The Sales Interview - When One Candidate is Actually Two?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:09 PM

sales candidate showing mixed signalsSuppose you are interviewing a candidate and there is a whole lot to like.  On the other hand, you observe and hear some things that you don't like.  

Suppose you have a great first interview with a candidate but you interview the same person, who seems to be a completely different candidate in the second interview?  

What if you conducted the great first interview and the person who conducted the second interview did not feel the same way as you did?  

What if someone else conducted a great first interview and you did not feel the same way as the other person?

You can overlook what you like and discount the candidate.  

You can overlook what you don't like and hire the candidate - a compromise.  

Or you can play best 2 out of 3.

Call the candidate - it has to be spontaneous to catch him/her off guard - and explain what you liked.  Then tell the candidate that there were several things that concerned you, explain what those things are, and shut up.

Allow the candidate address the issues.  If it was a crucial gap in expertise you will obviously have to find another candidate.  If it is a question as to how hungry, skilled, capable, personable, presentable or connected the candidate might be, provide them with an opportunity to change your mind.  If they say, "Yeah, you're right", or "I understand", the no's have it.  If they push back, attempt to change your mind, explain a misunderstanding, correct a fact or otherwise attempt to resurrect your perception of them, ask them to "prove it".  

You should pay more attention to HOW they respond (whether they apologize, keep their cool, provide a simple, concise explanation, are credible; or whether they make excuses, become defensive, stutter, become uncomfortable, etc.), than what they say.

It's best 2 out of 3 so whether they duplicate the favorable or unfavorable impression, it's the final impression that counts.



Learn how to use LinkedIn like a CIA Agent for identyfing and connecting with prospects at  LinkedIn Like a CIA Agent!

Sales Thought Leader Panel Series: Sixteen of the worlds top sales experts are meeting.  I'll be there.  Get a seat at the table.  More information and registration.


Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, sales interview

What Does Sales Longevity Really Mean?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 09, 2011 @ 09:09 AM

Objective Management Group has included the Sales Longevity Finding for about a year and clients still ask, "What does it really mean?"

It's really 3 things:

  1. It calculates how long it will take each candidate to generate a 5x return on your combined investment in him/her;
  2. It predicts how likely it is that you can retain the candidate that long;
  3. It shows the areas that you can/can't control that will help you retain the candidate.
This is really powerful information.
Two of the factors you can't do much about are both counter intuitive.  Those are:
  1. Sales Quotient - A very strong salesperson with a sales quotient over 130 may not stick around as long because they are in high demand, getting calls from recruiters and frequently being lured to the next great opportunity.  Slightly less capable salespeople with Sales Quotients in the 115-130 range, tend to stay much longer.
  2. Figure it Out Factor - This is our finding for how quickly a candidate "gets it" and gets off to a fast start - short ramp-up time - right out of the starting gate.  Salespeople with high FIOF scores of 75-100 make a splash and then begin looking for their next challenge.  Salespeople with FIOF scores of between 50-75 don't ramp up quite as quickly, but will stick around longer!
Three of the factors that you can control that greatly influence longevity are:
  1. How Closely You  Manage the Salesperson - When you hire a strong salesperson you would like to think they can get the job done without much help from you.  But the data shows that the more closely you manage your salespeople - the LESS you leave them alone - the longer they will stick around!
  2. How You Pay your Salespeople - Good salespeople leave when they can't make enough money.  That happens when their income is capped by compensation that is heavily weighted toward salary with little opportunity to earn unlimited commissions.  Reverse the compensation (your ineffective salespeople will leave) plan so that it is more heavily weighted toward commission and your best salespeople will stay!
  3. The number of Years in Sales - This one is simple.  Only hire salespeople who have been in sales for at least 5 years.  They will stick around much longer than those who have a shorter career and are still trying to learn and find their way.
Do you have a better understanding of Longevity now?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales management, sales candidates, omg, sales retention, sales assessments

Why Do Salespeople Quit in the First Year?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 09, 2011 @ 11:06 AM

quitWhen companies do everything correctly in the sales hiring process, they:

  • get the job spec right
  • write a killer ad to attract the candidates who meet the spec
  • use the Internet effectively to source the right candidates
  • use recruiters that "get it" and will actually find qualified candidates
  • use a predictive sales specific assessment early in the process
  • conduct a short phone conversation with recommended candidates to further filter out
  • conduct an effective first interview with candidates who pass the first three hurdles
  • identify the candidates that will succeed
  • conduct an effective final interview on the candidates they wish to hire
  • conduct an effective 90-day on-boarding process

...and they are still vulnerable to salespeople leaving within the first 9 months.  Why?

The reasons fall into 4 basic categories:

  1. Sales Management
  2. Culture
  3. Expectations
  4. It's Them

When it's sales management, the reasons usually can be traced to managers that don't manage full time, managers who aren't fully engaged with their salespeople, managers who aren't effective at sales coaching, managers who are shit-heads, and phantom managers.  In other words, salespeople are hired where there is no sales manager.

When it's the culture, it tends to be more about not putting salespeople in a position to succeed.  It could be the overall company attitude, product, support or technical people, the way the company does things - its policies and guidelines, top management, lack of sales support, compensation, or a myriad of other things that drive salespeople crazy.

When it's about expectations, it could relate to compensation, sales cycle, degree of difficulty, performance requirements, the time frame, leads, prospecting, competition, resistance, and more.  It could be that either no expectations, unreasonable expectations, or inaccurate expectations were set, all making it very easy for a salesperson to become frustrated, disappointed and discouraged.  

When it's about them, they usually failed.  They could have personal issues, psychological problems and/or distractions preventing them from consistently putting forth the time, energy, effort, discipline and skill required.

It's not enough to do everything right from a selection standpoint.  You must also make sure that your culture, sales management and expectations all support the first year efforts of salespeople you put a lot of effort into hiring.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales management, Sales Candidate, sales hiring process

How Four Variations Influence Sales and the Way People Make Decisions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 @ 08:01 AM

Over the past week or so there has been a terrific discussion on the Sales Management Executives Group on LinkedIn that drew an unusually spirited discussion on the use of sales assessment tools.  As of this writing, there were more than 7science0 comments, enough participation that I can easily break the comments into four types.

  • Opinions
  • Experiences
  • Gut instinct
  • Science

My regular readers know that I fall on the side of science, but the other three types of commenters feel so strongly about their positions that you would think they were talking science too.  It's great when many people chime in with their comments.  That's the beauty of a discussion forum or Blog - everyone gets to participate and weigh in.  But in the case of a question where its author expects an answer based on science, it becomes more difficult to separate opinions from experiences, gut instincts and facts.  Regardless of the type of comment offered, they all believe their comments to be factual.

Science shows that Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessments are highly predictive - 95%.  But a very small group of clients may have experience that is inconsistent with that science, especially if they used it as a stand alone(without the process it was intended to be part of) tool, had a poor quality pool of candidates to use it on, if they failed to closely manage the people they did hire, if they ignored the warnings we provide on recommended candidates, or if there were non-performance issues (nut cases). Others could have an experience with assessments that aren't at all predictive of sales performance (personality and behavioral styles assessments) but used them with such a small sample size that luck led them to believe that those assessments were predictive.  OMG's sample size is 500,000 salespeople! 

Opinions about assessments, such as "they don't work", lumping dozens of brands, types, and results into a single category, is akin to making sweeping statements like, "cars aren't made very well",  "cell phones can only be used for talking", or "X-Rays aren't dangerous".  Opinions are often lacking in science and experience.  On the other hand, Gut Instinct is great -- when it's right -- and sometimes it is right!  But sometimes it's wrong and you can't make important business decisions on something as unreliable as gut, especially when you are more likely to try and force that kind of decision to be the right decision (in hindsight) by waiting too long to correct a mistake.

If you understand these four types of comments as they relate to a discussion on assessments, what happens if I suggest that prospects judge salespeople in the same four ways?  They subconciously sort whether they are being fed science, experience, opinion, somebody's gut, or some combination, as well as how it all impacts the way they make their decisions.  For simplicity, let's use the 4 traditional social styles - Amiable, Expressive, Analytic and Driver - as context. Analytics will only respond to science.  If they believe they are getting anything other than facts they won't buy.  Amiables need to trust the person they are buying from so when a relationship and trust have been established, Amiables could buy from someone who has strong opinions and good references and might even ignore the science-based salesperson who may not be a good relationship builder.  Expressives have many ideas to share so they may not want to learn that they are wrong from someone who is basing his solution on science.  Drivers want results - quickly - and may use all four - your science and the experience of others, and their own gut to form an opinion to quickly make a decision.

How much of today's article is science?

How much is opinion?

How much is gut?

How much is experience?

I always have an opinion and it's usually influenced by my considerable experience working with companies in more than 200 industries during the past 25 years.  I try extremely hard to make sure that my opinions can be backed by science and while I use gut instinct, I only use it to choose which subject to write about on any given day - I never use gut to make decisions about who to hire, recommend, or how to hire them!


describe the image

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales management, sales candidates, sales assessment tools, linkedin, personality assessments

Sales Recruiting - How Long Can You Keep This New Salesperson?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 19, 2010 @ 06:08 AM

longevityBack in April, I posted an article that was actually my third in a series on Sales Longevity - the science of predicting sales turnover.  In that article I provided a link to my latest White Paper on the subject and suggested that this new science would someday become a new feature in our already cutting edge Sales Candidate Assessments.  Well, that day is upon us.

First, we calculate Ramp-Up, Months to Break-Even and Months to 5xROI for each candidate based on some information we collect from you.  This number changes based on a candidate's own Ramp-Up Skills which we measure in a formula called Figure It Out Factor (FIOF).

Then we calculate the likelihood that you'll be able to retain a particular candidate for the months required to 5x ROI based on 5 additional factors:

  1. Your Sales Management Supervision
  2. Your Sales Compensation Method
  3. The Candidate's Years of Experience
  4. The Candidate's FIOF
  5. The Candidate's Sales Quotient

Just think about the implications of this!  You have a very strong candidate, highly recommended but the odds of keeping him around long enough to just break-even aren't very good.  Now what?

Or you have a candidate that you like, but not as strong as the previously mentioned candidate.  The odds of retaining her through 5xROI are terrific.  Do you hire her?

On Wednesday, August 25, I will host a Webinar at 1:30 PM ET, to unveil the new Longevity Findings in the Assessment.  I hope you can join me!  Click here to register for the Webinar.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Force, Sales Candidate, sales retention

Case History - How Not to Hire Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 02, 2010 @ 11:04 AM

A company wants to hire 5000 salespeople - but why?

2000 drop out before completing training, and another 2000 drop out during the first 90 days in the field. Another 500 drop out during the first 6 months, and at the end of the year they only have 500 of the original 5000 standing.  What would it be worth to them from a cost, time, resources and practicality standpoint for us to simply identify, in advance, the final 500, before anyone is hired?

Can we do that?  Yes.

Are they likely to do that?  No.

Why?  Because that's the way it's always been done in their industry.  The Status Quo prevents improved outcomes and nobody wants to make a change that might not work.  Well what about the way they're doing it now?  Does anybody really believe that it works the way it is?  They do!

Let's take a closer look at why their turnover - at 90% the first year - is so high?  Let's look at how they select salespeople since that's one of the things that we could change.

They use a behavioral styles assessment.  They're OK, but (obviously!!) not predictive of sales success.

This particular assessment is marketed as a sales assessment but it's the same old story.  Behavioral Styles assessment that uses some sales terminology and marketing but under the hood it's a behavioral styles assessment.  Here are some examples:

The Assessment reports "Prospecting Ability" but they can't actually measure that.  They can only measure how extroverted, social and persistent the individual is - in a social context!  It has nothing to do with prospecting ability!

The Assessment reports "Closing Style/Ability" but they can't actually measure that.  They can only measure assertiveness and sensitivity to rejection - in  a social context!  It has nothing to do with closing ability!

The Assessment report "Commitment to Sales" but they can't actually measure that.  They can only measure self-esteem and how favorable the individual is to a sales profession.  It has nothing to do with Commitment to Sales!

And on and on and on it goes...

What would you do?

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, Behavioral Styles Test, Sales Recruiting Process, personality test, objective management group

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Green Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 @ 08:02 AM

Well, there had to be an article about going green at some point and since I was asked to write one for the folks at, you can get my version of going green, along with both the pros and cons of this practice.

It's interesting that so many mainstream companies, when they get frustrated with hiring experienced salespeople, ask what would happen if they were to target inexperienced salespeople.  The issue is not that hiring experienced salespeople doesn't work.  The problem is that they probably aren't going about it the right way.

Read my thoughts on The Pros and Cons of Hiring Green Salespeople.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, pros and cons of hiring inexperienced salespeople, hiring experienced salespeople, hiring inexperienced salespeople

3 Powerful Excuses for Maintaining Mediocrity in Your Sales Hiring

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 26, 2010 @ 06:01 AM

Yesterday I participated in a Webinar sponsored and hosted by EcSell Institute where I presented my ideas for how not to screw up your 2010 sales hiring.  Most of the attendees had participated in a survey where they said that getting hiring right was extremely important, but only 8% felt they had the skills to do this effectively.

When I answered questions from the audience, the best one, in my opinion, was the most obvious. It went something like this:

"If your recruiting process works so effectively, and your assessments are so predictive, and they save so much time and money and consistently identify top performers, then why don't more companies use them?"

Isn't that just an awesome question?  Without question, it is the question I ask myself every single day.  Why are there only 8,000 companies using this great process and assessment when it could be 8 million companies?

I believe there are three reasons.

  1. Ego.  Most sales managers simply have a mindset that they should know how to do this without asking for help, relying on tools, or following someone else's process.  After all, they've done it before (badly if you measure it by the percentage of over achievers they hire - fewer than half of the last 10 people yesterday's group hired were achieving!).
  2. Money.  Every company pays their worst performer far more than it would cost to get the right process, tools and skills in place. Even though every hiring mistake costs as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars, some companies simply don't view those losses as line items. However, they do see the cost of assessments and consulting as line items and mistakenly believe they can't spend the money.
  3. Fear.  Fear of the unknown, of being wrong, of change, of losing control, of being criticized, and of a learning curve.

These are 3 powerful reasons for not going down this path.  Yet, they are 3 reasons over which executives should be embarrassed and apologize. 

Companies just plain suck at hiring the right salespeople.  How could they do any worse by implementing best practices?

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, EcSELL Institute, recruiting process, sales assessments

Sales Assessment Completion Time May Impact Validity of the Findings

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 @ 17:12 PM

How would you like to influence the development of our never-ending quest for improvement in our suite of world-class assessment tools?  We constantly seek ways to expand our world-class insights, legendary accuracy, and real-world relevance.

I just reviewed some new data that Jim Sasena, our Operations/Technical Director, dug up for me.  This particular data set shows the percentage of Sales Candidate Assessments that are completed in a particular amount of time.  

assessment times

What I found most interesting about this graph is that the percentage of time outside the norm is about 5%.  That number correlates perfectly with the percentage of assessments that have a low confidence score (when we aren't confident in our finding because at least one of the internal analyzes we run on the test data indicates that the person may have tried to fake or influence the results) and our predictive validity (95% - highest in the industry).  Suppose this candidate did great on the assessment and was recommended for your position.  Wouldn't it be cool to learn that it took him 111 minutes to complete the 35 minute assessment and we are discrediting the findings and recommendation?  What do you suppose the candidate did during that 111 minutes?

"Hi Bob, can you call me back. I'm taking a sales assessment and I need to know how to answer a couple questions.  Hurry!"

"Hi Bob, me again.  I have one more question I need help with.  Thanks so much.  I owe you one buddy."

"Sorry to bother you again Bob.  Can you feed me the answer to one more question? I owe you some tickets to the game."

Why would someone need helping taking our assessment?  Because the questions are asked in a sales context, not a social context, and your candidates may not know the ideal answers.  As a matter of fact, most salespeople, even veterans, don't know the best answers because all of the answers could correlate to how they think and act in sales situations - methods and beliefs that aren't necessarily the best for sales success.

Is there something you would love to know about your next sales candidates?  Tell me what it is and I'll respond and let you know if we do that already or if we can do that in the future.  You can influence what we report! Here's an example: "Can you tell us whether our candidate would be able to go into a new market, where we are totally unknown, get through to CEO's, sell a high-end consulting service that is also priced higher than the well-known competition, and close this business in 2 calls?

If you don't use Objective Management Group's assessments, don't feel left out. Just take one minute (that's all - I promise) and complete this very simple survey of between 1 and 5 questions.  Non-users only!!!

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Force, sales candidates, sales survey, sales validity, sales correlation, time to take assessments, sales assessments

Sales Assessment Comparison - Objective Management Group versus Devine

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 14, 2009 @ 13:09 PM

It's not often that we get to compare the assessment results of an individual that took our assessment and another.  Why?  Because most companies don't use multiple assessments that report on similar findings.  Notice that I said "report on" and not "look at".  While other assessments report on findings similar to ours, they don't look at or measure the same information to draw their conclusions.  That's why the reports I received today make for such an enjoyable comparison.

The candidate was assessed by Objective Management Group AND Devine, a company that produces behavioral styles assessments that are marketed and sold as sales assessments.  Because their questions are not asked in a sales context, they get findings that, while likely accurate in social situations, are usually out of context, and  less accurate for sales.  That is why, as is often the case, the results between ours and behavioral styles assessments are contradictory.

Below, you'll see how this candidate scored on ten of the key findings for each assessment:

OMG Finding
Devine Finding
Conflicting Finding
Strong Desire
Questionable - Ambition & Drive
Conflicting Finding
Strong Responsibility
Questionable - Accepts Responsibility
Conflicting Finding
Strong Outlook
Questionable Outlook
Conflicting Finding
Is Trainable
Questionable - Challenge/Growth/Change
Similar Finding
Gets Emotionally Involved
Questionable Emotionally Objective
Conflicting Finding
74% Hunter Skills
Poor Sales Prospecting
Conflicting Finding
Decision Maker
Poor - Resists Think it Overs
Similar Finding
Some Need for ApprovalPoor - Lacks Need for Approval
Similar Finding
75% Ambassador Skills
Excellent Relationship Effectiveness
Conflicting Finding
Ineffective Selling System
Excellent Process Orientation


Seven out of ten findings shown here are in conflict.  Knowing that our accuracy is legendary (95% predictive validity), which assessment would you rather base your decision on?

There are two more findings that you should know about:

OMG also measures commitment - the candidate's commitment was weak and the finding was Lacks Commitment.  Behavioral styles assessments can't measure commitment to sales success.

OMG's recommendation was "not hirable".  Devine's recommendation was "Good Overall Job Fit".  Now which assessment would you rather base your decision on?

If you want to read more about the difference between assessments that were built for sales versus those that were adapted - and not too effectively - for sales, here are three on the subject:

This was the first in the series.

Then came this follow up with more detail.

Then came this article after certain PHD's had their world rocked.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, sales evaluation, Devine, personality test

Subscribe via Email

View All 1,800 Articles

About Dave

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.

Email Dave

View Dave Kurlan's LinkedIn profile View Dave Kurlan's profile


Receive new articles via email
 to the Blog on your Kindle 



Most Recent Articles


Vendor Neutral Certified 100 SalesTech Vendor Objective Management Group

Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame Inductee


Leaading Sales Consultants 2018

9 Consecutive Years!

Top Sales Awards 2018 - Article/Post -  Silver

9 Consecutive Years!

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2015 -  Bronze - Thought Leader

2016 Top Sales & Marketing Podcast - Gold

2016 Top Sales & Marketing Webinar - Gold

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2015 - Bronze - eBook/White Paper

Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blog 2019

Dave Kurlan Top 50 Sales Influencer 2015

Sales Pro Insider Blog

Top 50 most innovative sales bloggers



Hubspot Top 25 Blogs


Free Tools

Sales Process Grader

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Sales Ghost Calculator

Sales Force Grader

Sales Hiring Mistake Calculator

FREE Recruiting Process Grader