When 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.