Did You Know That There is a Season for Hiring Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 @ 05:09 AM

I live in the Boston area and there are some things that I know will always be true about the seasons.  School buses start rolling in September, fall foliage peaks in October, the first freezing cold days arrive in late November, snow storms are routine by mid-December, the coldest, driest days are in January, the snowiest month is in February, the days begin to get longer in March, the snow has melted so that baseball can be played in April, flowers blossom and leaves appear on the trees in May, summer weather arrives for good in mid-June, it turns as hot as the fireworks in July and the weeds thrive and attempt to choke out the plants in August.  

Did you know that when it comes to hiring salespeople, there are also seasonal trends we know to be true ?

It's as certain as the ice storm we seem to get every year right around the New Year.  The first graph below is a running total of the number of sales candidates assessed since 2009.  Beyond the obvious trend towards more, which has more to do with Objective Management Group (OMG) than hiring, you should be able to notice the many peaks and valleys.

If we look at the same data in a different way, those peaks and valleys will make more sense.  In the next graph we separated the data by year (the different colors represent the years 2009 - 2015) and month (1-12). If you look closely, you can see that March and October are the seasons for hiring salespeople!  You can also see a few other things that are reflective of conditions in the economy.  Note how the peaks did not occur in 2010, because the economic recovery had not yet kicked in. And note how with the exception of March, the number of candidates is down in 2015.  This is not about OMG, but it is about the current shortage of sales candidates.

On first blush, it's easy to mistakenly believe that more candidates are looking to change jobs during March and October.  But the reality is that more companies hire salespeople in the last first and last quarters. How do I know?  OMG has an uptick in licenses and subscriptions sold during March and October.  So, if we are closing in on October and most companies hire salespeople in October, shouldn't you be thinking about doing that too?

What's that?  You don't need any salespeople? Are you sure?  When 50% of salespeople don't make quota and 30% of salespeople can't be trained, some simple math would suggest that 15% of your sales force should be replaced each year. Perhaps it's time to replace your worst performer(s).

It's also important to see that you will have less competition for those candidates if you hire in July, September, and the Winter months.

If you don't already use OMG to get sales selection right, this would be a great time to start!  Plans start at just $99 per month and you can use this link to learn more and subscribe.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales selection tool, hiring sales candidates, sales assessment test

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Great New Salesperson Might Fail

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

failure

When a great salesperson is recommended by Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessment, and this star has a great track record, and great references, should we expect this person to succeed?

Most executives do.

But even though salespeople will tell you that "If you can sell, you can sell anything", that statement is only true some of the time.  Here are some examples of salespeople who are successful in one environment, but usually fail in another:

  1. They were the best in their business at selling high-volume, low-cost products until they went to work for a value-based company and the "beat their best price" tactics were no longer available.
  2. They were the best at selling programs to procurement until they went to work for a company where the sale had to be made in the C-Suite where they were intimidated, unable to speak the language and unable to grasp the importance of strategy, profit and return.
  3. They were the best at selling components to OEM's until they went to work for a company where they had to sell conceptual services and were lost without a product to demonstrate.
  4. They were the best at finding and selling new accounts for a local company until they went to work for a national firm and had to do the same thing, in a brand new territory, working from their home.
  5. They were the best at selling 5-cent parts by the thousand until they went to work for a company where they had to sell 6-figure programs and choked over the amount of money they had to ask for.
  6. They were the best when they were managing, retaining and growing key accounts, and now that they work for a company where they must hunt for new business, they are sucking wind.
  7. They were on top of the pack when they sold services with a six-month sales cycle, but now that they work for a company selling a product in a very short sales cycle, nothing is getting closed.
  8. They were #1 at the last company, working under a hands-on sales manager who was a stickler for coaching and accountability, but the results just aren't there with the new company where they are reporting directly to the President who only responds to the proactive requests of his salespeople.
  9. There was nobody better at getting contracts signed when they sold the product that everyone buys and it was only a matter of who they would buy it from, but now that they are selling things that companies could either do themselves or not do at all, they can't overcome the ambivalence.
  10. They were at the top of the heap working for the large, well-known industry leader where prospects rolled out the red carpet and eagerly bought their products.  Now that they are working for a lesser known company, they aren't able to overcome the resistance that is always there now, but never there before.

Skills and experience are terrific, but track record is extremely misleading!

For example, if you go back and take another look at #4, this is where great salespeople, selling the exact same thing, can suddenly fail because they aren't able to succeed when working remotely from a sales manager who doesn't manage her salespeople very closely.

I reviewed OMG's data on a random set of 4,500 recent sales candidate assessments and only 12% were suitable for working remotely.  BUT…upon closer look, 12% was not representative of the findings for any one company!

Of the companies that required both a remote seller and had enough candidates to make up an appropriate sample size, the distribution of candidates suitable for working remotely ranged from 2% to 75%.  I thought that was rather strange and looked again, but with different filters.  I found that the variations in suitability had more to do with the company, and the difficulty level of the role, than anything else.  When the role was more difficult and their job postings reflected that difficulty, stronger candidates applied and were assessed.  When the role was less difficult and the job postings reflected it, all kinds of qualified and unqualified candidates applied and the assessments reflected that change in candidate quality.  For example, look at these 5 companies, their percentage of suitable candidates, and the difficulty level of the role:

Company Difficulty Level Suitable for Remote
 A  Considerable  75%
 B  Considerable  67%
 C  Some  50%
 D  Moderate  25%
 E  Moderate  2% 

If you throw out company E, the average is 60% suitable, but we also lose 75% of the candidates in the sample, so you can’t do that… 

When the role is not very difficult, the company will attract lower level salespeople, and they will be much less likely to be suitable for working remotely than their much stronger peers.

When you look at all 10 of my examples, you should be able to recognize why it is so important to use a sales-specific candidate assessment that is customized to your company's requirements, determines whether candidates possess the required selling skills, digs into the Sales DNA to determine whether candidates will succeed in your business, and in this role, and makes an accurate, predictive recommendation.

 

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales candidates, omg, sales assessment test, sales selection

What Google Might Know about Hiring Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Jun 22, 2013 @ 09:06 AM

no brainerThe NY Times posted a story on June 20 about Google, their recruiting efforts, and big data.  The story really doesn't reveal that much, but there is an interesting quote (that I will get to shortly) that is relevent to hiring salespeople.  When we help companies get the sales selection piece right, there are several components that we tweak.  We help them get the following things right:

  1. Sequence of Steps
  2. The Posting - The entire sales recruiting process is only as good as its weakest link.  Most companies get the posting completely wrong and get wrong candidates into the candidate pool.  Then, what happens after this step is applied to the wrong candidates!
  3. Sourcing - see my explanation for #2
  4. Applicant Tracking
  5. Sales Candidate Assessment - There are two keys to this piece.  The first is the use of the right assessment.  The second is that the assessment be used this early in the process to disqualify all candidates who will not succeed in the particular role, at your company, calling into your marketplace, and your ideal decision-maker, against your competition, with your price points, and particular challenges.
  6. Short Phone Interview - Make sure that recommended candidates have the right experiences and sound good.
  7. Face-to-Face or Video Interview - Challenge the candidate and make sure they own what is on their resume as opposed to them being the author of a piece of fiction.
  8. Final Interview - Sell the opportunity.
  9. Offer
  10. On-Boarding
It typically takes a day or two to help clients integrate and apply this process to their business.  Clients love it because it not only results in consistently hiring much better sales talent, but it saves a tremendous amount of time and money too.  The value of getting it right?  Priceless.

You can use this free tool to
grade your sales recruiting process

Clients usually agree with all of the above.  One part, that they often disagree with, is that too many clients require that their salespeople have a college degree and that's where the NY Times and Google article comes in.  I don't have anything against college graduates, but I have never seen a correlation between higher education and sales success.  While many successful salespeople have college degrees, salespeople don't succeed because of their education.  We learn from the NY Times article that Google has not seen any correlation between education and success at Google, arguing that success in school requires a different set of skills.

I was not a particularly good student and did not finish college.  Most of the skills I have needed to write, type, speak, communicate, persuade and sell, research, manage, lead, use technology, build, create, opine, listen, question, and think outside the box; to stand-out and be analytical, practical, memorable, animated, dynamic, entrepreneurial and entertaining, to talk the language of business and CEO's, are not things that were taught in college.  I learned most of what I needed to know in high-school, from books, coaches and mentors, and mostly, on the street by taking risks, trial-and-error and early on, making mostly errors.  

In my not so humble opinion, if you want to put an educational requirement on sales candidates, it should be that they are street-smart rather than degreed.  Here are two exaggerated examples:
  • Educated - "Where is the documentation for this?  Show me where to go for that?  How does this information apply?  I'll need some time to learn and assimilate this.  I should be ready to begin visiting customers, to learn about them, next month.  When I understand a little more about why they buy from us, I'll start to make some business development calls."  
  • Street Smart - "Thanks.  I'll figure it out.  When can I start selling?"

This is truly a no-brainer.  Which salesperson would you prefer to be on boarding right now?

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Sales Candidate, hiring salespeople, sales assessment test, objective management group

Sales Assessment Findings - Another Preview of the Interview

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 02, 2012 @ 23:10 PM

business relationshipsJohn Musser, an OMG Partner in Atlanta, recently shared an observation with me.  He found that when his clients didn't care for a candidate who was recommended by our Sales Candidate Assessment, he was able to correlate his client's perception to a single finding: Won't Develop Relationships Quickly.

A number of clients misinterpret this finding, thinking it means that the candidate won't develop relationships at all.  But it's not that they won't develop relationships, it's that it won't happen quickly during the first meeting.  When the client is left feeling indifferent, it's often because the candidate wasn't successful at making a connection in that first interview.

There are two ways in which one could look at this:

  1. Knowing that the candidate is a bit slow to warm up, cut him some slack, bring him back for a second interview, give him another chance and overlook his performance from the first interview.
  2. Know that what you see is what you'll get and his inability to quickly develop a relationship will prevent him from making prospects comfortable enough to answer the types of good, tough, timely questions which are the hallmark of effective consultative selling.
Obviously, you'll want to follow option #2.
 
Observing assessment findings manifested during an interview is a very common occurance, but it's more likely to occur when a candidate has some of the following findings:
 
Finding What You'll See
Tendency to Become Emotional Defensiveness, panic, louder volume,
rash, sweat, etc.
Need for Approval Saying what you want to hear, fear of 
pushing back, fear of tough questions, trying to make friends
Too Trusting Optimistic when you give the candidate a put-off like, 
"We'll be back to you next week." 
Uncomfortable Talking About Money Stuttering, lack of confidence when asked about earnings history
 

Of course there are many more, but this gives you a sense of it.  If you would like to see more examples or read more, click for some assessment case histories.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales management, Sales Candidate, sales interview, sales assessment findings, sales assessment test

The Importance of Positive Sales Attitude - A Tribute to a Friend

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 01, 2012 @ 09:10 AM

kevin dullyWe recently attended the funeral for a friend, Kevin Dully, who was only 53 years old.  He was diagnosed with Leukemia 20 years ago and had been fighting for his life for most of them.  He lived 19 years longer than he was expected to, but his best days were probably more like our worst days ever, in constant pain, discomfort, and with an inability to do many things which we take for granted.  Through all his suffering, he had a family, worked full-time, drove, and NEVER complained.  As a matter of fact, he had a lot in common with John Robinson.  Whenever he saw anyone, regardless of how he was feeling, he greeted everyone with a great big smile.  And when he was asked how he was doing or how it was going, he always said, "It's all good. I'm here!"

Kevin was a model of inspiration and it certainly wouldn't hurt for salespeople to embrace the characteristics which made him so special:

  • He was always fighting.  He didn't quit until his organs quit.
  • He had the most positive attitude of anyone I've ever known.  "It's all good!"
  • He was extremely likable. Great big smile.
  • He was a great listener and asked lots of questions.  
  • He cared more about those around him than himself. "How are you doing?"
Immediately following the funeral, I was the guest presenter on a Sales & Marketing Management magazine webinar (What's Preventing Your Sales Force From Over-Achieving) and I was acutely aware of how sad I was feeling.  I found it unusually challenging to alter my state of mind and the webinar was delivered without my usual dynamic.  It just reinforced my belief that when you have salespeople who aren't positive or kind, who complain or make excuses, or who lower your energy level or that of others, it is crucial that you replace them.  It is addition by subtraction and you must be more concerned with the energy level than with replacing the production of those who are terminated.  Trust me.  The increase in energy and improved production of others will quickly erase any temporary gap in revenue and then cause your revenue to surge.

I'm talking about "Outlook", one of the sales success elements which we measure when we evaluate salespeople.  It's quite normal for sales candidates to have poor "Outlook".  After all, they are in-between jobs and uncertain about their future.  However, when we evaluate a sales force and find that an entire team has an "Outlook" problem (a reflection on their sales manager) or worse, most of a sales force has one (a reflection on the company), the issues go far beyond those of any individuals (work problem or personal problem?).

"Outlook" supports "Bravery".   Even if a salesperson was previously unaffected by "Rejection", a poor "Outlook" will leave them with the inability to fend off and quickly recover from "Rejection" and that brings us to coaching.  The key to coaching is knowing that you are working on the root of the problem, not the symptom.  Always make sure that you fix the "Outlook" problem first! 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales assessment test, sales attitude

10 Lessons From the Sales Candidate Who Smelled Like He Peed on Himself

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jul 03, 2009 @ 05:07 AM

It was quite the claim.  I remember telling my client that the next candidate we were to interview was the best sounding candidate I had ever spoken with on the phone. Robert, the sales manager, went to the lobby to get the candidate and returned, an ashen look on his face.  Ray, the candidate, followed Robert into the conference room and suddenly, I had the same ashen look on my face.  It seemed that the best candidate I had ever spoken with by phone was, well, a bum!

They say you make an impression in the first 5 seconds and if the first impression was horrible, it was a huge understatement.  Here are just some of the things we noticed:

  • he had a paper bag with a bottle in it
  • his white shirt had yellowed
  • he was completely wrinkled - not a wrinkled face, but a suit that was wrinkled so bad it could only have occurred from sleeping in it - on a park bench - on multiple nights
  • he stunk - not like Yankees stink or Red Sox stink, but as if he had urinated on himself
  • his hair had not been combed - or washed - for days, maybe weeks
  • his clothes didn't fit

The funny thing was that when we began to interview him, if you just closed your eyes, you would have heard the most pleasing, helpful, nurturing, lucid, quick, humorous, effective, competent salesperson you could imagine.  And since this was an inside sales position...

Even that was a beyond a stretch.  You couldn't even support the logic for Ray working from home - away from the other salespeople who could find him offensive because, well, he probably didn't have a home.

So outside of this being a great true story, there are some lessons from it.

  1. It doesn't matter how good the candidate's resume, track record, assessment results and phone interview are.  There is a reason for a face to face interview and that must go well too.
  2. The purpose for a sales recruiting process is to filter candidates out - not the other way around
  3. It doesn't matter how much confidence you have in your interviewing, recruiting, and selection skills.  You will still be wrong about people
  4. Your gut instinct has its place.  Recruiting and selection isn't the place to rely on it.
  5. Your eyes can't be fooled.  Or can they?  What if Ray was just plain ugly instead of repulsive and homeless?  What if he was disabled?  What if he had a disease?
  6. Candidates might not be as good as advertised but rarely will they be better than advertised
  7. There is a reason for sequenced, multiple steps in the process. Never deviate or take short cuts.
  8. Just because the earlier steps in the process did not effectively filter out Ray, you shouldn't assume that the process is flawed because of one miss.  Always practice what works most of the time, not what worked or didn't work once.
  9. Be warned about making compromises.  Would you have hired Ray, a great salesperson, if everything was normal - except for the bottle in the bag (could it have been orange juice?), or except for the hair (just a bad hair day), or except for the shirt (the others were at the cleaners), or except for the size of the clothes (lost a ton of weight and still losing)?
  10. Never hire anyone that smells like he peed on himself.
(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales candidates, Sales Recruiting Process, sales assessment test, sales selection, personality test, hire salespeople

The Secret - The Ancient Scrolls and its Impact on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 @ 12:03 PM

Al Turrisi was kind enough to give me a book called the Power of the Kabbalah.  Its ancient scrolls originated around 4,000 years ago, inspired The Secret and predates Moses and the Bible!  Since this book is not the Kabbalah itself, rather a Cliff Notes version, it tends to read more like a self-help book. It is far more powerful than a self-help book though as it points to a number of rules that will cause a transformation in one's life.

Seven of the desired behaviors are consistent with the philosophies in Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball as well as Objective Management Group's Sales Assessments:

The importance of Desire. Read the Top 10 Factors for Salespeople to Overachieve.

It's not about you.  Over the past several months I have found myself telling an awful lot of salespeople and sales managers that it's not about them.  It's even become a finding in Objective Management Group's Sales Manager's Evaluation - The It's All About Me finding.

Need for Approval or what happens when you need people to like you.  This is the second most powerful weakness in all of selling. Here's an article about that.

Becoming Emotionally Involvedor reacting instead of proacting.This is the third most powerful weakness in all of selling. I wrote an article about this.

Resistance or the great challenge that presents itself rather than an obstacle.  I wrote a an article about this earlier this month and another one a couple of years ago.

Certainty or having faith that what you say, ask, or do will get the desired outcome.

Doing What's Uncomfortable.  I wrote an article about this a while back too.

Many of the articles I linked to were Baseline Selling Tips.  Speaking of Baseline Selling, this is the third anniversary of the publish date of the book, a good reason to reread or order it.

So in summary, simply by having your salespeople overcome their sales weaknesses, doing the very things they are uncomfortable doing, having faith in their abilities and having a strong desire for success will cause those very same people to experience life changing experiences.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

 

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Need for Approval, Baseline Selling, assessments, sales skills, Salesforce, Sales Force, Changing_Behavior, over achievement, sales weaknesses, Motivation, sales core competencies, assessment, sales evaluation, over achieve, improve sales performance, sales winners, overachievers, sales assessment test, Baseline_Selling, sales assessments, sales test, objective management group

Former IBM Pro Lashes Out Over Sales Assessment

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 @ 06:02 AM

A CEO of a fairly large-sized but under-performing OEM asked us to evaluate his sales force.  One of the three regional managers, who assessed as poorly as any regional manager could, called to complain about his results.  In addition to calling me a toad, Bob said that in the eighties he used to sell and manage at IBM and he led the top performing team.  He finished by letting me know that we didn't know what we were talking about and, by the way, he would be picking me up at the airport for the kick-off of their national training initiative.

It was a quiet ride (his choice) to the site of the training, where, for the first three hours, Bob stood in the back of the room, stoic, arms folded, attempting to intimidate me through his thick, black glasses. (I don't think it's possible to accomplish the intimidation thing with me but he did try really hard!)

At the lunch break Bob approached me and said, "You know, I've learned more about sales and sales management in the last three hours than I ever learned at IBM.  I've reconsidered what I said to you on the phone.  Your assessment was right on.  I don't have the skills or the strengths you've been talking about.  At IBM, we were the market leader, people wanted to buy from us and all I had to do was leverage our position in the marketplace.  I apologize for giving you a hard time.  But you're still a toad."

Even today, brand leaders, price leaders, and technology leaders all have a false sense of sales and sales management competency.  Are they truly succeeding because of their sales and sales management effectiveness?  The true tests always come when these successful sales executives leave to take a position at a company that is under performing.  Can they repeat the magic?  Can they extend their track record?  Can they add another success to their resume? 

Most find out, and rather quickly, that it ain't so easy to join an underdog and succeed without a deep set of sales competencies, disciplines, strategies and tactics.  Sadly, the executives that hire them find out too, that when they hire a sales or sales management star from a well-known company, their expectations will often fail to be met.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales training, sales skills, sales strategies, Sales Tactics, sales evaluation, IBM, OEM, sales manager, regional sales manager, sales disciplines, sales assessment test, sales test

Will Gifts Get Prospects to Return Calls from your Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 12, 2009 @ 22:02 PM

A fruit basket arrived this morning.  My first reaction was, "who would want to send me a fruit basket?" It turned out that a salesperson sent it, hoping to get me on the phone.  He had already left two voice mail messages and stopped by on one other occasion.

As I write about his attempts to reach me, a few thoughts are running through my mind:

  • I can't recall a salesperson who had ever tried that hard to make an impression;
  • He must not have any other prospects;
  • It's an expensive way to prospect;
  • It does make him memorable;
  • The fruit was good;
  • He's a lousy salesperson but has most of the strengths to support selling;
  • I'd rather have an unskilled salesperson who pulled out all the stops than a skilled salesperson who didn't (can sell vs. will sell - our assessment would identify this);

The problem is that I'm not a prospect for him and sending me fruit doesn't make me a prospect.  If he had already spoken with me and wanted me to remember him, the fruit basket surely would have separated him from the pack.  But just to get me to talk with me for the first time?  If I didn't have time to call him before, a fruit basket won't help me find the time tomorrow.

When your salespeople aren't getting through and aren't getting their calls returned, it's not because they didn't send fruit baskets.  It's because they are ineffective on their calls or they aren't making enough of them.  When they aren't very good at it, look to one of the following areas to improve:

  • Introduction - is it 5 words or less and do they sound like someone you would choose to speak with?
  • Attention - do they get their prospects' attention in the first 10 seconds?
  • Engagement - do they get the prospect engaged in the call after that?
  • Positioning Statement - are they able to articulate the prospect's likely problem in about 12-15 words or less?
  • Example - can they provide two examples of the problems you solve in about 10 words or less for each?
  • Stickiness - are the positioning statement and examples memorable?  Do they have the elements of surprise, emotion, credibility, and a story?  Are they concrete and simple?
  • Dialog - do your salespeople have a discussion around the prospect's issues?
  • Close - when they identify issues do they close for an appointment? 

Remember, fruit baskets are OK for follow up.  They are lousy for getting prospects to the phone.  The best story I ever heard for getting people to the phone was a story I read in a business magazine last year. A company was recruiting engineers and they sent candidates a package containing a cell phone.  When the candidate opened the package, the phone would ring and the candidate would answer. Bingo.  This is a bit more expensive than the fruit basket but I'll bet it would work a lot better.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Salesforce, prospecting, sales appointments, cold calls, getting calls returned, sales calls, sales assessment test

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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, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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