Great Example of Why Sales Success Is Not Always Transferable

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 @ 09:04 AM

experience

Would a NFL Quarterback make a good MLB pitcher?  Would a star MLB hitter be a great Pro Golfer?  Would an all-star NBA Center be an effective Lacrosse player?

Right now, an event is occurring on the world stage that shows, in a very persuasive way, why success in sales isn't always transferrable from one company, industry or role to another.

For example, a startup storage technology company hired all the salespeople they could get from the most well-known and well-respected company in their space.  The leadership team expected that these experienced and credible salespeople would leverage the new company's great new technology and cause sales to take off like a rocket for Storageville (made up name).  It didn't happen.

Another company hired a Sales VP from a well-known Fortune 1000 company and believed that his experience would make it easy for him to build a top-performing sales organization like the one he ran at Fortuneville (made up name).  It didn't happen.

These two examples aren't exceptions to the rule.  They are the rule.  But the rule to what?  I'll explain the context for the rule and explain the event that serves as such a great example.

In our first example, a start-up - that means UNDERDOG - hired salespeople from the #1 company in their space.  The problem with salespeople who work for the biggest and best companies in the world is that they don't have to be very good salespeople.  They don't encounter much resistance because they rarely face opposition to a first meeting and often have the red carpet rolled out for them when they arrive.  They don't actually need to sell because buying from them is the safe decision and buyers don't get fired for choosing #1.  And they don't need to sell value because their company's deep pockets allow them to discount and "buy" market share.  When those salespeople move over to the startup they quickly find themselves overmatched for what they are about to encounter.  Suddenly, prospects don't want to schedule meetings, are very resistant, believe there is tremendous risk in trying something new, and won't commit to anything.  The salespeople, never having faced this level of resistance before, don't really know how to overcome or manage it and they quickly fail in a very big way.

In our second example, the hotshot VP arrives with much fanfare but quickly learns that while expectations are great, resources are scarce and he has one fewer layer of management between him and his team.  He is not a roll up your sleeves kind of guy and hasn't actually performed the kind of coaching that this sales team requires to help them overcome the resistance that he never had to face.  While the average tenure of a Sales VP is around 18 months, he's gone after just 10 and the company is back to the drawing board.

And then, the biggest and most obvious example of all.  An individual who successfully ran a huge enterprise unexpectedly changed industries, roles and organizations.  He was the sole decision maker at his previous company but now he has a much larger and empowered leadership team and can no longer make the decisions without support from others. He trusted his family to the most important leadership roles at his prior company but he has struggled to hire and retain leaders that are aligned with his vision in the new organization.  Everyone in his prior company was on the same team and supported and executed the business plan. In the new organization, there are those who seek to undermine his authority, goals and plan, and he has enemies and opponents actually working for him.   

Only time will tell whether this person achieves the same level of success as President of the United States or he goes up in flames and fails to complete his term in Governmentville (made up name).  But make no mistake about it.  On the public stage for all to see is the greatest example of how success in one company or industry does not necessarily translate to success in another.  The challenges are different, the resources are different and the levels of resistance vary most of all.

The next time you decide to hire, my 3 rules of thumb will make your experience simpler and more successful:

  1. Target candidates who have already done what you need them to do.  If you are an UNDERDOG then find someone who has already done exactly what you need for another UNDERDOG.
  2. Only you can determine whether or not you like someone well enough for them to join your team.  Use OMG to help you select those who will succeed in a sales, sales management or sales leadership candidates at your company.  It's been the most accurate and predictive sales specific assessment on the planet for 7 consecutive years.
  3. Assess immediately after candidates complete an online application.  Use the assessment's recommendations to determine who you will invest time interviewing.  The worst thing you can do is fall in love with a candidate who later turns out to be not recommended.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Donald Trump, sales success, sales assessments, predictive, hiring salespeople

Compromises in Sales Candidate Assessments Compromise Revenue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 @ 20:09 PM

compromiseWhen I first began to evangelize the importance of sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments in the early 90's, no other assessment company was focused on the sales force or developing a sales-specific (built for, rather than modified for, the sales force) assessment.  22 years later, my message has been so well-received that it spawned a sales assessment industry.  Most of the so-called sales assessments are from companies and individuals which have modified or created derivative works, based on existing assessments to make them appear to be sales-specific.

Experience has demonstrated that there are three areas where companies tend to compromise with sales candidate assessments and those compromises always lead to revenue shortages:

1. Compromising Assessment Choice  -  Other than the sales-specific assessments developed by Objective Management Group (OMG), assessments generally fall into the categories of personality tests (like Caliper), behavioral styles assessments (like DISC) or sales aptitude tests.  Personality tests and behavioral styles assessments are not predictive of sales performance and, as much as their marketers would suggest otherwise, the only things that are sales-specific are their marketing materials and the names of some of their findings.  They report on what they measure and they measure what they collect which are answers to questions asked in a social context rather than sales context.  Sales aptitude tests measure only what an individual knows about transactional (not consultative) selling, but not how they are likely to perform.  The compromise takes place if a company chooses an assessment for one of the following five reasons:

    • Familiarity - A company has successfully used a personality test or behavioral styles assessment to better understand their employees.  While it seems to make sense to expand its use to sales selection, these assessments do not accurately predict performance or success in a sales role.
    • Faulty Assumptions - An executive receives a referral from someone who has used personality or behavioral styles assessments and recommends them, incorrectly assuming that they would be equally effective for sales selection.
    • Misled - A company chooses a sales aptitude assessment because the name implies fit and alignment when it only measures interest, knowledge and awareness.
    • Price - An assessment may cost less, but the savings are dwarfed by the cost of a hiring mistake.
    • Comfort - An executive may be more familiar with a particular assessment, but knowing the assessment language, buzzwords or reporting format doesn't magically make that assessment more accurate or predictive.

2. Compromising Assessment Timing - Assuming that you've selected the best assessment for sales selection (OMG's highly-accurate and predictive Sales Candidate Assessment), it must be used at an optimal point in the sales recruiting/interviewing/hiring process - the first step.  When a resumes arrives, candidates should receive a reply with instructions to take the assessment.  The completed assessment quickly eliminates those candidates whose sales capabilities don't meet the customized requirements for the role.  These include criteria based on the difficulty of the sale, length of the sales cycle, title of the decision-maker, price point, competition, locale, management supervision, average sale price and more.  The Compromise takes place when a company doesn't wish to purchase a license for unlimited use and chooses to pay-per-use instead.  With pay-per-use, the company can't assess every candidate and they waste tremendous amounts of valuable time on unnecessary interviews and misguided inclusion.  This nearly always results in the wrong candidates advancing through to the interview, the wrong candidates being chosen to take an assessment, and findings of "not recommended" being the rule rather than the exception.

3. Compromising Assessment Use - Assuming that you're assessing everyone in the first step with the best sales-specific assessment available, the manner in how you use it is important too.  Your assessment is configured to recommend only those candidates who will succeed in the role as described above.  The proper way to use the assessment is to conduct a short phone interview with only "recommended" candidates, assuring that they sound great and meet the required experience.  Only the best of those you've called should receive an interview.  The Compromise takes place when an executive does one or more of the following six bad things:

    • Interview even though a candidate was "not recommended".
    • Automatically hire because the candidate was "recommended".
    • Interview prior to the assessment, leading to the executive falling in love with that candidate, usually "not recommended" after being subsequently assessed.
    • Use the assessment only as a data point, ignoring the recommendation.
    • Lower the assessment standards and criteria to allow more candidates to be recommended.
    • Make exceptions.

Obviously, there is more to the successful use of a sales candidate assessment than the actual assessment and candidate selections.  Many companies get it wrong at every step.  The companies which do get it right get very consistent results.  By following the process and not making exceptions they always get top-notch salespeople, leading to revenue increases.

Want to learn more?  I'll be discussing What's Preventing Your Sales Force From Over-Achieving in an SMMConnect Webinar on Wednesday, September 26, at 1:00 PM ET.  Learn more here.

You can try OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments with a 72-hour Free Trial.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, Personality Tests, sales aptitude test, predictive, behavioral styles assessment

More Sales Assessment Imposters Exposed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 29, 2012 @ 06:05 AM

When I call a sales assessment an imposter, I am usually referring to a personality or a behavioral styles assessment that has been adapted for sales.  The adaptation is usually quite spectacluar with their marketing as the assessments always sound like they were built for sales.  When they rename some findings on their reports to appear more sales-specific, the adaptation is complete.  However, the actual assessments remain essentially the same.  The questions that people are asked and the internal analyses remain unchanged, but the assessment company swaps some of the findings for personal traits and behaviors that have been traditionally associated with selling.  These traits and behaviors are uncovered by asking questions in social settings rather than business or sales settings.  As a result, the translations to sales are often inaccurate, meaning that the findings are not predictive of sales performance.  If you want to read more about the difference between personality and behavioral styles assessments compared to OMG's sales-specific assessments, you can find many examples here.

Last week, I received an email promoting one such assessment.  This was their headline:

headlineThey provided five examples and because two were companies that increased sales, we are led to believe that this company's predictive assessments are for sales roles.  When you visit their website, you learn that they have assessments for nearly every role in nearly every industry.  For the offerings to be this broad, only a personality assessment could be this flexible.  And while the information in personality assessments can be helpful, they have absolutely no correlation to sales, sales success, or sales performance.

Upon further investigation, the site provided these options for sales (emphasis on retail and B2C):

drop downIf you choose Sales Engineers, they recommend two of their assessments - neither of which has anything to do with selling:

recommendation

For those of you who employ Sales Engineers, the two assessments listed above can help you determine how effective they could be at problem-solving, but not engineering or sales.

If you choose Financial Services Sales Agents or some of the other options provided, they recommend this personality assessment:

Recommendation

Apparently, they believe that the personality traits required for customer service are the same as those required for sales success.  If that was true, then you would be able to move your entire customer service team into sales roles, not only with success, but without push back.  You already know that your customer service people have no interest whatsoever in selling!

Assessments can have a huge impact on selection, diagnosis and development of the sales organization.  However, if you choose the wrong assessments - imposters - you won't receive any of the powerful intelligence or predictive benefits that OMG provides its users.  

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, Personality Tests, predictive

Another Sales Assessment Takes on OMG - What Does it Reveal?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 04, 2012 @ 08:04 AM

comparisonToday, we have another rare opportunity to compare a personality assessment, masquerading as a sales assessment, to OMG's sales-specific assessment.  A candidate took the test with which the recruiter was familiar, Sales Achievement Predictor (SalesAP), while the client asked the candidate to take OMG's assessment.

I later received an email asking if I could explain why OMG's assessment said "Not Recommended" and the SalesAP said "Highly Recommended".  In general terms, SalesAP, like all personality assessments, makes assumptions about its sales findings. 

  • SalesAP states that the candidate had the ability to make cold calls, but how do they know that?  The candidate had Initiative and Extroversion as findings, so they incorrectly assume that translates to cold calling.  But that isn't necessarily so.  OMG found that the candidate also had strong Need for Approval and Difficulty Recovering from Rejection - two conditions that actually hinder cold calling.
  • SalesAP states that the candidate had the ability to close, but how do they know that?  The candidate has Competitiveness and Goal Orientation as findings, so they incorrectly assume that translates to closing.  But that isn't necessarily so.  OMG found that the candidate has only 11% of the attributes of the Consultative selling skill set and 11% of the attributes of the Closer skill set.  In addition, he had 4, out of a possible 5, Major Weaknesses with a High (bad) Severity - all factors that inhibit effective closing.
  • SalesAP states that the candidate had a Strong Disposition to Selling, but how do they know that?  I believe it's simply a sum of the first two findings!  OMG found that while the candidate Enjoys Selling, he had a very low Sales Posturing Score, so he'll struggle making good first impressions.
  • What SalesAP is completely unable to identify are specific selling skills that are relevent to the sales specific role that this salesperson would fill.  OMG found that this candidate would be unable to Sell Value, a requirement for a company that has either a complex sale or products that are priced higher than the competition.
This personality test, and others like it, simply look at ranges of scores and if the scores are similar with those of successful salespeople, they assume that this person will be successful too.  But unsuccessful salespeople regularly score high in these dimensions too!  Personality tests are great when you simply want to know more about an individual.  However, when it comes to salespeople, there are three things that personality tests are not:
  1. Role-specific,
  2. Sales-specific, and
  3. Predictive of sales performance.
It's not practical to use personality tests as a sole hiring or development tool, but it's fine to use them as a complimentary tool, as long as you completely ignore the recommendations.  Why?  Personality tests can only report on what they can measure and they can only measure the responses to their questions.  Unfortunately, the questions are asked in social settings, rather than sales settings, and the findings have very little relevance to sales.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, Personality Tests, predictive

Call Reluctance in Salespeople - Causes, Factors, and Predictors

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 @ 17:04 PM

I can't believe all of the positive feedback you've sent relative to the new White Paper on Sales Longevity - The Science of Predicting Sales Turnover.  Thank you all so much.

Several of you asked questions about your salespeople who are failing, and whether it could have been predicted.

Objective Management Group (OMG) has always been able to accurately (to 95%) predict whether a salesperson would succeed and provide conditions for employment. Over the years, we've been able to fine tune our accuracy even more as we incorporated some additional non-sales factors that made strong salespeople poor candidates for a particular role or company.  Three of the most important, recent factors were:

  • whether a salesperson will succeed working in a remote territory, from their home, without direct supervision (this finding accounted for many of the strong salespeople who failed in earlier years)
  • whether a salesperson would succeed despite weak sales management (this finding accounted for most of the remaining strong salespeople who failed in earlier years)
  • whether a salesperson could ramp up quickly enough to satisfy management (some salespeople simply take longer to get it and now we can identify who they are)

While recommended salespeople who failed made up only 5% of the total (most accurate in the industry by far!), our goal has always been to completely eliminate failure from among recommended candidates, which brings us back to the White Paper.  Our new finding will predict the likelihood of being able to retain a strong, recommended candidate for as long as it takes to provide you with New Salesperson ROI (NSROI).  This is all explained in great detail in the White Paper.

Historically, when salespeople have failed, has most often been because of their inability to get appointments.  We are able to identify the three factors that indicate a call-reluctance problem - a malady that is career-threatening for salespeople who are expected to hunt.  I have identified one additional factor that causes call-reluctance that we don't currently identify - but will (are you paying attention Jim?). When a salesperson is an incredible perfectionist, prospecting activities such as cold calling, and even following up on leads, may be delayed.  You may be able to recognize the symptom - procrastination, but even the salespeople don't realize why are procrastinating.  Perfectionists won't do anything until they can do it perfectly and since they aren't able to make a perfect call they are waiting until they are confident that they can.  Of course, they'll be waiting indefinitely...

There is one more external factor that enables even a slightly reluctant salesperson.  Can anybody guess what that is?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, call reluctance, cold calling, predictive, accurate, sales candidate assessments, sales assessments

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

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