Are Sales and Sales Management Candidates Getting Worse?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 09, 2013 @ 21:09 PM

drop in rateThere are more sales experts, self-professed and otherwise, than ever before.  There is more free content on sales and selling than anyone could have imagined.  There are probably twice as many books on the subject than just 10 years ago.  There are categories of sales tools and CRM applications where none existed a few years ago.  Companies are spending more money on sales force evaluations, sales training, consulting, sales leadership development, sales process, infrastructure and sales recruiting services than 5 years ago.  And selling has changed more in the past 5 years than ever before.

With all that, shouldn't the quality of sales, sales management and sales leadership candidates be on the rise?  Yes, it should.  

But there's a problem.  The quality has not risen.  It seems to have worsened!

Look at this trend where the average percentage of recommended sales candidates has dropped 6%, while the average percentage of recommended sales management candidates has dropped by 15%, in just the last 3 years:

HirableStats

The small dotted line is the trend for the percentage of sales candidates who were recommended by Objective Management Group from 2009-2013.  The darker dotted line is the trend for the percentage of sales management candidates who were recommended by Objective Management Group for the same time period.

There are four possible explanations for this considerable drop.

1.  The first dates shown on this table - early 2009 - represent a time when the country was deep in recession.  When their industries were negatively impacted by the economy, many salespeople and sales managers were laid off or left voluntarily to search for better opportunities.  There were some very good salespeople and sales managers among the mix of the total population of candidates.  During the past 12-18 months, good performers have been a rarity among both groups with mediocre and poor candidates being the norm rather than the exception.

2.  During 2009, only those companies with cash and a willingness to spend it - mostly mid-market companies - were hiring salespeople.  They tend to pay more than smaller and larger businesses and their recruiting efforts, compensation and incentive plans are designed to attract stronger salespeople.  In the past 2 years, the large and small companies have resumed their recruiting efforts, but their less-impressive compensation plans don't appeal to strong salespeople at a time when weak sales and sales management candidates make up most of today's available pool.

3.  Despite the factual nature of explanations 1 and 2, when you also weigh the availability of content, books, video, training, evaluations, consulting and development, the trend should still rise instead of fall.  This would point to an overall weakening of those in our profession.  

4. Dramatic changes have made professional sales a much more difficult profession.  The top 10 changes include:

  1. The need for salespeople to follow a buyer-focused, consultative approach; 
  2. Expectations to utilize a myriad of tools;
  3. Increased price sensitivity;
  4. Prospects are less likely to answer their phones, return calls or respond to emails;
  5. Information previously available from salespeople is now readily available online;
  6. A new type of lead - from inbound marketing efforts - which requires a radically different approach;
  7. Prospects have different expectations of salespeople;
  8. Prospects invite salespeople later in their buying processes;
  9. A growing trend to move outside salespeople to inside;
  10. A shift where sales managers are now expected to devote 50% of their time to coaching.

As a result of these dramatic changes, salespeople who were once quite capable of succeeding, while using a traditional transactional approach, now struggle and even fail with growing regularity.  The growing percentage of salespeople, who don't make the grade, have simply failed to adapt, learn and improve.

The reality is that all 4 explanations are plausible and there could be other explanations as well.  What do you think?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales recruiting, sales candidates, sales management coaching, salespeople suck, sales managers suck

Get Sales Compensation Right to Recruit Winning Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 @ 12:08 PM

sales compensationSales candidates, especially good ones, are exponentially more difficult to attract than they were just two years ago.  We regularly observe clients struggling when it comes to getting resumes from quality candidates.  One of the reasons is compensation.

1. True or False: The higher the compensation, the better.

2. True or False: Compensation isn't that important to most salespeople.

3. True or False: Compensation is always relative.

4. True or False: Base salary is usually more important than % of commission.


The answers are False, False, True and False.

There are four variables that impact the importance of compensation:

  1. Requirements - If there aren't many significant requirements, expectations, experiences, or expertises, then $50,000 may be fair.  But if you need a salesperson who has had success selling expensive products or services to CEO's amid a tremendous amount of competition and you need this person to both find and close new business, then you are describing a salesperson who would expect a compensation plan to pay them in excess of $125,000 and as much as $250,000.
  2. Industry Norms - If you want one of the effective salespeople to join your company, you need to divorce yourself from the mindset that, "In our industry, it's traditional to pay..."  That's fine if you will never, ever interview and hire salespeople from outside your industry.  But if your industry provides a $135,000 base and the salesperson being interviewed comes from an industry that pays a $35,000 base,  you will overpay and undermotivate.
  3. Splits - Once again, you'll need to move away from the one-size-fits-all comp plan.  Extrinsically motivated salespeople will thrive on a low base and high commission plan while intrinsically motivated salespeople will perform more effectively on a high base with small commission plan.  That's why I always ask candidates to provide me with an earnings history broken down by salary and commission (and bonus if applicable).
  4. Needs - What a salesperson needs to earn to pay bills must be considered at the start and you may need to subsidize this person during ramp-up if the plan is weighted toward commissions and if income will fall short of the bill-paying requirement.  Regardless of motivation type, what salespeople desire to earn to get what they want in life must be considered for long-term retention.  When salespeople are successful and their income continues to grow, they will grow with you.  When success or income stagnates, look for them to add your company to the previous employers listed on their resumes.
I have written about and am on record saying that, in order to build an over-achieving sales force, you need to eliminate the 80/20 rule - the rule that says that 80% of your salespeople will suck -and replace it with the 100/0 rule - the rule that says that 100% of your salespeople will be over-achievers.

Well, I found some sanity over the 80/20 rule in Perry Marshall's new book, 80/20 Sales & Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More.  Perry busts some long-standing myths and backs it up with sound data.  I read the first chapter and am hooked - a must read for me and perhaps for you too!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Candidate, sales compensation, sales talent

When are Salespeople Too Old to Sell Effectively? 10 Conditions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 @ 09:06 AM

the beach boysFirst, let's acknowledge that EEOC guidelines in the US demand that you not discriminate against candidates based on age (40 and older), gender (non-males), race (non-Caucasians) or disability (Americans with Disability Act).  This article isn't about that, but I wanted to make sure that I put that out there before going any further.

Last night, we attended a concert in Boston.  On stage, 5 guys in their 70's, backed up by a younger show band, played and sang the songs made popular by a group of teenagers about 50 years ago.  When we closed our eyes, they pulled it off.  They sounded the same, perhaps better than the teenagers!  With eyes open, they demonstrated the same energy and showed that they really enjoyed performing and recreating that sound.  The only things different - and I mean the only things - were the wrinkles and sags on their faces and bags under their eyes.

I'm referring to the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Reunion Concert and it was a terrific show.

When it's time to recruit salespeople, clients have often told me that they want a "less mature, more energetic, and fit" salesperson - code for "younger".

Like the Beach Boys, who can still pull it off with ease, salespeople can still pull it off with ease as they age, well into their 70's, as long as the following ten conditions exist:

  1. They have the same energy.
  2. They have the same work ethic.
  3. They retain the same motivation and urgency to succeed.
  4. They continue to enjoy selling.
  5. They have adapted to the changes of the past 5-10 years, including selling consultatively, using technology and working harder.
  6. They are fine being held accountable to a potentially younger sales manager/sales leader.
  7. They interviewed well.
  8. They are still quick on their feet.
  9. The OMG Sales Candidate Assessment has recommended them.
  10. They have prior success doing what you need them to do.
The interesting thing about this list of conditions is that it's not age-specific and should be used with all salespeople.  If they can still generate new revenue for your business, why would you care if their skin is wrinkled?  If the choice is between a performer with wrinkles and a smooth-skinned pretender, the choice should be a no-brainer.  Watch this video on Sales Recruiting Best Practices.
Best Practices for Sales Recruiting Process and Tools

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales management, sales competency, sales candidates, sales assessments, beach boys, eeoc guidelines

How Many Sales Candidate Assessments Does it Take?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 09, 2012 @ 14:02 PM

Today, I was asked how many sales candidate assessments are required in order to hire one salesperson.

Great question.

Let's make an assumption that your postings on various job sites draw 200 resumes and 34% of those candidates take the assessment.  So you have 68 assessments completed and of those, somewhere between 25% and 50% of those candidates are recommended, giving us a pool of 17-34 candidates.  You talk to those candidates by phone and invite the 6 best candidates for interviews.  You like 2 of them, offer one a job and he accepts.  68 Assessments.

But what happens if, for one reason or another, you don't like any of the best candidates?  What happens if the candidates, whom you like don't, accept your job offer?  What happens if your requirements are such that significantly less than 25% of the candidates are recommended post assessment?

You begin the process a second time and may have to assess an additional 68 candidates.

The ratios are different for everyone, depending on geography, requirements, compensation, travel and experience.  But the bottom line is that if you are using the assessment properly, as your primary filter in the first step of the sales recruiting process, you will assess a great number of candidates before you settle on the one.  And of course, if you are hiring 10 or 100 or 1000, you'll need to assess an appropriately larger number of candidates along the way.

Why wouldn't you just wait until the end of the process to assess the candidates?  Three reasons:

  1. You would be out of EEOC compliance.  If you use an assessment, all candidates must be assessed.
  2. The best sales candidates would not make it to the end of a process which didn't begin with assessments.  You would have disqualified them for not having a pretty resume, not coming from your industry, not having certain experiences or some other irrelevent reasons.
  3. You would have wasted an incredible amount of time and money talking with, interviewing and assessing the wrong candidates.
Clients learn a solid, time-tested, proven, proprietary process called STAR and it works brilliantly every time.  Combine that with the Gold Medal winner for best Sales Assessment Tool and you have a turnkey solution that identifies winning salespeople like the Dominican Republic turns out baseball players.  Best practices exist for a reason.  The challenge is to use them, even when your tendency is to do what you have always done.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales candidates, omg, sales assessments

10 Reasons - Don't Worry When Sales Candidates Don't Take the Test

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 @ 06:01 AM

We  instruct clients to have their sales candidates take the Sales Candidate assessment very early in the recruiting process. It's the first step after the client receives their resumes.  Clients carefully spell out exactly how the entire process will work and explain that the assessment is simply the first step.

Recent statistics show that only 34% of the candidates are taking the assessment without additional prompts.  Isn't that awful?

Maybe - let's explore it further.

We should consider that the following ten scenarios are all possible reasons why candidates fail to complete the assessment:

  1. RISK AVERSE - they think it's a scam and they're afraid to click the link
  2. NARCISSIST - they think they are above such nonsense as having to take an assessmentNarcissistic Salesperson
  3. POOR ATTENTION TO DETAIL - they suck at following directions
  4. LACK OF CONFIDENCE - they do click the link, take one look at the questions and realize they are over their head
  5. NOT QUALIFIED - individuals are not a salespeople so this prevents them from pursuing the opportunity
  6. POOR FIT - they don't have the background you are looking for so they won't pursue the opportunity
  7. CAN'T MULTI-TASK - they begin taking the assessment, get called away and never return to complete it
  8. LONE RANGER - they didn't take the process you laid out seriously
  9. POOR NOTE TAKER - they intended to take the assessment and forgot to do it
  10. REACTIVE - They were waiting for you to call and ask them to take the assessment
I would be the first to say that 34% is a terrible completion percentage.  But considering most of the reasons, would you really want to waste one minute of your time reviewing their resumes, talking with them on the phone, interviewing them face-to-face or even considering them for the position?  If you are doing the hiring, is the 34% completetion really such a bad thing?
Instead, the 66% who don't complete the assessment simply become the victims of the first filter.  The assessment itself is the second filter - recommending only 25% - 50% of those who do take the assessment.  The variation is a direct result of the configuration of the assessment and how strong you need your salespeople to be, based on the challenges they will face.
The next filter is a phone call with the the recommended candidates.  Clients learn that of those recommended, they don't all sound great and some don't fit.  The best of the candidates who survive the first 3 filters get interviewed, the first time in the process where the hiring manager really has to invest any time.  Interviewing skills are extremely important for this step, where the hiring manager must determine if the candidate owns what is written on their resume or they simply penned a work of fiction.  
Is your sales recruiting process this efficient? Do you have and use the skills necessary for being able to conduct a thorough, intensive, challenging 30 minute interview and know at that point whether you have found your next salesperson?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, Sales Candidate, omg, sales selection, sales assessments, objective management group

Why OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments Can't Help These Companies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Dec 11, 2011 @ 23:12 PM

car dealershipCar dealers, and most copier, office supply, long distance, insurance agencies, real estate agencies, and other companies that don't really care who they hire.  Did I say that most of those companies don't care who they hire?  I'm sorry, they care, as long as those that sign up are breathing and have family and friends to sell to.  I'm exaggerating, but not by much!

So what does that have to do with OMG's (Objective Management Group) assessments?

Clients use OMG's assessments as part of a sophisticated sales specific, Topgrading compatible, recruiting process.  The candidate is asked to complete the assessment as soon as a resume is received via email or an applicant applies on line. Criteria for a hiring recommendation varies by client and depends on the many customized requirements resulting in some candidates being recommended and some not.  The percentage is in direct proportion to how effectively the client's posting attracted the desired pool of candidates, and how difficult it may have been to meet the specific criteria for a recommendation.  I randomly chose 10 such processes taking place right now.  As you will see below, the ratio of total candidates assessed to candidates recommened has a range of between 2.6:1 and 8:1 depending on the role, geography and requirements.

Scenario 1 - Outside salesperson to call on C Suite in competitive vertical - 8:1
Scenario 2 - Inside Salesperson - Manufacturing 3:1
Scenario 3 - National Sales Manager - Logistics 2.6:1
Scenario 4 - Territory Sales - Industial Distribution - 3:1
Scenario 5 - Sales Manager - Industrial Distribution - 2.9:1 
Scenario 6 - Territory Sales - Food Service - 3.5:1
Scenario 7 - VP Sales - Medical Devices - 3.4:1
Scenario 8 - Territory Sales - Technology to call on CFO's - 5:1
Scenario 9 - Territory Sales - Technology to call on CIO's - 2.75:1
Scenario 10 - Territory Sales - Heavy Equipment - 3.75:1 

If you consider that only about 65% of all applicants actually complete the assessment, the adjusted ratio of total candidates to recommended candidates has a range of between 3.5:1 and 11:1.

Getting back to the original question - why won't OMG's assessments help car dealers and the others like them?  Suppose they currently hire 7 of every 10 candidates willing to sell their cars and copiers but the assessment only recommends 2 of those candidates. You can understand their fear; they won't have enough candidates to keep up with their significant churn.

They confuse the candidate to recommended ratio with their churn rate.  Instead they should apply the ratio to the churn because of this ironic connection: the 2 we actually recommend will succeed and stay, thereby reducing the churn enough to negate the need for all of the undesirable candidates!

In other words, if they hire the right salespeople to begin with, their churn problem disappears!

For more on this topic, refer to this article from 2009, and this one from 2006.

 

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, car dealers, auto, reducing turnover, sales selection

The Difference Between Sales Commitment and Desire

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 @ 12:11 PM

differences

The Difference Between Sales Commitment and Desire

I was explaining this difference to a client today and the two findings, which we were comparing, were striking in their contrast.

The candidate in question scored 100 (off the charts) on Desire (how badly he wants to succeed in sales); yet, as low as he was high - 16 - on Commitment - his willingness to do what it takes to succeed in sales. So as you might expect, the client asked, "How can he score so high in Desire but so low in Commitment?"

Great question.

I'll explain it in exactly the same fashion I explained it to him.

Let's take my 9-year-old son. He desperately (the equivalent of strong desire) wants an iPhone. But he hasn't been able to do the things he must do in order to get it. What things? Let's just leave it at normal kid behaviors that everyone wants from their kids at that age. As much as he wants that darn phone, he isn't Committed enough to pick up his dirty clothes from the floor, eat a fruit or vegetable, or go to bed when it's time. Like I said, normal 9-year-old stuff.

Salespeople with strong Desire, but weak Commitment, want to be successful, want to win awards, get paid big commissions, garner recognition and be the best, but they won't do the things that are uncomfortable or difficult for them. Those things entail anything from prospecting, to having the tough conversations about money and budget, to challenging prospects or pushing back at appropriate times, to qualifying, asking about competition, and asking personal questions.

With all of the new rules for business, changes to the way businesses buy, the resistance to spending money, the economic challenge never far away, and the competitive landscape being more difficult than ever, a salesperson without strong Commitment is simply unable to overcome these challenges.

I have posted many extremely popular "difference between" articles, so we have another series on our hands.  Scroll down for more articles:

The Other Rejection - How Salespeople Struggle to Cope

Basketball and the Difference Between Sales Studs and Sales Duds

Sales Strategy and Tactics - Thoughts from the Super Bowl

The Difference Between Sales Process and Methodology

The Difference Between Sales Commitment and Work Ethic

The Anatomy of the Million Dollar Producer Compared with the $650K Producer

The Difference Between Sales Fantasies and Reality

What Sales Leaders Don't Know about Empathy and Ego

The Difference Between Sales Process and Sales Methodology

The Difference Between Sales Benchmarking and How OMG Assesses Sales Candidates

Who are Better Salespeople - Men or Women?

The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

12 Differences Between Your Salespeople and Sales Candidates

Case Study - One Difference Between Good Sales Hires and Bad

The Difference Between Good and Bad Sales Hires

The Difference Between Good and Bad Salespeople

The Difference Between Salespeople and Account Managers

The Difference Between Consultative Selling and Consultants

The Difference Between Selling to Negotiators and Price Shoppers

The Difference Between Over Achievers and Under Achievers

The Difference Between Sales Commitment and Motivation

The Difference Between Good and Bad Sales Coaching

The Ultimate Comparison Top Salespeople versus Salespeople that Fail

Super Bowl 49: Salespeople That Win vs Lose

Difference Between a Good Sales Email vs. Bad

What Committed Salespeople Do Differently

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, sales performance, sales candidates, sales force evaluations, sales selection, sales assessments

Will This Sales Candidate Really Fail If We Hire Him?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 @ 22:10 PM

This week I called the type of candidate that traditional HR professionals love - his resume was formatted, there were no typos, his background was exactly what my client craved - but the assessment wasn't so impressed with him; he was a borderline candidate at best.  Normally this candidate would not have received a call from me but because he was a good fit, I was looking for a needle in a haystack candidate (again) and was on the cusp, there was no downside to a 3-minute call.

What a disaster!  He didn't engage me ("Hi"), couldn't articulate how his experience met the description in the job posting ("I did all of that"), failed to string a complete sentence together ("Mine was more money") and didn't provide a single example, detail or explanation.  He also failed to ask a single question.  And he was on the cusp.  Weak salespeople don't sound that bad so why didn't the assessment tell me about this issue?

It turns out that while the major findings we typically focus on were acceptable, there was one finding - The Sales Posturing Index - that was the lowest I had ever seen.  On a scale to 100, "Fred" scored 20! 

SalesPosturingWhile Fred was confident enough, he had no clue how poorly he came across, how awful his first impression was, and how badly he presented himself.  Most obvious during the 3-minute call were the following Posturing Qualities that he didn't possess: "Develops Relationships Early", "Consultative Skill Set", "Sales Optimism", "Sales Empathy", "Sales Assertiveness", "Goal Oriented", and "Controls Emotions".

As always, this assessment is very predictive and you only need to believe in it?

Which side of the cusp was the candidate on?

Dashboard

When it says Not Recommended, you really need to believe the science behind the recommendation - if you dare to hire one of these candidates 75% of them will fail inside of 6 months.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, Sales Candidate, accurate sales assessment, predictive sales assessment, sales selection

12 Differences Between Your Salespeople and Sales Candidates

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 @ 06:09 AM

ComparisonYesterday Jim Sasena and I were reviewing data for a recent subset of the salespeople that Objective Management Group has assessed.  We were analyzing the distribution of the Commitment finding when Jim decided to separate the findings into two groups:

  1. Sales Candidates - those who had applied for positions at your companies.
  2. Existing salespeople - those who were part of a company-wide sales force evaluation.  
While comparing the two sets of data, Jim saw something we had not previously noticed.
 
Salespeople that already work for you are TWICE AS LIKELY to LACK Commitment than candidates applying for sales positions at your company.
 
What are some of the possible reasons for this discrepancy?  Here are 12:
  1. Your salespeople are complacent
  2. Your salespeople are not truly salespeople
  3. You may have moved some of your people into sales roles
  4. You may have selected the wrong people for the role
  5. Your salespeople are taking the path of least resistance
  6. Your salespeople don't have anything to prove
  7. Your salespeople aren't being held accountable
  8. Your sales management isn't recognizing the signs
  9. The candidates will do anything to prove themselves worthy
  10. The candidates are true salespeople
  11. The candidates are more motivated
  12. The candidates want to work
Feel free to add your own thoughts to the comments below...
 
If you are one of the stubborn leaders who hold on to under performing salespeople, thinking the devil you know is better than the devil you don't, get over it.  As long as you are using OMG's predictive sales candidate assessment, you'll surely hire salespeople who are stronger than those you have in place today.
 

Sixteen of the worlds top sales experts are meeting.  I'll be there.

Get a seat at the table.

More information and panel registration.

Tomorrow we'll discuss the difference between Commitment and strong work ethic.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales recruiting, sales commitment, sales candidates, sales selection, sales assessments

What Makes Salespeople Stand Out from the Crowd?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 @ 22:07 PM

Recently, several of us sat in the conference room, discussing several dozen salespeople we had interviewed.  We had the data from their OMG sales assessments, but wanted to determine if any of them stood out from rest of the pack and if they did, what it was that made them stand out.

The challenge in this exercise was that whatever made them stand out was not necessarily going to show up or be correlated by data on the assessments.

The other challenge in the exercise was whether the factors we identified would be common factors among all who stood out, or factors that were unique to each individual that stood out.

It turned out that there were 6 that stood out from about 45 in all.  The factors we identified included things like:

  • presence
  • appreciation for the help
  • perceived desire for and commitment to self-improvement
  • their self-awareness and knowledge of strengths and weaknesses in the context of the roles they are in and the challenges they face.
  • how likeable they are
  • their next steps
  • the questions they asked
  • their receptiveness to constructive criticism and coaching
The problem with this exercise is that weak salespeople could exhibit these qualities and strong salespeople may not.  So on its own, without the benefit of the assessments, one can't draw any conclusions other than "we liked her!" or "he has great potential!"  It is also a great example of what sales managers eventually go through when hiring salespeople without benefit of having assessed the sales candidates first.  They focus on traits that aren't predictive of success, but fall in love anyway because they liked what they heard and saw.  
Great salespeople are a jigsaw puzzle with each data point representing just one piece, not the whole picture.  And nothing connects more of the pieces of the puzzle than a customized, sales specific OMG sales candidate assessment.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales candidates, sales selection, 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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