Is Benchmarking or Perfect Fit Analysis More Predictive for Selecting Great Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 07, 2015 @ 05:10 AM

Last week, I published a case history on a company that we nicknamed, BigBrains. Many readers emailed asking if we could perform this analysis for them (yes, in most cases) and whether this would be considered benchmarking (no). In this article, I will actually show you the difference between benchmarking and the Perfect Fit Analysis that we use as proof to clients and to customize Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessments. We use the Perfect Fit Analysis to achieve our legendary accuracy when predicting who will and won't succeed in each sales role at each client's company. First, you absolutely must go back and read Part 1 so that you can see how we arrived at a predictive accuracy rate of 83% (on selecting college graduates that would succeed as Sales Development Reps) at BigBrains. While that's actually less accurate than our norm, when it comes to doing it with college grads, I think it's truly amazing! Now, let's compare that result to what happens when benchmarking is utilized.

Benchmarking is the method of choice for assessment companies that produce traditional personality and behavioral styles assessments. Those generic, non-role-specific assessments were never designed for sales, are not really for sales today, and only their marketing makes you think they can be used for sales selection. The only things they ever changed in all of those assessments are the names of the findings. They still measure personality traits and behavioral styles, still ask the same questions that have been asked for decades and those questions are still rooted in a social context, not sales or business. The limitations, as a result of their assessments being non-specific to sales, requires that you test your top performers so that they can look for common traits. Their theory is that after finding commonalities among your top performers, you can look for new salespeople with the same traits and they should perform well.  

Really? Let's try that with BigBrains! Had we benchmarked the BigBrains top performers, we would have started with around 100 findings and scores and narrowed them down to these findings that were common to their top performers. As you can see, all greens (strengths) and all reds (weaknesses), but clearly complete commonality!

I have always known that benchmarking doesn't work for sales, so just for kicks, let's see how their bottom performers scored when we used the exact same findings...

As you can see, (I apologize for being unable to get the columns to align perfectly) the bottom performers have nearly identical strengths and weaknesses to the top performers.  And that is the very reason why, despite the decades long practice of benchmarking top performers, personality and behavioral styles assessments consistently fail to be predictive of sales performance. I've been saying this for 25 years! The problem with looking at only the top performers, and then looking for common personality traits, is that inevitably, the bottom performers will have the same attributes as those you identify in the top performers. Benchmarking to predict sales success will nearly always produce a false positive. As Rocky LaGrone says, "It's like identifying the tallest midget!"

Now let's take a look at how those same findings - which will not be effective for identifying top performers - compare with the findings we actually used as the final criteria for the perfect fit analysis.

Finding

Used in Benchmark
of Top Performers 
and %
of Top Performers with Finding

% of Bottom Performers 
with that Finding

Finding Used in our Final 
Perfect Fit Analysis

Longevity Likely or Highly Likely Yes  - 100% as Strength 50% Yes
Strong Desire for Success in Sales Yes - 100% as Strength 75% Yes w/score >82
Takes Responsibility for Sales Results Yes - 100% as Strength 75% No
Enjoys Selling Yes - 100% as Strength 83% No
Highly Motivated for Sales Yes - 100% as Strength 100% No
Supportive Selling Beliefs  Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No
Supportive Buy Cycle  Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No

Comfortable Having a
Financial Conversation

Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% Yes w/score >32
Rejection Proof Yes - 100% as Strength 83% No
Sales DNA  Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% Yes w/score >62
Closer Competency Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% Yes w/score >32
Farmer Competency Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No
Sales Posturing Yes - 100%  as Strength 33%  Yes w/score >47
Coachable Yes - 100% as Strength 100% No
Competition Resistant Yes - 100% as Weakness 100% No
High Ticket Seller Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No
Doesn't Need Prospects to Like Them No n/a Yes w/score >74
Controls Emotions on Sales Calls No n/a Yes w/score >77
Hunter Competency No n/a Yes w/score >66
Consultative Seller Competency No n/a Yes w/score >55
Qualifier Competency No n/a Yes w/score >39
Account Manager Competency No n/a Yes w/score >40
Figure it Out Factor (Will Ramp up Quickly) No n/a Yes w/score >55
Sales Skills % No n/a Yes w/score >41
Sales Strengths % No n/a Yes w/score >54
Sales Weaknesses % No n/a Yes w/score <50

As you can see, most of the findings, that were common to the top performers, were either not used at all or they were modified to be used with a cutoff score. Our Perfect Fit Analysis looks for the findings, scores and cutoffs that differentiate the tops from the bottoms; therefore, we don't accidentally identify findings that bottom performers are likely to have as well. In addition to that is the fact that all of our findings are sales-specific! There is not a single behavioral style or personality trait in the list. You could argue that the need to be liked and controlling emotions are personality traits or behavioral styles, but we aren't asking the questions in a social context - purely in the context of sales calls and meetings - so even those two findings are specific to how they affect salespeople when they are actually selling.

So OMG already has the most predictive sales candidate assessment on the planet, has earned the Gold Medal for Top Sales Assessment for 4 consecutive years, and we can prove it out for every selling role, calling on every level of decision maker, against every type of competition, at any price point, with any sales cycle, with any form of price sensitivity, with any level of resistance, at every company, and in more than 200 industries. And to make sure that it's as predictive as can be, we can conduct a Perfect Fit Analysis too.

Why would you allow the least bit of uncertainty to creep into your sales selection process if you can be both certain and confident when using OMG? Click here to check out OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments and see how much time and money we can save you and your company.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, hiring salespeople, Sales Benchmarking, sales selection, OMG Assessment

Benchmarking Salespeople Sounds Great but Has Many Flaws

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 @ 06:04 AM

benchmarkYou want to hire better salespeople, don't you?  And you've been told that if you use a sales assessment, you will be able to select better salespeople, right?  And if you have a strong HR background, you may believe that benchmarking is a good first step.  There are many uses for benchmarking in sales, and while the approach taken by most assessment companies helps them, it doesn't really help you.

Let's say that you're speaking with a company that provides a personality assessment or a behavioral styles assessment.  The personality assessment can clearly help you with cultural fit and the behavioral styles assessment can certainly help with identifying the best ways to manage an individual.  But, neither assessment is predictive of sales success because their core competency is not sales and their assessment is adapted, not built, for sales.  In this case, adapted means that they change the names of the findings and the descriptions of those findings to sound more like sales findings.  But what they actually measure, and the questions your salespeople actually answer, have nothing to do with selling.

In an effort to combat the lack of sales specificity in their assessments, many of these companies offer to benchmark your top performers.  It sounds terrific - really - and they can always get you engaged by finding traits and styles common to your top performers.  But these benchmarks are flawed - for several reasons:

  • What you consider a top performer in your organization may be very different from an actual top performer in the general sales population, so sometimes they are looking at the wrong people!
  • They don't look at your bottom performers, but know that your underachievers have some of the exact same traits and styles as your top performers.  These commonalities are the traits and styles that caused them to enter sales - not the traits and styles that cause them to succeed at sales!
  • The personality and behavioral styles assessment companies are not experts at selling and don't understand the nuances in marketplace, pricing, selling value, competition, verticals and variations in roles that cause different salespeople to have different results.

Consider Objective Management Group's (OMG) approach.  Back in 1990, OMG developed the very first assessment specifically for sales.  OMG's sales assessment is an executional sales assessment and scientifically shows not only if a sales candidate can sell, but whether or not they will sell and succeed - for your company, in a specific sales role, against your competition, at your price points, calling into your market, and from the challenges they'll face.  It is not based on personality traits or behavioral styles, and we don't need to run a benchmark in order to figure out what causes salespeople to be successful because we already know.  We have done this times!  And we customize every role configuration to marry our criteria for sales success at various levels of difficulty with a client's requirements for the role.  However, companies that are used to running these benchmarks still ask for them and we take a completely different approach:

  • We look at both groups - top performers AND bottom performers.
  • We know that both the top and bottom groups will have some common findings, usually indicative of what the hiring managers were looking for, like motivated salespeople.   
  • We identify the differences between the top and bottom performers, not the commonalities of the top performers.  For example, members of both groups may have a particular finding as a strength, but only the top performers have a score in a certain range.  Or only the top performers have a particular finding as a strength and the bottom performers have it as a weakness.
  • We can usually identify 10-15 findings that are unique to the top performers and, more importantly, predictive of sales success in their particular role at their company.
  • We build a third layer of customization to identify candidates that will not only succeed, but perform at an elite level.

Benchmarking can be useful when it comes to training your salespeople.  If you have two regions that are performing similarly, selling the exact same products or services to the exact same types of customers, against the exact same competitors, you can benchmark the training.  Group 1 is your control group and receives no more help than they received previously.  Group 2 is the training group and they get the optimized sales process, their sales managers are trained to coach, and the salespeople are trained on both sales process and methodology.  At the end of the agreed upon time period, compare the before and after results of the two groups in the following areas:

  • pipeline quantity and quality,
  • conversion ratios,
  • pipeline velocity or sales cycle length,
  • opportunity size,
  • time wasted with prospects who don't buy,
  • percentage of new accounts,
  • growth of existing accounts,
  • average margin,
  • ratio of proposals per opportunity, and
  • win rate.

Benchmarking can be quite useful, as long as it doesn't cause you to look at the wrong data, send you down the wrong path, or make the wrong decisions.  When it comes to sales selection, make sure science is on your side.

Image credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, Sales Benchmarking, sales testing, objective management group

How to be More Effective Selecting Sales Candidates

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 @ 14:09 PM

Benchmarking is a topic that comes up a lot around here but I haven't written too much about it.  Benchmarking is good, especially when you don't limit it to your own organization, understanding and accepting that your own company's best performance may not compare that favorably to others in your industry and, more importantly, others in business.

However, when it comes to assessing sales candidates, I strongly discourage benchmarking and here's why.

Let's start with recruiting salespeople.

When an assessment company suggests that you start by benchmarking some of your top performers, your first reaction might be a good one. You might think, "they're going to customize this!" or "they're going to see what our top performers have in common and find more of that!"

But there are problems with this approach:

  1. while companies selling behavioral styles and personality assessments  can benchmark and identify traits common to top performers, they can't actually prove that those common traits have anything to do with their sales success.
  2. while the salespeople chosen to participate in the benchmark are your top performers, if they were merged into the overall sales population, they may not even be in the top 25 percentile.
  3. do you really want to find more people "like" your top performers if items 1 and 2 above are true?
  4. if behavioral styles and personality assessment companies were truly effective (they're not) at measuring sales competencies, they wouldn't have to benchmark.  They would already know what makes salespeople effective and how to identify it.
  5. some of the traits and styles that these assessments claim to be for sales do impact and have a connection with sales but their questions are not in the context of sales and therefore produce findings that are not accurate in the context of sales.  For example, both personality and behavioral styles assessments can identify whether an individual has a tendency to become emotionally involved.  However, someone who controls their emotions quite nicely in day to day life (context of the questions in the above mentioned assessments) may not have the same success when a prospect is in the process of rejecting them.  So the finding, which may be accurate for day to day life, has no correlation to selling.

You know that assessments are important but personality assessments and behavioral styles assessments weren't built for sales.  That's why I founded Objective Management Group, Inc. in 1989.  Intended for sales.  Built for sales.  Chronically enhanced.  Modified to reflect selling in the 21st Century.

If the assessment is built for this purpose, all of that benchmarking is a waste of time - we know what it takes to succeed in sales!  And as for what it takes to succeed in your business, why look at salespeople who may not be succeeding as well as they could or should?  We simply learn what the unique challenges are to your business so that we can identify the specific strengths and skills required to meet those challenges head on.  That's customization.

I started by saying that I strongly discourage benchmarking however, I do encourage evaluating your entire sales force prior to assessing sales candidates. Not for benchmarking, but to identify:

  • selection criteria that should change;
  • issues in the recruiting process that should change
  • potential role models around whom a stronger sales force can be built;
  • the effectiveness of sales management - crucial to the on boarding of new salespeople;
  • the effectiveness of systems and processes that support salespeople;

Use common sense when recruiting.  The stronger your selection tools, the better your selecting will be!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan


Topics: recruiting, sales candidates, Benchmarking, Sales Benchmarking, 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, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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