did a study that I found very enlightening and pointed to more systemic issues around performance that were not individal based. The sample size is decent and the tool was not biased towards Qvidian, except for one question.

the challenge with sales performance is everything that everyone has listed. I hesitate to lay most of the blame on sales as I believe and have seen first hand that sales teams are only as good as the CEOs that lead and the organizations that support them.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecrandell/2015/01/26/why-sales-just-cant-show-you-the-money/"

My response was:

"Thanks for bringing up systemic problems Christine. That’s certainly another major part of a sales force evaluation where we look at the impact and efficiency that a company’s sales systems, processes, strategies, and leadership is having on the sales force and its salespeople. Again, the post wasn’t about that is an important component of our complete science."

###

Then Chip Bell said:

"This is a fascinating conversation. It makes me wonder about the relevance of science around a topic that seems as much intuitive art as skilled discipline. Are we trying to drive a nail with a B flat in this discussion? Selling is so dependent on the context, the prospect and the personality of the sales person. Granted there are similarities among the greats…just like there were with the artistry of Picasso, Dali and Jackson Pollock. But, walk into a museum and their paintings as different as a Ferrari and a Schwinn. I also wonder if both lists are accurate, just viewed from a different perspective. Or, is this a competition over tools of truth?

I agree with Bob that we need to learn more about the research methodology of both. But, the larger question might be this: is the scientific method a relevant application for this topic? And, if I treated each list as the gospel, what do I do with the insights as a sales manager? If a doctor diagnosis my malady as the flu, he or she might send me to the pharmacist for some drugs; a medicine man might mix some herbs and spices and achieve the exact same result. The doctor’s conclusion came through in-depth study of the science of medicine. The shaman discerned a conclusion through intuition and experimentation. So, is science the only answer to my cure or are there many routes to the same end?

Looking for the science behind the critical success factors of selling reminds me of John Steinbeck’s description of a fishing expedition in his book Sea of Cortez.

“The Mexican sierra has 17 plus 15 plus nine spines in the dorsal fin. These can easily be counted. But if the sierra strikes hard on the line so that our hands are burned, if the fish sounds and nearly escapes and finally comes in over the rail, his colors pulsing and his tail beating in the air, a whole new relational externality has come into being—an entity which is more than the sum of the fish plus the fisherman.”

“The only way to count the spines of the sierra unaffected by this second relational reality is to sit in a laboratory, open an evil-smelling jar, remove a stiff colorless fish from the formalin solution, count the spines and write the truth…There you have recorded a reality which cannot be assailed—probably the least important reality concerning either the fish or yourself.”

My response was:

Thanks Chip – you raise some good questions.

One of the problems with the original 8 things, followed by my rebuttal with another 15 or so things, is that my 15 is not complete. It doesn’t look like science because it’s only representative of 15 things which, in general, differentiate top from bottom salespeople. If you saw the number and depth of findings that we generate on salespeople – it would make your head spin. So, in many ways, the pushback I’m getting here is self-inflicted by the context for the post. The other thing relative to your comment, is that in a Blog post, everything is generic, while in the real world, whether we evaluate a sales force or assess a sales candidate, those ARE conducted in the context of their businesses, models, roles, markets, requirements and challenges.

###

Believing that the commenting was done, I thanked everyone with this response:

Thanks everybody.

I found all of your comments to be quite interesting. Especially where everyone is more willing to put science on trial, than art and instincts. That happens when we are fearful that the science will tell us something quite different from what we believe to be true.

For example, I always thought I was 6′ 3″ tall until one day, my height was measured (science) and I learned the truth – that I was only 5′ 6″. I was shocked because I got “knocked down” from my pedestal and could no longer act like a “big” shot.

Science is a scary thing when we think we already know it all. But we can count on science for truth and everything else is usually just a big, bad guess, based only on our own experiences, which in most cases, is limited only to what we know. As the saying goes, very often, we don’t know what we don’t know.

###

The commenting was far from over.  In fact, it was just beginning, only now, instead of all of the challengers, noted supporters from all over the world began to chime in.  Bill Eckstrom, CEO of EcSell Institute, got it started:

Actually this is a fascinating thread.

Science should be challenged, which is what creates better science, and I certainly am not one to accept something as absolute. Having said that, I still lean on science, research, any fact based information, for the odds of a successful outcome are stacked in my favor–certainly as it pertains to identifying and acquiring sales talent.

There is not an exact science to sales selection, but there are methods that consistently prove to have better outcomes. These science based, proven approaches such as Dave describes, combined with other steps in the process, provide sales departments the best opportunity to hire the right talent and grow sales. Also interesting to note that I’ve read much research on improved outcomes when utilizing predictive hiring assessments, but nobody has shown me a bit of research proving them wrong.

Thank you all for making me think, but I’ll take the science six days a week and twice on Sundays.

My response:

Great comment Bill,

I especially like your comment that you’ve “read much research on improved outcomes when utilizing predictive hiring assessments, but nobody has shown me a bit of research proving them wrong.”

I have never seen any research proving that any of the gut instinct, observations, and anecdotal articles, lists, and papers have been anything more than that – no empirical data demonstrating that any of it is predictive; and isn’t that what we want? Findings and information that are predictive? And by the way, when it is reliable, consistent and predictive, they have a word for that. Science.

I will also take the science except for on Sundays – that’s my day of rest!

###

Karl Yannes, the Yannes half of Lorenzano & Yannes, contributed the next comment but Bob Thompson, the moderator, thought it was too critical of the critics, and didn't allow it to be posted.  Karl became upset that it wasn't included and sent it to me so I am including it here:

"Boy, oh boy. After reading the above, I have to take a contrarian position: I think I’m going to puke. (Does that mean I’ve already lost all objectivity and professionalism?)

It always amazes me when those who have absolutely no first hand experience in a matter always have to chime in with their two cents worth of skeptical ignorance, choosing to remain safely up in their “Ivory Towers” with their feeble-minded opinions until such time they feel safe to embrace the brave new world as already laid out below them.

Of course nobody’s like that in this thread….

SCIENTIFIC FACT – Having been in the sales development business for the past 20 years, I can say I’m on the streets, and not in the tower. I’m out getting “bloodied” everyday by CEO’s who are equally skeptical, yet their businesses are flat or free-falling, and who have no answers on how to get to the promised land. I do – because of the OMG science. I can call myself an “expert” – because of the OMG science.

ANOTHER MORE IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC FACT – I’ve participated in the OMG science. I’ve contributed to the OMG science and I use the OMG science daily to make money, and lots of it. My clients use it daily and make even more money. If I could bottle this science up and take it to Vegas, I could bet it all on red and win every single time.

Dave – I think you’re trying too hard to convince those who still think the world is flat, so let them fall off the deep end again, as I’m sure it won’t be for the first time, and I know it won’t be the last until they embrace the “science of sales” as laid out by you. You will go down in history as the “Einstein of Sales” who’s research and creativity allow common folk like me to create masterpiece after masterpiece throughout the corporate world painting sales force canvases as if I possessed the genius of Picasso.

C’mon boys and girls – come down from your towers and try to sell something yourself before telling others how to do it, or giving advice to those experts whose livelihoods depend on it. Find out how much Need For Approval you have that gets in the way of you closing deals. (Oh yeah – the science has shown that a salesperson will become 35% more effective once they fix that weakness) or that your Buy Cycle is non-supportive to the sales process (the science has shown that you will become 50% more effective in closing business once you fix that weakness.)

The amount of mediocrity that still is allowed to exist in the corporate sales is appalling and can not be tolerated anymore, at least by those who want to become excellent – and rich. And if you don’t want to help people with that – stay up in your towers and keep challenging what we on the ground already know is fact. And to those who say your business is different, well, you have your heads so far up your asses that it’ll make a fascinating model for the next Rodin masterpiece.

Enough already. It’s time, once again, to challenge my own heterogeneity. (Does that have anything to do with same-sex marriage?) I’m going to go help another CEO extricate his head from his ass so he can start growing revenue the right way – using the sheer power and awesome predictability of the science of the OMG sales assessments. (Simpy magic.)"

###

Next came James Rores, CEO of The Floriss Group:

"I have read the entire blog and debate. Frankly, the depth of this argument around science has gone beyond my core competency. As a successful individual contributor/sales leader for 25 years and trainer/coach now for the last 9 years I am not sure how to contribute in a helpful way. Essentially, I know what works for me and my clients and so I keep doing it. I also know the OMG science is predictive because of my experience and because I know OMG’s factors focus on very specific points of EXECUTION that can be defined in only ONE way, either you are doing it or you are not … very binary. No grey area. OMG’s tool, unlike the others, is not generic even though it can be tailored for anyone who reads it. This is why it is so valuable."

###

Rocky LaGrone works with nearly 100 of OMG's Certified Sales Development Experts in the Americas.  He had this to say:

"Joining a bit late here but, better late than never. All good points above and all interesting perspectives. I’ve been using OMG’s assessments in my Sales Development Businesses since 1995. On average I train about 400 sales staff a year with long term in-depth engagements. That’s a lot of salespeople, sales managers, and companies, with the average client in the 20-25 sales staff range.

I know first hand the findings and the importance of the intelligence backed by the science and continued mining of the data collected on over 750,000 sales staff evaluated. There is no comparison to any other (‘impostor – so called’) sales assessment in the market. I’ve used the tools with just about every kind of organization out there and the results are the same. Intelligence that gives a CEO/President/Business Owner/ EVP/ and HR and myself, the coach and trainer, great insight, and valuable findings with data that is needed to fix the cause of the sales problems.

To give a broader reference, I’ve used TTI, Profiles Int. and Caliper as well, and they have their place but it is not in the Sales Predictability space.

Yes, Picasso, Angelo and the great artist of all times have different outcomes but they all had a vision, used brushes, different mediums, canvases, and tools. And yes, when the statue of David was created it started with a block of stone. But each had a successful methodology, each had the WILL to execute, each followed a specific process when repeated generated a similar outcome.

Each sales situation is different as many of you pointed out as well. There are no two sales situations alike. However, there are fundamentals, systems and processes, that sales people can follow to generate similar outcomes. The problem lies within the individual’s ability to execute and that is the power of OMG’s findings, intelligence and science.

I can come into anyone’s office with a staff of any size and teach the best prospecting workshop in the world. I can make them laugh, make them cry, entertain and educate, but if I don’t address the root cause that keeps people form executing what is taught, it’s all for not.

There could be a couple of dozen reasons they won’t execute what is taught. For one example, their belief system might be in the way. If they don’t expect to talk to whom they call they will not perform. If they are uncomfortable calling on the CEO or top leader in the business they will fail before they start. OMG’s powerful assessment identifies 66 different non-supportive beliefs that get in the way. Until we remove and replace those with supportive beliefs the sales staff will not execute. What goes on between the ears is what will manifest itself into current reality.

Another example is when the sales persons has a strong need to be liked. When applied in sales they cannot ask the hard questions, they wear happy ears, and this causes bloated pipelines because they think everything is going to close. Until we help them change they’re strong need for approval from prospects, they can’t execute the advanced level prospecting behaviors, attitudes and techniques.

There are over 286 findings the OMG tools identify about each sales person, their managers, and the current state of the sales staff. When combined…(well you do the math), 286 to the 286th power and there are a tremendous combination of findings. Unless you take the time to learn and utilize the OMG tools you don’t know what their power is. Anyone want to talk about how to add them to your business? Just ask Dave, he’ll put you in touch with the right person to help you on-board these powerful tools."

###

Gretchen Gordon is the President of Braveheart Sales Performance.  She said:

"I find this sting entertaining. I used to base my determinations about salespeople and sales leaders on “gut”. However since employing the OMG assessment in our work with clients I have become a total believer. The reports don’t lie. If they say that a salesperson has upside potential, even when the CEO or sales manager believes they are a lost cause, we can pinpoint their development needs and help them excel. I have had numerous occasions where the bottom of the barrel salesperson became a top producer because we found out, through using the OMG tools, what was holding them back. So, I know the science is there, but I also know that anecdotally the findings are dead on. I also have clients, that unfortunately, hire salespeople and ignore the findings of the OMG candidate assessment against my advice. Those have turned out poorly for the client.

I know that many long time sales professionals choose to believe that sales is an art and will try to argue their point, but, you just can’t fight the science."

###

Tom Schaff was next - he is a partner in the sales development firm of Big Swift Kick:

"Wow…what a conversation. I love all of it. I love the lists of qualities, competences, attributes, skills, motivations et al. One of the liveliest discussions I’ve seen on this topic.

I’ll weigh in with my observations and in full disclosure have been a distributor of Dave Kurlan’s assessments since 1998. I’ll also share that I distribute over 100 additional assessments from a variety of other partners that are used for specific types of sales and other roles.

I’m a nerd and have kept data and spreadsheets on thousands of people I’ve tested over the years. I am not a psychometrician and have no advanced degrees on the topic. I do have data on hundreds of companies in dozens of industries. My observation after the years is that I have come to applaud the unique insights of Dave Kurlan and Objective Management Group. I don’t know the formulas and can’t speak to the P scores. I can speak to the fact that when someone assesses well and they have the track record of performance, they perform somewhere else. When they don’t assess well and have a “track record,” they don’t somewhere else. When assess well and don’t have a “track record,” there are things other assessments pick up and that’s why I use a battery of assessments that revolve around but are not limited by Dave’s work.

Behavioral style, motivation, internal dimension, clarity of thinking and empathy, GRIT and executive decision making abilities are all dimensions I situationally measure using other assessments and adjust for sensibilities of a job. The only adjustment I make on the Objective Management Group is on complexity of sale. Transactional office sales are different then complex executive sellling situations that involve 100 million partnerships. We adjust accordingly using the insights I’ve learned from Dave.

Further transparency, while I have been a hard-nosed, often irritable debater against some of Dave’s theories over the years especially longer ago, I’ve been amazed at the respect he’s given back, his openness to see a point of view, tweaks he’s made to make the product work even incrementally better and most importantly, the impact his work has had on my clients.

I empathize with so many of the points made in this thread. My encouragement is, learn from all of them and, do yourself a favor: if your ideas come in conflict with Dave’s, seek first to understand before you seek to be understood in a healthy way like Bob is. I love his search for the truth…very powerful way to explore!

I’m hoping to learn even more from all of the spirited debate and hope at the same time, you’ll benefit from the great concepts in selling that Dave uniquely has. Time and time again, we see the future in such an amazing way, I’m likely renaming my company Prescient..the ability to see with precision the future. You can be right or you can be rich..rarely both. Working with Dave, I’m happy to say by the day, I’m benefitting by getting a little bit more of both..right and rich. Hope you will to! Keep the debate up and share your great thoughts and let’s help companies grow!"

Tom Schaff
http://www.bigswiftkick.com

###

Jeremy Bliler, of InsightRise, commented next:

"As fun as this debate is, I’m not sure why there is a debate. Many comments here reference the “science” and Dave lays it out there in percentages several times. What more science do we need? If 90%+ of assessed candidates who came back with a HIRE recommendation became top performers within 6 months, what more science do you need? It’s this wishy-washy back and forth that leaves CEO’s of mid-sized companies confused and hesitant to hire consultants. Fact is, they have millions of dollars on the line and they need tools that get them closer to success.

Let’s pretend that some of the science is loosely defined and needs adjustment (In OMG’s case I don’t think it does) you’re still a lot closer to knowing who will perform in your sales department than any other tool out there and it will most likely save you thousands of dollars. I’ve tried for many years to figure out why companies decide to go it alone or consultants fight the use of these tools, and all I can say is that it’s ego. But how sad is that? We sit here and debate little details while so many companies lose money on their salespeople or are held hostage by a small number of actual performers.

Thanks Dave for posting this."

###

Then, Witold Jankowski, President of ICAN Institute in Poland, commented:

"Even though correlation is not the same as causality, establishing such link can be useful. As a PHD (economics) I understand the difference. Still for the purpuses of assessing the existing sales force (who to retain, in whom to invest) and recruitment I find the OMG tests very useful. I noticed a very close correlation between OMG assessments and results of my sales force – we assessed our sales force of approximately 40 people (a mixed group including both transactional and consultative sellers) – the OMG scores and sales results were very closely correlated. Since then we are using OMG scores in recruitment. Every time we hired somebody “not recommended” by the test, it was a mistake demonstrated by the actual results.

PS. I am President of ICAN Institute (Warsaw, Poland) offering management training. We also publish a Polish language edition of Harvard Business Review."

###

Wayne Herring of Herring Coach commented next:

"Thank you to all who have commented, this is a great discussion. I leave the statistical confirmations and validations to others who have more ability to focus on detail than I do.

What I know is this… I had the privilege to lead the 40 person sales division of a $25M B2B company for 9 years. We did well, but we were by no means perfect.

A partner of the Objective Management Group (OMG, Dave Kurlan’s company) worked with my team and I as an outside sales trainer. This gentleman had me complete one of OMG’s Vice President of Sales assessments after we had been working together for about 3 years as part of my personal development plan. When I received the results of the OMG assessment, I wished that I had completed the assessment 5 years earlier. The assessment had me NAILED. My strengths…it identified them. My weaknesses…at first when I looked at them I pushed back on the findings. The OMG partner helped me by pointing out conversations that he and I had in the previous 3 years that pointed to these shortfalls in my work and leadership. I saw that the report was correct and began working to improve in the areas where I saw the most potential for improved performance.

Fast forward to today… I recently had a client that I worked with who only wanted “Sales Training”… nothing else….no matter what. I worked with the sales people of this company for 6 months. I identified through the course of a lot of time spent with the sales people and the sales manager and the company what I thought was holding them back. I wrote those things down on a tablet. The owner of the company agreed to run Sales Person self assessments and Sales Manager self assessments on his team. The things that I had found regarding his sales team in the 6 months that I worked with them were almost identical with the weaknesses identified by the OMG Sales Force Evaluation. We would have saved a lot of time and we would have been much more focused in the consulting work that I did with the company if we had done the Sales Force Evaluation before beginning any training work. Lesson learned for me.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am an OMG partner. I believe in the science behind these tools BASED on my empirical experience. I believe that if I had these tools in my former role as a VP of sales that we would have hired stronger sales people and we would have done a better job of Coaching and managing sales people.

In my former role as a VP of sales and in my role before that as a department manager, I struggled with hiring great sales people who could ramp up quickly and then maintain productivity. My recruiters struggled with finding great sales people. My peers that I would speak to at conferences constantly complained about how sales people put on a great “act” during their interview but then failed miserably 90 days later. Many of my peers were much better Sales Managers than I. These discussions and my own track record in hiring sales people tell me that effectively interviewing/evaluating sales people is VERY difficult – even if one is using multiple interviews with consistent questions, multiple interviewers and decision matrices designed to remove personal biases, and Behavioral or Personality type assessments. There is something else there that we need to dig out that separates the best from the rest….

I would encourage everyone with a higher capacity for attention to detail to read the technical manual and validity studies that Dave mentions and I look forward to reading (with a very open mind) your comments and questions after that review. As I said, I am much more of an Empirical type of a guy…which is not always good, but I have seen how accurate these assessments are in the sales teams and sales people and managers that I have evaluated."

###

Steve Taback is President of Sandler-TEM Associates.  He has been a Certified OMG Partner longer than anyone in the world when he took the leap and became the first in 1990.  He said:

"I’ve read all of the postings on this subject regarding the science and/or the art of being a top producing salesperson. I may not have the capacity to take a stand on either side of this fence; however, I’ve been in the salespeople development business for 30 years and for 15 years before that was a top producing salesperson and manager. I don’t say this to toot my horn, just to put some perspective on what I’m about to say next.

I have been using OMG’s assessment tools with clients to evaluate existing salespeople and sales forces as well as screen candidates for both sales and sales management positions since the early 1990s. Our clients have found the information that we can provide them either prior to embarking on a training program for their salespeople, or prior to making a hire or no-hire decision on a candidate, to be invaluable. OMG’s Sales DNA, identifying the extent of major weaknesses as an impact on a salesperson’s ability, and flagging crucial elements that can make or break a salesperson’s willingness to grow have proven to be, and continue to be, the kind of information that gives our clients an edge on growing their existing people and hiring the “right” new people.

Call it science – call it art – call it anything you want. I call it positive RESULTS from OMG’s products. I have satisfied clients and a successful business to show for it."

###

Andy Miller is the other partner at Big Swift Kick.  He said:

"Interesting conversation.

We are on the science side of the house. For 23 years, the Big Swift Kick team has done a number of sales force turnaround across multiple industries. Because we are paid on results and deal with investors, we have to take a scientific approach to increasing sales force performance.

What has always fastened us is the lack of science and validated tools used to accelerate sales performance. Instead, what we found is “conventional wisdom” falsely appearing as science. Said in a different way, “correlation” appearing as “causation”. There is a science in identifying who the elite are, how they are wired and what they do no matter what the industry.

One of the tools we use is Dave Kurlan’s assessment because of the science behind it (see the list below).

– 26 years of analytics.
– Nearly 1 million sales professionals evaluated.
– Over 11,000 companies evaluated.
– Across multiple industries.
– Validated by a 3rd party 3 times over the last 26 years.
– Validated for predictive (causation) not “correlation” appearing as predictive validation.
– Can back it up with a technical manual (validation study) for anyone who wants to read it (caution boring scientific read).

Thanks,
Andy Miller"

###

Dan Caramanico was probably the second OMG Certified Sales Development Expert, joining OMG right after Steve Taback in 1990. He said:

"Great discussion all. I would like to address two points. In the interest of full disclosure I too am a distributor of the OMG assessment and have been since the day Dave Kurlan developed it. I will admit that I came to using it from a position of disbelief (much like Bob and others seem to be). You see in my former life as an engineer with 3 technical degrees and an MBA from Wharton, if you could not write an equation about something, it just did not exist or was not worth talking about. So, when Dave postulated that he could ask someone to complete an assessment tool and determine, based on some number of answers, whether or not the person could sell, I felt it was way too “squishy” for me. But I used it anyway and in the 15,000 or so tests I have administered over the years it has proven very predictive. But that unscientific statement will not satisfy others on this thread. Bob keeps mentioning that he hasn’t seen the details of the science. A number of years ago at a conference Dave brought in the people who did the predictive study. They spent three hours discussing the methodology of the study and presenting the mathematical formulations they used to arrive at the conclusion that it was 96% accurate. I think I may have been the only one in the room taking notes and trying to follow the math,but in the end even I gave up and took the 35 page book of calculations home to study at a later date. My point is that it is impossible to explain the “science” behind it in a series of comments to a blog post. A team of PHD statisticians performed a longitudinal study over an extended period of time and concluded that the OMG evaluation was indeed predictive to about 96% accuracy. The plain fact is that Dave Kurlan, based on his experience, postulated that a number of factors would determine whether someone had what it takes to be successful in sales. We can argue all day whether he they were the right factors or not, but a team of PHD statisticians who do not understand sales, probably could not sell and had no detailed understanding of what the factors meant, proved that Dave was correct in his assumptions and that those people that his evaluation predicted would be successful were in fact successful. And those he predicted would fail did indeed fail.

Now my second point. The genius of Dave Kurlan lies in the factors he chose to predict success or failure. He eliminated many things like personality, looks, experience, education and many others. Even anecdotal evidence would show that none of those are predictive. For example for everyone you show me who bases his or her success on their personality, I will show you someone with similar personality traits who can’t sell. I could do the same with each of the factors. The factors which most affect a person’s sales effectiveness are not the ones you can observe but the ones you can’t observe, like belief systems or excessive need for approval or fear of rejection and a number of other “hidden” obstacles. Selling airplane engines may be different than selling software to small businesses but if an excessive need for approval or fear of rejection prevents me from making a cold call or asking a tough question then it has the same effect in both selling situations. You see it doesn’t matter what I am selling if I am uncomfortable talking about money. Because if if I don’t discuss money early in the process, I will be wasting time with unqualified prospects who are interested but don’t have the resources to purchase. Even behavioral style can’t be relied upon. And here is why. It turns out that LaBron James and I play basket ball with the same style; aggressive in your face give me the ball and get out of my way type of basketball. However, you might be better served picking him for your team than me because he has the right DNA. he’s 6’9″ I’m 6’2″. He can jump out of the gym. I have trouble getting over a phone book for a small mid-western town. He has “quicks” … I used to have some. etc. Yet we have the same style. Who will be more effective at the NBA level? The summary for this point is that Dave picked the factors that not only correlate well to sales success but actually cause sales success. And more to the point, his initial assumptions were validated by credible third parties using sophisticated statistical analysis."

###

Bob Thompson, who began all of the commentary, summed things up and then started it all over again with some more challenges:

"Thanks to all for your comments. I’ve been reading David’s papers, consulting with some statistics experts and doing some other research on talent management and psychometric tests. Fascinating stuff.

I’m planning to write a full article about how assessment tests can aid in hiring the “right” people in frontline (sales/service) positions because, as I said at the outset, I’ve found in my own research of 15+ years now that talent is a key factor in business success. Top firms spend an inordinate amount of time on hiring decisions.

I like the fact that Dave doesn’t present the assessment as the only thing that is needed for sales success. The white paper on “The Modern Science behind Sales Force Excellence” is consistent with other research I’ve done or reviewed, finding that it’s a combination of things that contributes to sales success: sales process, understanding buyer journeys, training, social selling … lots of things are individually correlated with sales success, but a more comprehensive view reveals that leading organizations are better at “the integration and commitment to best practices.”

I’m also a believer in predictive analytics, not as a panacea but as a potentially powerful tool to help organizations make decisions that are too complex for human judgement. Hiring may well be one of those areas, because interviews alone aren’t very effective.

The predictive science behind the sales assessment is what interests me most. At a high level, the predictive validity checking appears sound, but it’s a high level and raises some questions in my mind:

1. How is it determined after one year that a candidate is in the top half of the sales force? Is it based on a ranked list of quota attainment, or a selection made by the hiring manager — e.g. checking a box?

These could introduce some bias into the predictive validity testing. The hiring manager could select “top half” as a way to justify/defend the decision to use the assessment and hire the employee. I’ve seen this first hand in B2B tech — where CIOs defend a decision while privately say they are unhappy. Admitting a decision is a failure hurts self esteem and can lead to bad input.

2. Are the hiring managers aware of the new hire’s rating? I suspect they are (why else do the assessment) and if so that could result in a self-fulfilling bias. Those rated as “elite” could get treated differently, get better territories, more management support, etc. and thus have a better chance to be one of those in the retained/top-half segment used to judge “sales success” after one year. Conversely, those not recommended but hired anyway could get the opposite treatment.

The self-fulfilling bias is well known in psychology circles. Your expectations about another person affect how you treat them, and thus can influence them to behave the way you expect.

3. One year/top half seems like a very reasonable test for discriminating between recommended and not recommended candidates. However, I’m curious how these stats would change in year 2, 3, etc. Are the recommended reps “sticking” and continuing to excel, or do they revert to the mean? Are assessment-recommended reps succeeding at a higher rate than those hired using traditional interview/hiring processes?

I present these questions just to point out as I said earlier, all scientific research has weakness and biases. Doesn’t invalidate the research, but it’s important to understand in my view. I devoted an entire chapter of my book Hooked On Customers to the “Think” habit — making sound fact-based decisions, and included examples of good and bad uses of analytics and statistics.

That’s it for now. Thanks again for a stimulating discussion. I’ll post more here as interesting findings come up, and hope to have my article published in a couple of weeks."

I responded with:

"Thanks for taking the time to read the Technical manual, research and white papers Bob. This comment may seem a bit out of place but there were 5 additional comments made after yours. I wanted to address the three questions in your mind:

(1) How is that ranking based? Either revenue ranking or quota attainment

(2) Are they treated differently? Who knows? If they were hired as account managers and they did a great job the first year and were given even better accounts or territories in the second year, would that be so bad? If they were hired for new business development, then they would still be doing new business development the second year. That’s the most difficult role.

(3) For predictive validity we aren’t required to correlate findings to on-the-job performance beyond that first year. However, I believe that there is sufficient anecdotal evidence in the comments above to show that performance by good salespeople does not decline after year one.

I hope that helps."

###

Next, Ray Bigger, CEO of Think8 in Singapore, commented:

"Well hello all from Singapore. Lots of different views, some dissenting but minus any nastiness or threats. We’ve all demonstrated that you can have a robust discussion without ill will – well done all, thus far. In the interests of full disclosure I to have been working with OMG’s assessments for about 9 years.

Four critical points need to be made that have yet to be covered.

First, people have a tendency to use, some might say abuse, science to find data that simply ‘fits’ their own theories and perceptions and if the results are any different from their own theories/perceptions they blame the assessment. The whole idea is to discover things you do not know i.e. hidden from sight. When you have a medical do you settle for a quick chest and /or from a more detailed medical question the findings because you feel great!. When the assessment is blamed that stance alone guarantees the wrong sales people not to mention leaders will continue to be hired, indeed the wrong people are being hired right now. Research on quota achievement, or not, supports that.

Second ,these tools are only applicable to Sales, they cannot be adapted to another function or discipline unlike some of the tools that Rocky provide,d that have been adapted to sales, They then they use huge leaps of faith to justify a finding i.e. a person with drive and is an extrovert would be good at new business development. To those contributors who have questioned OMG can I respectfully suggest you focus on those ‘sales assessments’ that have been adapted to sales as you will have a field day.

Third, the client, through the setting up of profiles, determines what he is looking for in a sales person or sales manager for the future, they set the bar on the standard and requirements to be fulfilled, what the sales team has to deliver etc.

Fourth, having lived and worked in Asia for 20+ years I am often told, “it’s all about the relationships” – well what a surprise never saw that one coming !. Of course relationships are important but out here they tend to get in the way not help i.e. a sales person gives in, except excuses, doesn’t want to upset the customer etc. You need to know who of your sales people go down that road as it is costing millions.

The most common answer I get to questions about a sales force ‘s performance is “I don’t know”. well any self respecting CEO VP Sales has to know which is exactly what OMG tools do.

Finally the entire OMG proposition from a clients perspective makes sense, comes across as robust and credible with the science to back it up."

###

Then Frank Smith, a senior sales strategist at Kurlan & Associates chimed in:

"Great discussion… It reminds me of a TED Talk where a marketing guru was talking about how they package foods that are essentially killing us (High in fat, GMO’s, processing, unidentifiable chemicals and ingredients, etc…) and sell them to the public as “All Natural”, “Farm Fresh”, or use other marketing tricks and techniques to get their products off their shelves and onto our tables.

In the end, though, it turned out that the biggest factor in the success of these campaigns was not the snappy ads or catchy phrases but it was US and our choice of practicing “Willful ignorance”…We know it’s bad for us but we’ll do it any way. We know smoking is bad, Coca Cola can rot out a gas tank, McDonald’s burgers are deemed “unfit for human consumption” but we’ll smoke it, drink it, and eat it anyway.

We also know that there has been plenty of guess work out there when it comes to hiring and recruiting and assessing talent that is “killing” company sales forces. Then comes a proven predictive assessment tool like OMG that is not the flavor of the month but has decades of research, testing, and results to back it up. But, when presented to companies and CEO’s whose sales force has been failing for years as a proven alternative and fix, they choose to drink the Coke."

###

Brad Ferguson, President of Best Sales Force, Inc., commented:

"Opinions, beliefs, gut feelings, personal research…well done group. I too am a long time client of Objective Management Group (18 years) and used to challenge Dave Kurlan’s tools. We found that to be futile. We have displaced well over 40 tests/assessments which our clients previously used in favor of the OMG evaluation tools. Our clients don’t go back to the previous tools, and they don’t find anything more accurate than those from OMG.

I have read Dave Kurlan’s research, read recent updates, and believe the written findings. More important, they work! We have reduced turnover with every client that has used the pre-hire tools. Those clients have also found and hired better quality salespeople by following Dave’s process and using the tools. Every client that has used our sales development company, started with the Sales Force Evaluation assessments created by OMG. Why? Again because they work!

Opinions, beliefs, gut feelings, personal research…if we say it, we have to go out and try to prove it. The science behind the OMG tools is real. 18 years of first hand experience has validated for us."

###

Then Karl Scheible, President of MarketSense, said:

"I have a long-term client (7 years) with a recent change at the C-level, and they asked me for an ROI on the OMG assessment tool. I have used the assessment as a president for 25 years and for the last 10 years as a revenue enhancement consultant. I was not worried. I spoke with HR and a few managers and pulled the following data:

The data was interesting. Of 30 “recommended” hires in a division, there has been 100% retention the last 3 years, 36% have been promoted and as a whole, the division has grown 47% year over year the last 3 years compared to 32% for the other divisions. Of the 15 people who were not recommended, 9 failed. 6 sold nothing. The cash outlay using conservative numbers was $950,000.

I will listen to any other counterpoint with an open mind, just back it up with facts."

###

Next to chime in was Phil Kash, a partner with Selling Solutions in Chicago:

"I love a good discussion coupled with a good number of comments to add to the flavor of this interesting topic!

Having been in the business of recruiting, sales training & development as well as management consulting for over 20 years along with a background as a VP of sales and marketing for a couple of leading companies, I believe I have a perspective to add to this interesting discussion.

From a hiring company point of view, an Owner or Sales Director/VP, their challenge is generating consistent results through their sales people. They all want “elite” sales people too. The concern/fear/doubt of achievement seems to be anchored in both the selection of the ‘best/right candidate” (even if they can’t find that elusive “elite” sales person) for the specific selling position in their “unique” company as well as being able to “motivate” and generate improvement among the existing sales people and have both a team and individual detailed approach for that improvement.

These are two huge on-going “real world” challenges that are faced by sales management who cannot afford to come up short in either situation.

The sales management (all titles) are looking for time tested solution (s) to achieve their company goals and address the two issues above.

Keeping this as simple as I can (without getting lost in the statistical weeds) The Objective Management Group’s tools have provided not only predictive results but also evidence to support its findings.

We have utilized the OMG tools for almost 20 years (along with others) within many industries, and with various sales positions and we can say emphatically that the Objective Management assessments have been the major contributor & source to our clients hiring well above average (sometimes elite) sales candidates and equally important being able to identify which existing sales people can become ‘above average”-possibly “elite” by addressing deficiencies and implementing a detailed improvement plan based on OMG statistics,data and detailed experience .

These are powerful tools with proven results including statistics, comparisons, real world sales recommendations based on “big” data from hundreds of thousands of assessments and evaluations they have executed and delivered.

When properly utilized by company management who are committed to change & improvement, a wonderful thing occurs: sales improvement and increased individual commitment and achievement by managers and individual contributors. We have witnessed this first hand with numerous companies who have utilized OMG tools!

Getting back to the original question about “elite sales people”….not only are they difficult to find (regardless of the industry/company) they are even more difficult to identify without the proper recruiting strategy and the right assessment and screening tools.

OMG tools not only delivers results in a :”recommended/not recommended” hiring outcome, it also explains why the outcome along with information and data to support it’s findings, as well as provide questions to ask the candidate to dig deeper during the interviews to get to know not only if the candidate can sell…but if they will sell, based on the hiring companies market, environment and sales position.

Bottom line: be skeptical if you must (I was too…many years ago- but not any longer) —however, if what you’re doing isn’t working for you, or you are not getting the results you want in hiring or improving your current sales team’s performance: “I’ve got a guy”….call Dave Kurlan personally. I know Dave will be happy to talk to you and explain not only the statistics, but more importantly discuss results you can achieve with OMG tools-and the data that supports it’s outstanding findings!"

###

Dale Berkibale, president of Brandwise, was next:

"This is a great conversation and an interesting topic. One of the things I am concerned with this conversation is that some of the people with strong opinions (myself included) are not 1%-ers but are talking as if we know what 1%-ers do to reach their top level of skills.

As a business owner and a salesperson I can tell you that if I was hiring salespeople I would want to more than a gut-feeling to be my solution for hiring the right person for this role. I’ve hired many of people at different levels over the years and often done a pretty poor job. To me sales would be an even harder position to hire for.

That being said… as a CEO that realized he sucked at sales and needed to improve in this area, I asked one of my successful vendors what they recommended. Pete Caputa of Hubspt told me to get sales training. I hoped on the phone instantly and the process started by being evaluated by Dave’s Salesperson Evaluation.

This is a serious evaluation. I was overwhelmed when I got it back and reviewed it with my trainer. This was 5-6 years ago. Today I am light-years a head of where I was in the pre-Dave, pre-evaluation phase of my business. I retook the evaluation recently to find I had jumped in many areas due to my training and regular daily practice. Here is my experience with it. Everything in the report gave me real data that told me my strengths and weaknesses. Then we got to work fixing these problems. In the first two years I nearly tripled my sales. I am not in the top 1% but I am certainly much better than many salespeople.

Fast forward to today. My results blew me away to the point of needing to offer these evaluations to my clients. Although this is a new area of my business, the clients that have taken the evaluations are blown away by the level of detail Dave’s Evaluations provided. What we are finding is most salespeople I’ve personally evaluated are horrible salespeople with a lot of work to do to get to the top 1%. I’m doubtful if many will ever get there.

Now from a hiring standpoint the few clients that have been through a sales team evaluation have found real data backing their reports. This data is actionable and can be moved on right away if/when a client is ready. Dave’s program is scientific, data driven, and actionable. What more could you want from a hiring perspective (Recommended, Worthy of Consideration, and Not Recommended).

I had a person in a sales support role (booking and scheduling appointments) for a few months. This person was a challenge and although not an official “salesperson” I was looking at moving her from a part-time role to a full-time role. Anyhow, I decided to run the sales evaluation on her and it came back “Not Recommended”. This person was already in place for a while at this point and because they weren’t officially a “salesperson” I thought I would keep them around going against the evaluations recommendations. In the end the relationship didn’t work and cost me a decent amount to learn this lesson. Sometimes your gut feeling, resume, and how well you like a person can’t beat a real sales focused evaluation.

Think about this if you have 1 person to hire and you start getting resumes, how do you deal with this? In Dave’s world you buy a license for the number of seats/positions you want to fill. Then you do unlimited pre-screening assessments on everyone to weed out the “Not Recommended” candidates. Ideally you would only spend your time interviewing “Recommended” candidates. This part of the system creates a time management system to help be more productive and efficient. Then with the top candidates you get all the info Dave mentioned above (and more) plus quick ways to interview and questions to ask related to the areas this candidate might struggle. Why not flush this stuff out early.

Then you get into training, motivating and coaching the right salespeople once you have them. Instead of being wishy-washy. OMG’s (Dave’s) system works! I’ve experienced it first-hand and see it everyday when my clients take the findings and start working on improving the weaknesses and leveraging their strengths.

The thing I find so interesting about this conversation is the several times Dave has been asked to reveal the “actual formulas” or “science” behind the evaluations. Do companies often give away proprietary intellectual property to prove what they say is true. If you do not like science that is fine there are many religions that oppose science as well. If you want to live on faith that is fine, however I find a good combination of faith, science and proven results tends to make for a more well rounded and successful person.

At the end of the day instead of fighting or trying to disprove the evaluation buy one and take it yourself or set up a license for your next hire. Then if you want to get really scientific, hire 1 person the way you currently do things and one via Dave’s tools. See which sales candidate becomes a high performing salesperson and how long they last at your company. In the grand scheme of things Dave’s tools are not overly expensive to run your own test. I’m betting OMG’s Evaluations and recommendations trump your gut 10 to 1. These are powerful tools and honestly I’d prefer my competitors didn’t use them because I like to get proven results for my customers and hope my competitors couldn’t do the same with their “gut”."

###

Andor Czinege, TACK Hungary, said:

"As others above have noted, it is interesting to see the amount of energy in this thread. Personally, I find that this kind of energy flow is generated if and when findings tend to go against some fundamental beliefs we hold; when the comfort zone of our present paradigms are challenged. At this point, we have a choice: to go for comfort, or to go for truth.

For the many contributors above who are also truth-seekers, I suggest we step back for a moment and, rather than discussing if individual answers are true, examine if we ask the right questions in the first place. For example:

1. Is selling an art, or science? Any of us who have reached even moderate levels of success in anything may be compelled to think that we are good (mainly) because of our individual flavor, of our unique genius. To people who do not understand the mechanics of what we do, it may very well look as if we were artists. It may disturb us to think that others could copy our approach and achieve similar success.

An example: I am not a huge fan of Michael Jackson – but few would disagree that he has been one of the greatest artist on Earth. On one occasion, I happened to spend some time behind the curtain on one of his concerts. There, I overheard two guys talking: “In 15 seconds, he is going to spontaneously burst in tears.” “In 30 seconds, he will spontaneously pick a long-legged blonde from the audience and ask her to come on stage.” It seems like, even with the greatest artist, most of what they do is a form of science. Selling success appears to be similar – BOTH art AND science, or rather: a pinch of art, rooted in massive science.

2. Is selling similar, or different across industries, markets, cultures etc.? Here, again, it is easy to go with our beliefs, since selling in those different environments certainly APPEARS to be different – or use science, and ask the question: Is there a set of factors that are consistent across selling environments –and another set that are environment-specific? I guess we can agree that if you, like Dave, are willing to do what it takes to find out, you can find it out.
That’s what Dave did: rather than trying to position his beliefs as facts, he dedicated himself to scientifically find out the truth – which happened to be that, notwithstanding the differences that must be accounted for, there is an overwhelming number of factors that are consistent in predicting sales success across selling environments, and the evidence has been mounting since 20+ years.

Now, this is in stark contrast, for example, with the very well-known work of Abraham Maslow about the hierarchy of needs. When he first wrote about the topic in 1943, he never said that there was any science backing it up; in his words, it was “A THEORY in Human Motivation” (my emphasis). He acted in good faith, never meaning to mislead anyone. Still, mainstream America (mainstream world, for that matter) still believes today in Maslow’s motivation model, and a zillions-dollar industry thrives on his “motivational” model which is outdated at least, ineffective at most. Research has clearly proven since then that Maslow was wrong (you can be at any kind of motivational state at any time, based on your personal choice, which to make is a skill) – but it will take time until the old belief is replaced with something that actually works, because it is proven by science. Managers who act on this new science are on an island, (on a very fast growing one, with the rest still on the mainland watching).

Back in 1943 people had no choice between theory and science in terms of motivation. When it comes to predicting sales success today, we do have that choice. Question is, are we willing to go with science, even if its findings may contradict our belief system?

3. What is the methodology Dave has been using? While it is important to continuously revisit science methodology, we need to be aware what paradigm system we are grounded in when we ask that question.
Let’s assume you are part of the thriving industry assessing personalities. If you want to help customers predict sales success, you need to answer two questions: (1) What is the best methodology to assess personality? and (2) How can you relate your personality findings to sales success?

Since personalities are extremely delicate constructs, assessment methodology is indeed paramount. Once you find one that is reasonably valid, you would stick to it for your life, and maybe change the presentation of your data from time to time, but not the core methodology. Then you would hope to find some correlations with sales success.
You can say essentially the same things about behavioral, attitudinal, or skill assessments.
The way I understand, Dave sought to find answers to fundamentally different questions: (1) What are the factors predicting sales success (whatever they may be – personality, behavior, skills etc.)? and then (2) What is the best method to assess each of these types of factors?

Not too surprisingly, he found that personality alone, or behavior alone etc. are not enough to predict sales success; and that he would need to develop different assessment measurement approaches for these different families factors, rather than commit to one method.

It is interesting to see how many people still believe that a personality assessment, or a skill assessment etc. can be used to predict sales success. They focus more on the assessment methodology of the instrument, rather than asking themselves, How could any of these assessments be ever predictive, when they are not only limited in focus, but never even have been originally designed with the purpose to predict sales success?

There is the large mainland of assessment firms, wanting us all to zero in on assessment methodology, construct validity etc., and to believe that their results can be somehow transferred to sales. Then, there is Dave, who – to the best of my knowledge – is alone on an island, pioneering an approach that has been unheard of by most: building an assessment instrument with the single focus on the sales profession, and finding the factors predicting success in sales – with the objective to generate results for sales decision makers, without worrying if HR professionals find comfort in his methods. If you think about it, no wonder that OMG’s predictive validity is not just slightly above industry (mainland) average, but paradigm-changingly so. This, in itself, is the “problem”: you need to sail away from the belief systems of the mainland, and really open up for different paradigms that underpin Dave’s research on his island FIRST in order to understand how, and why it delivers results – and why his “island” is growing incredibly fast.
It is good to see that the contributors in this thread seem to be willing to do just that."

###

Next up was Robert Peterson, President of Peterson Company in The Netherlands:

"In 2007 we joined OMG as a partner for Europe. I must admit that our customers were sceptical at first for a couple of reasons: it’s a US test which might not be applicable for Europe due to difference in culture and it’s sales specific which was something new to our market.

We are now 8 years ahead and things have changed a lot. Customers who have tried the test are completely convinced that it’s choice numero one when hiring sales professionals. When measuring the effectiveness of sales teams the test is recognised as the best there is in the market when wanting to improve sales force effectiveness and results.
One example: we evaluated a regional sales team for one of the largest European software companies in 2013. The team covered an area of about 140.000.000 inhabitants which is a large chunk of the European market. After presenting and discussing the results of the evaluation, an action plan was set up by management and implemented. I had a meeting a couple of weeks ago with my customer who is the CEO, and he informed me that this specific area has had double digits growth in revenue and profits during 2014, has been the best performing area compared with the rest of the world and won the gold award for 2014.

He was very clear in giving the reason for this growth: the OMG sales force evaluation together with our approach played a more than significant role in helping them make the necessary changes to gain extensive business growth and increased profitability.

This example is just one. We have been able to deliver through our sales recruitment firm sales candidates who perform above expectations with our customers and this has also add to our reputation. Our business growth team has been able to use the OMG test to help our customers grow their business and be more successful than expected.
Conclusion: OMG has the best and most unique tool when it comes to increasing sales force performance!"

###

Tony Cole, President of Anthony Cole Training, had this to say:

"Wow,

Way to much information for me to digest after a long week at a conference explaining to groups of sales executives why their new hires fail to produce as expected.

Let me start with complete transparency – I started using OMG tools over 20 years ago in the infancy of our sales and sales management consulting practice and is a mandatory step in our process today.

At the conference we discussed three – though I’m confident that everyone in this discussion could add more – contributing factors to underperformance. To answer the question – Why are we even talking about this? – I started a discussion with questions:

1) Do the results of your current team have a pattern similar to 80/20?
2) Assuming yes – and in our live polling process the answer was overwhelmingly YES – What is the value of the gap between the 20% of people generating 80% of the revenue and the rest of the group.
3) Understanding that you will always have a bottom 10% did you hire people to perform like your current bottom 10%? The answer 100% of the time – NO!
4) Using a bell curve as a frame of reference – how many of those producers in the middle of the curve did you hire hoping they would be in that part of your sales group? The answer NONE.
5) How did those people end up in that group of under performers? Did you hire them that way or make them that way?

With that as the basis for the discussion I offered three possible causes for lack of performance from the current team:

1) Using the wrong profile to attract the right people – There is an art and science to getting this part correct. The problem most companies have is that the process they use today is getting them the people they are getting today (This is the essence of scientific proof – we we do something over and over again can we get a predictable outcome?). If the people they have are underperforming then something in the process is creating that outcome. I would submit that the first step in the process starts with creating the right profile to attract the right people. Using the OMG process /tool – forget about the outcomes for just a minute – you get closer to creating the right profile to attract the right people that you must have to have a successful hire.
2) Vetting – companies again continue to make vetting mistakes because their process is wrong. Regardless of the pre-hire assessment you use if your process is wrong you will still open the door to hiring mistakes. Time and again recruiters, sales managers, HR directors fall in love with the candidate based on the wrong criteria. Once they fall in love with the candidate they have a tendency to ignore all the other data points that tell them the hire is all wrong. The test is part of the vetting process that should be the very first step after reviewing the resume. From there everything in the vetting process should be based on the results of the pre-hire assessment findings. If the findings support a strong resume – than the interview process should confirm that information. If the findings don’t support other data points then that should be addressed. The OMG outputs direct all follow up vetting steps to focus on teh critical ares to be successful in selling. Let’s assume that this list isn’t meant to be all inclusve but I”m ready for the argument that these findings are critical to a successful sales career. Are you telling me that:
Desire
Commitment
Ownership / responsibility
Ability to ask questions
Willingness to ask questions
Uncovering buyers motivating criteria to take action
Uncovering the budget to pay for any solution
Understanding the decision making process
The ability to help a decision maker make a decision
Do everything possible to close
Be an awesome and timely presenter
The ability and willingness to find new business opportunities and if important
Manage a current book of business
Seek additional revenue from current books of business
Get referrals
Enjoy selling

Are we really debating that this stuff is critical to selling success? Bob, what’s the real question behind the question about the science?

Assuming the ceos and presidents are not stupid what does this tell you, what can we assume (though science hates to make assumptions) about why companies have continued to use the tool or any other tool for that matter. If a ceo doesn’t see an ROI from an employee they fire that employee. If the OMG tools weren’t working my clients would demand somethign else or fire me. They don’t do either. Why – let’s assume that it works! What other data to you need to validate the accuracy and effectiveness?

Back to reasons for underperformance:
3) Hiring, on-boarding and training. Normally we companies make the hire, provide them a short introduction to company policy and procedure, show them a desk, give them a phone and expect them to ramp up quickly and be productive. I asked another poll question about this and once again the obvious answer was that effective on-boarding is not happening. To determine if your new hire can operate independently and or ramp up quickly that is information you have to have from your vetting process. Your assessment tool must uncover this specifically for selling success not just life in general. Maybe your new hires aren’t ramping up because they don’t quickly ‘figure it out’ or maybe they cannot work remotely, or maybe they don’t respond well to pressure to perform. If all of these are required in your sales environment and your pre-hire assessment told you that they were week in these areas and you hired them anyway then your on-boarding and training need to address this areas. In short the sales manager has to use findings that are pertinent to SALES success in the organization and then to coach those issues. If the findings of OMG assessments have been proven to have predictive validity why do we care how it happens?

I’ve rambled on long enough here. This is the way I look at it. I can do some research around the science of gravity and begin a discussion about that science. The dialog might be entertaining but certainly in the end useless. One thing I won’t do is go to downtown Cincinnati, go to the top of the Great American building and jump off the top just to test the science. Watching stuff fall out of the sky is all the proof I need."

###

Bruce Franklin is the President of Gap Analysis in South Africa. He had something to say too:

"Greetings all…Coming in at the tail of this thread has allowed me the opportunity to ‘cut to the chase’ so to speak.. and focus on what I believe is the key differentiator for Dave Kurlan.

The execution of any of the extensive variety of views, opinions, ideas, processes, lists, actions, skills and competences postulated by all of the various schools of thought across the entire spectrum of sales in all industries relies virtually entirely on one single factor.. the psychological and emotional make-up of the executing individual.

All eight items on the S&M Analytics blog’s list ostensibly performed by the so-called “top 1%” of reps are actions

What isn’t noted by them however is what is required intrinsically, either psychologically or emotionally, by the rep to be able to perform those actions effectively, sustainably, under all conditions.

This is where the Dave Kurlan Assessments and Evaluations are differentiated from the herd in the milieu of sales performance improvement.

The 5 Will to Sell core elements and the 6 Sales DNA factors which underpin the effective execution of any sales engagement, process, planning or activity are the key critical determinants of any individuals success or failure in selling.

Each of these factors have earned numerous mentions in the broader field of psychology and some more specifically within cognitive behavioural change as fundemental to changing thinking and by extension, behaviour.

All of these elements / factors must be aligned to the correct range / profile to ensure future effective sales self-mastery which is the key to effective execution. The scientific validation of the tools ensures that the baseline is always consistent and thus providing definitive parameters within which effectiveness can be measured, developed and remeasured for precise improvement analysis.

The Kurlan tools’ success lies in Dave’s foresight in recognising what to measure, and that until the intrinsic structure of the human being who now finds themselves in Selling – in most cases an unplanned – for event (few people leave school with a burning desire to be in sales ) is correctly aligned to their sales role, the execution of the activity required will be consistently undermined by the lack of relevant DNA and / or Will to Sell

That these tools have been predictively validated over time further ensures their accuracy and therefore reliability. Predictive validity provides more useful data about test validity because it has greater relevance to the real situation in which the test will be used and as most tests are administered in an attempt find out something about reliable future performance, what sets them apart??

Quite simply, and this crucial, its the accurate measurement of the relevant intrinsic factors combined with reliable validation that is the key to sustainable sales effectiveness and currently Dave Kurlan sets the benchmark in this regard."

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Chad Burmeister, VP Sales at ConnectAndSell.com, an OMG user, said:

"A few years ago, I would have said that sales profilers and “personality profilers” were a bunch of fluff. And… a lot of them are.

Objective Management Group (OMG) is NOT! Matt Heinz provides some good inputs around transparency, and timely follow-up, etc. And a lot of folks who have posted here have some good “ideas”.

What OMG does is tells you factually, what makes up the top 1% of sellers. Not the top 50%, not the top 20%, but the top 1%. I’ve learned for our team, by working with OMG, the folks who fail every time – are the ones who are not comfortable discussing money or they think $1000 is a lot of money.

The other thing I’ve learned – when OMG tells us to hire someone, and we do, they usually work out long term. When OMG tells us not to hire, and we did anyway (not anymore), 3 of 3 are no longer here.

There is something to this science. If you are a sales leader and still relying on “gut feel”, then my “gut feel” for you is that you will be wrong 50% of the time. You might as well flip a coin!

With OMG, you can be “right” 90% of the time or better, and you will know exactly where to focus with your Reps to make them even better.

Great debate everyone!"

###

Gary Harvey, President of Achievement Dynamics, commented:

"Seems those that want to doubt science have a mindset of “don’t confuse me with the facts, I know I’m right.” Taking this statement in to account, I frankly prefer not to get in to a long detailed description how well OMG’s assessment tools have worked for my clients because I’m not sure those facts will sway the naysayers.
I’ll just add this quote:
80% of employee turnover is due to
BAD HIRING DECISIONS
– Harvard Business Review

So lets suppose we took the science part out of this discussion, since the naysayers want to doubt the science anyway, and pay attention to the users of OMG’s assessment tools. I’ve coach my clients to use OMG for the last 15 years. Why? Because it’s this simple, “it works for them.” Period."

###

Bob Thompson again:

"Dave, thanks for answering my questions.

One more: Have you found any relationship between the overall score and sales success?

From I’ve seen thus far, it seems that your assessment is used to make a hire/no hire decision. So I’m guessing that there is a target score used for that purpose — e.g. a score above 100 = hire.

Let’s say someone is rated as “elite” (top 1%?). Do they end up outperforming those in the next segment down?"

My reponse:

"You’re welcome Bob.

Yes – there is a relationship between our Sales Quotient and Sales Success. But there are variations.

For example, let’s suppose that a difficult sales position involves selling 7-figure custom technology solutions to the C-Suite in an 18-month sales cycle. And let’s further suppose that a relatively easy sales position involves taking orders over the phone in a transactional sale, for a very low-cost part.

We know that for a salesperson to succeed in the difficult position, a sales quotient of more than 130 would be required and over 140 would be preferred. We know that for the easy, transactional sale, a sales quotient of 115 would get the job done. Because of the difficulty of the first role, a salesperson with a 130 sales quotient could conceivably struggle much more to achieve success as defined by the company, than would a salesperson with a sales quotient of 110 in the easy position.

So the minimum required sales quotient will vary depending on the difficulty of the position.

Does that help?"

###

Then Danita Bye, President of Sales Growth Specialists said:

"I first became an OMG fan as a sales person, frustrated I wasn’t closing more Xerox equipment & systems deals that I knew my colleagues could have closed. This frustration launched my quest to uncover that “hidden weakness” that was sabotaging my performance. That “hidden weakness” that none of my managers could put their finger on and articulate in a way where I “got it” and could fix it. That “hidden weakness” that no assessment could identify.

Dave Kurlan and OMG assessment was the only tool that was able to identify, so that I could address. None of my best trained managers in the world could do it. None of the great personality tests could pin it down.

Thanks, Dave and OMG!"

###

And then Joe Zente, President of Z3 commented:

"Great conversation. Sorry to be so late to the party.

After blowing millions of dollars on ineffective hires early in my career, I have used OMG assessments in my role as CEO of multiple companies for 25 years. I’ve also been using them for the last 16 years in my Profit Growth consultancy. The science behind these assessments are indisputable and the success metrics are overwhelming.

We have used these assessments to assist dozens of SaaS companies in making better hires (and to develop these hires to their fullest potential). In addition to software and service companies, we’ve also used them with many hundreds of product companies of all sizes, shapes and industries.

Most hiring executives dramatically over-estimate a prospective hire’s industry experience, resume’ and professed skills. They almost always under-estimate (or completely ignore) an individuals WILL to sell. And don’t even get me started with a candidate’s Head Trash. These underestimated attributes are key to hiring someone that “can sell” versus someone that “WILL sell”.

Business owners, CEOs and executives have tremendous pain in the domain of Sales. To compound the problem, they are mostly clueless when it comes to building consistent revenue and profit growth into their respective Sales organizations. Since there is big money in Sales Training, Sales Recruiting and in writing Sales Books, these professions have attracted loads of charlatans. On the subject of Sales, there are tons of “experts” ready to offer an opinion–and you know what they say about opinions. There are also tons of “experienced salespeople” that could not deliver your company with an ROI if their lives depended upon it.

Incorrect hires can cost a fortune for a large company and spell bankruptcy for a small one.

So why would ANYONE rely upon opinions to hire when there is well-documented science to remove the subjectivity?

Thanks for sharing…
Joe"

###

"From the UK, Timothy Gerber-Mellish added:

I can speak from over 30 years of selling experience, management and development of people, business units and customer growth. This covers SME right through to the top 3 largest companies in the world.

There is a world of difference between some generic character traits that can be found across many individuals not just salespeople. The 8 character traits/skills/talents call them what you will are very good, very true and very helpful. However, they are relevant not only to sales people but to any form of management and senior executive.

However there are 2 primary questions that need answering? (there are many more but I will leave them off this discussion)

1) How do I get to know a candidate or employee has these traits?
2) How do I measure the individual to prove they have some or all of the skills?

A CV with lots of over achievement of quota is insufficient proof! Getting references are insufficient! Getting proof of earnings is insufficient!

I have an ex-colleague who has delivered over 300% of quota for the last 5 consecutive years…..yet his possess only 2 of the 8 skills mentioned in the original article!

Objective and Scientific Proof is what is needed to build a team of top performers and building a job spec around the original 8 items will not deliver a comprehensive enough picture.

Getting a detailed, analytical view of the candidate can only come from the type of assessments delivered by OMG – for no other reason than they are designed by sales people for sales people and after 26 years and 1,000,000 assessments, there is still no-one out there who comes anywhere near the areas that OMG cover!

Just my thoughts……"

###

A comment from Ian Levine:

"In reading the comments to this article, there are some really well thought through challenges, positions and “definitive answers”.

Let me baseline my comments by saying I have used several sales hiring tools, but never OMG’s. I am familiar with OMG’s at a cursory level, and it certainly appears quite comprehensive. Like any large data set, it is easy to immediately attack it not knowing construct validity, content validity, methodology or a host of other factors.

OMG possesses over 1 million sales professional profiles as well as some performance data as input. I am not aware of anyone with anything close to this magnitude of information on this topic. As impressive as this is, it is an overwhelming amount of data. From a practical sense, I would want the data segmented down to the job role I am hiring for. As several people have pointed out, although top performing salespeople’s characteristics and competencies can be generalized, the importance of certain sales characteristics and competencies will vary based on the product/service they sell, market dynamics and several other factors.

Anytime one reviews a data set, there is a process known as ‘rival explanations’ which tries to systematically question data validity, look for false positives reasoning as well as alternative answers. This is a healthy part of getting comfortable with how much weight to consider in using a data set as a decision making tool. What I read in the comments above is standard set of ‘data challenges’ and ‘rival explanations’.

In the end, hiring someone (or not) is a judgment call. I for one, would prefer to do it with data like OMG’s than without.

That said, a favorite quote of mine, is from Colin Powell. He said, “Experts often possess more data than judgment”"

Timothy Gerber-Mellish responded to Ian:

"Excellent viewpoint from Ian Levine, some really useful input.

I agree, that ultimately hiring someone is a judgement call and Colin Powell’s experience is the basis for his quote which is a great one. I agree, that nearly all decisions are ultimately based on the “judgement call”

What is central to any “judgement call” however, is having some data, if not, as much possible data as possible. I know when I have been developing new business and penetrating large accounts, its all in the detail and as I heard an old wise Sales Director say to me 20 odd year ago…..”your commission is in the detail”.

What so many companies miss out is the opportunity to hire the best people available at any given point because they either generalise, take a Cv (resume) as the start AND end point!

Getting information is generally not costly. Making decisions without any data, the right data or the best data…..is VERY costly!!

I knew a company in the UK who sold some software to a bank for $100,000. They thought they would have a flagship account, have a UK FTSE 100 bank as a customer to brag about. Oh, they did but……they found out when they were deploying the software that it was going to save the customer over $2M in the first year and then between $1.2M and $1.5M a year for the next 4 years!

The salesperson DID NOT have the right data….and the company who hired him DID NOT have the right data! Had they hired the right sales person, that software would have sold for a minimum of $1,000,000.

Costly error I would say……but a great story and a very true one!"

###

Paul Lushin, President of Lushin & Associates, commented next:

"I will be brief: Dave Kurlan’s OMG assessment has been my company’s assessment tool of choice. We can perpetuate this conversation thread to further debate the science and/or a wet finger to the wind approach regarding the talents, traits, characteristics and qualities of great sales professionals. In my 10 years as a sales manager and 18 years as a professional sales trainer, the most accurate assessment tool that I have ever used, has been Dave Kurlan’s OMG assessment. His assessment has given us the most accurate picture of predictability for sales candidates and the most accurate assessment of what training should be delivered to an individual seeking improvement in their sales performance. So continue the back-n-forth dialogue using big 5-syllable words and voodoo theories that I do not understand (I went to a public school so I have to keep things simple) while I use a great sales assessment that WORKS!"

###

Bob Thompson again:

"Thanks to all for a spirited discussion. The outpouring of support for OMG’s assessment is very interesting to see. I’m sure you wouldn’t be writing these comments if you haven’t seen success with your clients.

We’ve only had to block one comment (out of nearly 5 dozen) for violating our community rules against personal attacks, so that’s very positive. But I’ve also received emails and phone calls from a few people I invited to participate who declined because they thought they’d be ridiculed or attacked. That’s disappointing.

A business psychologist I interviewed today reminded me of this quote from Carl Jung:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

I hope my pesky questions and the resulting debate will be of help to some of you. I know I’m learning a lot from this discussion and other research I’m doing for my article.

As for my background and motives, please note that I have nearly 20 years of experience in selling, from “carrying a bag” on 100% commission to managing a global sales team with a $100M quota. But I don’t have any experience using employee assessment tests as part of hiring, and that’s what I’m trying to learn.

These days I run the CustomerThink online community, which is dedicated to learning and sharing what makes customer-centric companies “tick.” Robust debate is part of the community mission.

In the “food for thought” category I offer this: Don’t take questions or debate as a sign someone is a “naysayer,” “stuck in an ivory tower,” or a member of the “flat earth society,” a “contrarion” or a “know-it-all.” I’m sure as sales experts you all know that some buyers are signaling interest when they start asking questions. Shouting them down or attacking is not going to sell them. You may think you’ve won when you don’t hear from them, but sometimes they’ve just decided to opt out of the conversation.

My research is finding strong evidence that assessment tools/exams used in conjunction with interviews and other common hiring techniques is related to future job performance. Academic research supports this, business psychologists back it up, and of course the OMG crowd does too.

What’s less clear are validity claims. When you get outside of standardized GMA (General Mental Ability) tests, developers are responsible for their own validity checking. Buyers must evaluate the test validity (which has several dimensions including “predictive” which itself has 2 different meaning) without having access to the data or based on an independent third party analysis. That’s no different than buying software, of course, so it’s not a criticism, just the normal industry practice. Good tests take many years and often decades of development, so it’s no surprise that data is not released for public consumption as in academic research.

I’m still interested in interviewing a few sales execs about what they’ve learned about hiring best practices in general, and using assessment tests in particular. If you have a possible candidate from one of your clients please email me atbob@customerthink.com."

My response:

"Thanks for asking the questions Bob. It was a terrific debate.

In your fourth paragraph from the end, starting with food for thought, you instruct readers to not take questions or debate as a sign that someone is a naysayer, etc.

You may have pulled the “contrarion or know-it-all” from my follow-up article urging readers to view and join this conversation. In its original context, I wrote:

“In my opinion, that very conversation is now the ultimate, defining conversation comparing the Science behind OMG’s award-winning sales assessments, to gut instinct, faith, intuition and experience. The conversation explored whether or not the science was accurate, valid, predictive, consistent, and reliable. The contrarions weighed in, the know-it-alls spoke up, and eventually, the supporters arrived in droves. If you read only one article/discussion on sales selection tools in your lifetime, this must be the one. Read and Join the discussion here but I warn you, it contains a LOT of very compelling and high-charged reading.”

In the context of the audience for whom my original article was written (it was for my audience and followers on my Blog), the early comments here on CustomerThink WERE from contrarions and know-it-alls! Andy Rudin (good guy) is a self-proclaimed contrarion (and I love it). Those who spoke on the subject with self-proclaimed authority, but without first-hand knowledge of the subject, are know-it-alls!

While debate and questions are good, naysayers and contrarions, as well as die-hards and loyalists are often a big part of such debates."

### 

Bob Thompson, the owner of the CustomerThink website, began this debate and he really didn't like the supporters rushing in to defend the science so he pushed harder on his original challenge and said:

"Dave, I notice that you write a lot of rebuttals to those proposing various “secrets” to sales success. Review, criticism and debate are part of the scientific process.

So I trust you’ll take this discussion in the same spirit. Your basic approach seems to be to make your own claim that you have science backing up your approach to assessments. I realize it’s complex, but even in complex models the scientist can sum things up by explaining what are the dependent variables, independent variables, confidence level, type of statistical analysis used, limitations, etc.

So-called “predictive” models are usually just correlations. You need longitudinal studies that isolate the variables in question to really “prove” (not that anything is every really proven in science) that the independent variables are the only ones responsible for driving the outcomes in question. In practice, that’s extremely difficult to do, because businesses are constantly changing.

Even top-drawer researchers like Gallup, which focuses on employee engagement, can fall victim to confirmation bias — looking for data and designing studies to support the desired conclusions. For years they claimed that employee engagement was related to business performance, and their business model is all about giving surveys to identify how to make employees more engaged – with the implication of course that businesses will prosper as a result.

But when I did a detailed review of Gallup’s research and other peer-reviewed academic research, the conclusion I reached was that employee engagement and business success influence each other. You can read more about this here.

Anyway, to get back to the main point here… I’m intuitively in agreement that hiring the “right” person is a critical part of business success. I’ve seen this over and over again in my research. In customer service, for example, my most recent study suggested that it’s the combination of right person (skills, attributes) + training + tools/technologies that differentiate leading and lagging firms. But there are numerous other factors at play, too. In all, I found nearly two dozen practices that were implemented more fully in “leading” firms.

The tech vendors all claim that it’s their tools that matter, and the sales process proponents say they hold the secrets to sales success. So I’m hoping you will pull the curtain back a bit more to share how your assessment is 96% accurate in predicting sales success, in every unique business. That’s a big claim, and I think it’s fair game for discussion."

My response:

"Yes Bob,

During the past 9 years that I have been blogging, I have written a couple of myth busters each year. I can’t help it. When junk science is published and masqueraded as statistically valid, I simply have to speak up. The other 1200 plus articles I have written are generally in the category of giving back, thought leadership, and sharing our science.

I take all of this in stride. It’s great for everyone to engage like this. But that doesn’t mean I should back down or accept everyone’s anecdotal challenges as fact. Opinions don’t make people correct…

You asked me to roll the curtain back on our science and I did. In my first response to your first comment I offered to send anyone who emailed me our technical manual. These are written by reputable third-party analytics experts – PHD’s that specialize in testing.

You’re welcome to it and you can come back to this thread and write about what you find.

It’s disappointing that you’re willing to suggest that because Gallup can fall victim to confirmation bias, that I could too. That only confirms that you don’t know me or our core values very well. I can share a story about our Longevity Finding (I wrote a white paper on the research for Longevity – The Science of Predicting Sales Turnover) and my inability to find the data that would confirm what I was expecting to find. I didn’t make it up; I kept researching until I found data that was predictive of the outcome."

And Bob Thompson's reply:

"Dave, I didn’t mean to suggest anything… I’m just noting that even the best science can be done in many different ways, and the devil is usually in the details and footnotes. Just trying to understand the science behind your approach.

I did read your white paper “The Modern Science Behind Sales Force Excellence” and it’s great in summarizing the findings, but doesn’t explain the statistical bits.

I’d like to review that technical document. Sorry I didn’t see any mention of that in your earlier comments or links. You can email it to me at bob@customerthink.com."

### 

Bob made one final comment which wasn't very nice and then he turned commenting off so that he could have the last word and nobody else would be able to continue the conversation.

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, objective management group, OMG Assessment, comparison of top versus bottom salespeople, what sales winners do differently

After the Sales Training

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 09, 2015 @ 18:02 PM

englebert

If you were listening to Top 40 Radio back in the 70's, then you may remember the hit song, After the Lovin', by the artist that all the girls and women loved, Englebert Humperdinck.  For those of you who were not yet born in 1976, Englebert had a string of hits - all love songs.  After the Lovin' was his biggest hit and while it may not be a perfect analogy for my article, it makes for a great blog title.

While much emphasis is placed on sales training itself, often times, the greatest benefit comes after a sales training session.  For example, let's take Russ, who sent in the following homework assignment.  Take a look at what he submitted and then review my response:

Dave,

Three things from today:

  1. Qualifying your prospect by uncovering pains. Many prospects won’t come right out and tell you that they aren’t hitting numbers or have weaknesses on their team. This means that you really have to create value. I will continue to work on uncovering and listening instead of jumping right in to talk about our products.
  2. Timeline. “How soon do you want this problem fixed?” I will use that when appropriate to short circuit the rest of the sales process. “I understand…what do you have to do to make that happen?”
  3. Find the money. It’s appropriate to talk about money. Ask them where they can get it from and don’t beat around the bush. I will do a better job of making sure that when rounding third base I know that my prospect is qualified and has the funds to close the deal.

These were 3 pretty good take-aways, but if you look more closely, you'll see that Russ, who is on a plan, uses words that compromise his effectiveness.  I wrote back and told him that words are everything and to review what I crossed out:

lesson-learned

He thanked me for the help and wrote that he would "Try to be stronger in his wording."

I responded again and told him, "Not just stronger in your wording, BE STRONGER!"

It's only after the sales training when we can determine whether the correct lessons were learned, internalized and ready to be applied on the phone and in the field.  Should we be surprised about Russ and how cautious and tentative he was being?  Not really.  His Objective Management Group (OMG) sales evaluation indicated several weaknesses and skill gaps, findings that were predictive of this behavior:

  • needs to think it over when making purchases (will allow prospects to do that)
  • low money tolerance (thinks $1,000 is a lot of money)
  • difficulty reaching decision makers (likely to talk with the wrong person)
  • too trusting (accepts what prospects say at face value)
  • accepts put-offs (doesn't push back)
  • presenting at inappropriate times (too early)
  • not asking questions (likely to present instead)

The goal of a sales training and coaching program is to address these issues and help a salesperson to overcome their weaknesses and fill their skill gap.  This was only the 4th session, so we are still in the early stages.  Being aware of the weaknesses and seeing them appear in a lessons learned email, allows us/you to connect the dots between the training, how he internalized the lessons, and how his weaknesses played a part. Then you can coach!

You can learn why your salespeople do what they do by having your sales force evaluated; or you can be more effective in sales candidate selection.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, objective management group

Fix Your Mediocre Pipeline for Accurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 @ 13:01 PM

Most salespeople don't pay too much attention to this.  Even though we perform a pipeline analysis and restage the pipeline with every individual sales evaluation and comprehensive sales force evaluation we conduct, we typically discuss this exclusively at the executive level.  So imagine my surprise when a salesperson sent along his lessons learned from a session on closing deals and included this...

He said, "I went back to your evaluation to see exactly how you restaged my pipeline...You said the quality of my pipeline opportunities was:
U-Toronto - Medium 
Mt. Sinai - High
New York Genome - Medium 
Columbia - Low

If this is how your method determined the order - then it was spot on...On both the low and high ends. Columbia has fallen completely off the radar while Mt. Sinai has progressed to the proposal and closable stage.  U-Toronto and NY Genome are still progressing forward slowly - with additional presentations required and much more qualifying work needed by me. 
I staged the pipeline today and:
Columbia is a only a suspect
U-Toronto is a prospect  
New York Genome is qualified and
Mt. Sinai is closable" 
So what exactly took place?  Two months ago, this salesperson answered 19 questions about each of 4 late stage opportunities that were - and this is the key - considered to be proposal ready and closable.  After we analyzed the data, we rated the quality of those 4 opportunities as you saw above, and then restaged them as you can see below.  Keep in mind that if they were truly late stage - proposal ready and closable - his pipeline would have looked like an umbrella stand base:
pipeline1-1
However, based on what we learned from our analysis of his answers, instead of his pipeline looking like an umbrella stand base, it looked more like a top!  The image below is what his supposedly late stage pipeline really should have looked like:
pipeline2-2
Obviously, that's quite a difference!
The ability to place your opportunities in the proper stage of the pipeline is the key to a predictive pipeline and accurate forecast.  Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power Magazine recently interviewed me about this very topic and you can watch the 5-minute video right here.
"Is your pipeline a reliable predictor of future revenue?" is just one of 19 important questions we answer when we evaluate a sales force.  And while it's quite helpful to see the actual quality and restaging of your pipeline, the additional 18 questions/answers/insights are usually even more important to most clients.  You can learn more about a sales force evaluation by clicking the image below.
evals .

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales pipeline, sales assessments, objective management group, sales forecast

Will You Be Able to Recruit Good Salespeople in 2015?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 @ 06:12 AM

selection2

Copyright: oakozhan / 123RF Stock Photo

Do you know when your car is not running properly?  It's usually quite obvious.  Lighting is very obvious too.  How about your home theater?  You probably won't know about a problem with that until after a component has stopped working.  Do you have a really good way to determine whether your sales recruiting process works the way it should and will work going into next year?  How can you determine whether your job postings are effective?  How do you know if you are getting enough candidates?  How do you know if the best candidates are making it to the interview stage?  How can you tell if you are about to make a hiring mistake?

Occasionally, my sales development firm conducts a turnkey search for a crucial sales, sales management or sales leadership role.  Usually, this occurs when the client lacks either the bandwidth, expertise, or desire and absolutely, positively cannot afford to get this particular hire wrong.

Last week, we completed two such projects where we were looking for salespeople that were absolute needles in the haystack.   This 2-minute video has my take on what constitutes "needle in the haystack" criteria.

Below, you can see a breakdown of candidates for each company and how they converted along the way.

Company NY Company CT Company
Views (all sources) 2959 624
Resumes (all sources) 243 71
Applications 101 20
Assessments 71 12
Recommended or Worthy 31 7
Phone Interviews 20 5
Face to Face Interviews 10 4
Recommended to Client 5 3
Hired 2 2
Time from Start to Finish 16 Weeks Less Than 30 Days

 

Which project was more successful?  Was it the NY company where we identified 5 candidates that met their needle in the haystack criteria, or the CT company where we only identified 3?  Was it the NY company where we took 101 applications or the CT company where we took only 20?  Was it the CT company where it took less than 30 days, or the NY company that really did their due diligence and took 16 weeks?  Was it a tie because both companies got two great salespeople?

Determining winners and losers is dependent on roles and expectations.

From Objective Management Group's (OMG) perspective - both companies had licenses for unlimited sales candidate assessments, so it was a tie.

From Kurlan & Associates' perspective, getting the CT company completed in less than 30 days was more profitable and less labor intensive than what was required to complete the NY company.  However, the time and labor must be measured against the context of fees.

From the client's perspective, the CT company was the winner because we were able to exceed their expectations on the timeline.

From the perspective of the job sites, they won big on the NY company because they were paid for views and got 4 times as many.

If it had taken as long for us to complete the hiring for the CT company as it had for the NY company, the numbers, multiplied by 4, would have been very similar to the numbers of the NY company.

There are a few interesting side notes to this exercise.  We teach most clients how to do what we do instead of doing it for them.  In those cases, they are responsible for sourcing candidates, and typically, if a company had received only 20 applications, 12 assessments with only 7 passing the assessment, they would call to complain about a lack of candidates.  And if a company had received 101 applications and only 5 of the candidates that passed the test met their needle in the haystack criteria, they would be calling to complain about the quality of the candidates.

That's the thing about getting selection right.  The only thing that matters is that you have the patience to wait for the right candidates to appear, the ability (aided by tools) to recognize those candidates, and in the end, the ability to convince those candidates to join you.  The numbers and ratios are just that - numbers and ratios.  It's about getting the right candidates into the pipeline, not getting lots of candidates into the pipeline.

Of the candidates that viewed the postings, why did such a relatively small number send their resumes?  Because we wrote the ads in such a way that most of the readers knew that they did not fit the criteria for who we were looking for.

Why did fewer than half of the candidates complete applications?  Does the answer really matter?  All you need to know about the candidates that didn't complete them is that they didn't follow through.  Why did a third of the candidates that completed the application fail to take the assessment?  Again, who cares?  It's yet one more way in which we can disqualify those candidates that need to be filtered out.  Could we have lost out on some good candidates who decided not to complete applications and assessments?  That depends on what you consider good.  If those same candidates won't complete call reports, use CRM, attend huddles and meetings, follow through, or do things your way, then no, we didn't miss out on anybody.

I believe that there will continue to be a shortage of good candidates through the first three quarters of 2015.  You can counter the effects of a candidate shortage by getting some help, using good tools or having experts do the work for you.  Would you like to use the accurate, predictive sales candidate assessment that we use and recommend?  Click here for a free trial.

 

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales candidates, sales selection, objective management group

Not the 3 Most Important Sales Hiring Attributes

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 @ 06:10 AM

Sales Selection

Image Copyright: Lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

One topic that never gets stale is how to make sure that you nail sales selection.  Whether or not salespeople actually fail, or they simply stick around, but fail to have an impact,  the common theme is still failure to select the right salespeople.  Recently, I stumbled upon this article about 3 Uncoachable Sales Attributes that you should focus on to get hiring right.  

The author is correct in that the 3 attributes she chose to write about are not really coachable.  However, it seemed she meant to imply that by hiring salespeople with these 3 attributes, you'll get hiring right. While those 3 attributes may be good ones to focus on for the general employee candidate pool,  she is way off base with that approach for hiring salespeople.  Let's discuss the many ways where this approach goes off the tracks.

 

At Objective Management Group (OMG), we are always conducting analyses between top and bottom sales performers, and I can tell you that when someone veers away from the data and begins to compare personality and/or behavioral styles, there is typicially no difference between the top and bottom performers.

The author identified Drive as one of her big three and she defined it as having motivation and competitiveness.  OMG measures motivation, and both top and bottom performers usually appear to be equally motivated.  OMG measures Desire - how badly a salesperson wants to achieve greater success in their sales role.  OMG also measures Commitment - their willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve that success.  Together, they form a very strong representation of competetiveness.  Guess what?  There isn't much of a difference between top and bottom performers with these findings either.  However, we never recommend that a company hire a salesperson lacking in either one.

The author identified Brains.  There is a difference here...but it's not about brains.  It's about one's ability to quickly figure things out.  One doesn't have to be smart to succeed in sales, but they do need problem solving ability.  We call it the Figure it Out Factor (FIOF) and it comes into play during ramp-up time.  Those with scores above 74 ramp up significantly more quickly than those with scores below 60.

The author identified character as her third attribute.  Really?  Do you really believe that someone who struggles in sales is lacking in character?  There is zero difference.  Perhaps a better choice of attributes would have been tenacity, resiliance or mental toughness.

There is a huge difference though, in the areas she did not identify.  

At OMG, we measure several Selling Comptencies (Hunting, Consultative Selling, Qualifying, Presenting, Closing, Positioning, Account Management and Farming) that each include dozens of findings (sales-specific strategies, tactics and qualities) that do allow us to differentiate between the top and bottom performers in sales.

We also measure several areas of Sales DNA (strengths that support the use of sales process, sales methodology and sales competencies) that further help us differentiate between top and bottom performers.

The author named three attributes that she believed made a difference.  How many attributes or findings does it really take to differentiate the sales candidates that will succeed from those who won't?  A lot.  At OMG, we utilize more than 500,000 combinations of findings to arrive at our highly accurate and predictive recommendations as to whether various candidates will succeed in the various roles for which companies are hiring.

There are a lot of people who think they have the ability to consistently identify sales winners.  How can one differentiate between all of them who think that way and other assessment companies that claim to have that capability?  OMG has science on its side and it's the science that helps us to consistently get it right.

Most Sales VP's, sales managers, and even sales authors, trainers and coaches, aren't necessarily experts when it comes to sales selection.  Neither are recruiters.  Who and what can you depend on?  Rely on sales-specific tools that are backed by science, use them in a sales-specific, Top-Grading-like recruiting process, and you can't go wrong.

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Topics: Dave Kurlan, accurate sales assessment, hiring sales candidates, sales hiring tools, sales selection, objective management group

How Significant is the Migration to Inside Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 @ 06:09 AM

Sales Leadership Intensive

Last week, I led our annual Sales Leadership intensive and hosted the best group of sales leaders to ever attend the event.  Chad Burmeister, who is well known throughout the inside sales community, was one of the attendees.  At one of the lunch breaks, he was talking about the customers his company, Connect and Sell, helps.  He commented that most of them are inside sales organizations.  Chad thought that we would have data to demonstrate the transition to inside sales over the past several years.

I began by reviewing my personal clients at Kurlan & Associates and compared them with clients from several years ago.  Sure enough, the numbers were amazing.

As recently as 5 years ago, only 20% of my personal clients were inside sales forces.  Today, that has increased by 150%.  Half of my own training, coaching and consulting clients are inside sales forces!  I investigated further and looked at the many other Kurlan clients who work with the rest of my team and learned that 73% of those clients are inside sales forces.  

Next, I reviewed around 250 of the newest Objective Management Group (OMG) accounts for sales candidate assessments and discovered that 42% of the open positions are for inside sales roles.  That number is quite different from the percentage I found with Kurlan clients and even though 42% is significantly greater than five years ago, I wanted to learn more about why there was such a disparity between the Kurlan versus OMG percentages.  

I dug deeper and learned that the likelihood of an account being for an outside sales role was in direct proportion to the number of years that our OMG Parter/Sales Expert has been with OMG.  That's code for how old the OMG partner is!  Sure enough, most of the older, longtime OMG Partners are still most comfortable doing business with, or positioning themselves with companies that have traditional outside sales forces.  When I looked at the recent accounts represented by newer and younger OMG Partners, 75% of them were for inside sales roles - much more consistent with what I found when I looked at the distribution of Kurlan clients. 

Who knew?

Chad knew.  Way to go, Chad!

What do these number mean for you?

Last year I wrote about the Great Migration to Inside Sales.  The article highlights eight scenarios that help you determine whether or not making that move is right for your company.

I wrote about the move to inside sales again in December and asked why the migration took so long to occur?  That article explains the various inside roles and makes a better case for migration winning out over the status quo.

SALES EFFECTIVENESS STUDY

OMG is working on a major sales effectiveness study that looks not only at traditional sales effectiveness, but also inside, inbound and social selling effectiveness.  The study must be inclusive and not just for huge companies and that's why I need your help.  I would be so appreciative if you would take 5 minutes from your busy day to provide your anonymous data.  No names, no emails, no follow-up.  Although it's an easy survey to take, it's crucial that we produce this unbiased study.  Won't you please help me?


The September, Week 4 Issue of Top Sales Magazine is available 
here.  And the brochure for the 2014-2015 Top Sales Academy is available here.  On October 8, I'll be leading the session on How to Master the Art of Coaching Salespeople

Salesforce.com's blog posted an article of mine that asks whether or not you can turn customer service reps into salespeople.  If you have CSR's, then you must read this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, inside sales, sales effectiveness study, Top Sales World, objective management group, salesforce.com, chad burmeister, connect and sell

7 New Ways to Motivate Salespeople Through 20 Old Hurdles

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 08, 2014 @ 07:09 AM

Sales Challenges

Trust me when I say that this is a great article, but before we get to it, I have a few post-vacation links for you.  

This is important!  We want you to be part of our next White Paper on Sales Force Effectiveness.  Would you kindly take no more than 5 minutes to answer some questions about the sales force at your company?  We won't even ask your name or email address!  

Hubspot's Sales Blog published this post with some professional follow-up email templates.  It's worth a look and it has one of mine...

The September issue of Top Sales World was published last week and my article about the Top Mistakes Salespeople Make on the Phone was named Top Blog Post for August.

Gerhard Gschwandtner interviewed me for SellingPower TV. You can see the 5-minute interview here.

I'll be speaking at Inbound14, September 17, and I'll be talking about How to Hire Great Inbound Sales/Marketing people.  You can register here.

Finally, my article about How to Hire Salespeople That Will be Great Instead of Great Salespeople that Will Fail was posted in EcSell Institute's Coaching Library.  You can hear me speak on this topic there next month.

 

Now for the article.

The ability to motivate salespeople is just as important as it has always been.  However, there are differences today that make it more complicated than it used to be.

In the old days (pre-2008), if salespeople were motivated, then they were probably motivated by money.  According to data from Objective Management Group (OMG), 54% of salespeople were money-motivated during the 1990's and first half of the 2000's.  Today, the data shows that no more than 27% of salespeople are what we now call extrinsically-motivated.  Even the name has changed!

But what about those who are intrinsically-motivated - those who are motivated by satisfaction, fulfillment, praise and recognition.  They want to change the world.  They love what they do and want to achieve mastery.  That motivates them.  OMG is able to differentiate between intrinsically-motivated and extrinsically-motivated salespeople, but how do you manage those who are intrinsically-motivated?  How do you get them to perform when they are interested in things that go beyond a commission check?

Perhaps this will help:

In the next release of OMG's suite of Sales Candidate Assessments, Salesperson Evaluations, and Sales Force Evaluations, we will be able to show you exactly what YOU can do to motivate your existing and new salespeople.  For instance, wouldn't you love to know if a salesperson:

  • Loves to win - or hates to lose?  It's a subtle difference, but you would take a completely different approach to motivate each of these two types of salespeople.
  • Spends money to force performance - or performs and spends the money as a reward?  Just like the first example, the difference is subtle, but your motivational approach would be different.
  • Responds better to being pushed by the sales manager - or prefers to push himself?  If you are familiar with the scene in "Facing the Giants", you'll have a good idea of what it means to be pushed to be the best.  
  • Performs better when closely managed - or when left alone?  Some salespeople cannot function well when left to their own devices.  They don't self-start or self-direct and need to be directed and/or be part of a team.
  • Performs better when competing against others - or when competing against her own expectations?  What if the mediocre salesperson would rise to the next level if the competition and the rewards were compelling enough?
  • Responds better to recognition - or satisfaction after meeting and exceeding goals?  For some, it doesn't get any better than hearing their name called out, receiving an award or plaque, reading about themselves on a website or being listed as the winner.  Others could care less about all of that because the self-satisfaction one gets from knowing they're the best is all they need. 
  • Is motivated by proving someone else wrong - or proving himself right?  There are some salespeople who can be motivated to achieve greatness just because someone told them that they would fail at sales, that they weren't ready for this role, that they couldn't sell that big account, that they wouldn't beat out that particular competitor, or that they could never earn that much money.
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Salespeople are different - very different - and the more you know about what will help them face and overcome the following 20 hurdles, the better:

  1. Adversity
  2. Rejection
  3. Better-Known Competition
  4. Disinterest
  5. Ambivalence
  6. Existing Relationships
  7. Preconceived Motions
  8. Lower Priced Competitors
  9. Insulated Decision Makers
  10. Liars
  11. Assholes
  12. Impossible Political Structures
  13. Unfair Terms
  14. Unwillingness to Answer Questions
  15. No's
  16. Maybe's
  17. Self-Limiting Beliefs
  18. Discomfort with Certain Selling Situations
  19. Fear
  20. Pressure
     

Image Copyright: texelart / 123RF Stock Photo 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales challenges, sales testing, sales assessments, objective management group

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight 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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