Six Overlooked Factors When Hiring Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 @ 14:04 PM

turnover

This week I've been sick with my annual bout of asthmatic bronchitis - fun stuff - and the question I've been asking myself is, "how long will it last this year?"  Historically, it's takes 2-4 weeks for this to subside and it sucks big time during that 2-4 weeks.  But thinking about time frames got me thinking about one of the universal timelines and challenges facing companies everywhere.

How long should it take for a new salesperson to become successful and why do so many of them fail?

There are six factors in total but let's begin with those on the client-side:

  1. The length of your sales cycle
  2. The length of your learning curve
  3. A Transition period

If you have a six-month sales cycle, a three-month learning curve and it takes 3 months to transition from their old world to your business, that translates to 12 months of pipeline building before you can reasonably expect your new salesperson to start closing business.

On the salesperson side, there are also three factors:

  1. Length of their runway (cash or safety net to survive a transition that doesn't guarantee as much money)
  2. Degree of urgency (how much urgency they feel to get off to a great start)
  3. The theory of relativity  (the more difficult your business is compared with their old business, the shorter the runway becomes)

If your new salesperson has a six-month runway, medium urgency, and selling in your world is more difficult than the world from which they came, there is a negative six-month gap and it's pretty clear that the salesperson will fail.

These factors are but a handful of the factors that go into successful sales selection strategies.  If you select the right salespeople up front, you'll experience much less turnover, fewer delays to growing your revenue, and build stronger sales teams.

Objective Management Group offers the most predictive, accurate and customizable sales-specific candidate assessment on planet earth. You can check it out here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, hiring salespeople, sales talent, sales selection

What's Missing from the Report That Says Sales Training Doesn't Make Reps Better?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 06, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

SALES-TRAINING-FAILS.jpg

I could not believe my eyes when I read this report.  It was during the break between Christmas and New Years, so perhaps I wasn't as sharp as would be during a regular business day.  Maybe I missed something.  So I reread the report and the words amazed me even further.  The report claimed that salespeople don't improve their skills as a result of sales training.  Really?  Let's take a look.Here's the link to the article at KD Nuggets.

The goal of the report is to sell us on the power of talent analytics - being able to predict pre-hire whether the candidate will be a top performer - or not.  I'm all for that.  That's one of the things that Objective Management Group (OMG) does so well, so I am invested in a good report that supports our business.  But there are so many holes in this report that moths wouldn't be able to sustain themselves for more than a day.

The report is based on two studies; more specifically, the outcomes of training programs at two companies.  At one, the salespeople were actually underwriters - so they weren't really salespeople as much as they were the point of contact for agency salespeople.  Think customer service whose job is to find a way to say, "Maybe."  The second sold internet service to consumers.  So neither company sought or hired B2B salespeople.  After the author established who was studied, the report talks only about the underwriters.  So let's focus first on the underwriters and what the report doesn't tell us:

  • Did the underwriters have sales managers?  My guess is no.
  • Were the sales managers providing sales coaching? Ditto.
  • Who provided the training?  Was it an outside company or employees?
  • What were they trained on?  Was the content relevant to their roles?
  • How long were they trained and how frequently?
  • Was the trainer any good?  I would guess not.
  • Were the underwriters trainable and/or coachable?  
  • Did the trainers understand where Sales DNA would interfere with execution of skills?  I know they didn't.

The author states that the only thing you can do with underperformers, once they have been hired, is to devote resources to making them average.  Really?  If a company doesn't purposely hire an underperformer, don't they still have the option to terminate?

The second graph is quite dramatic at the 12-year point, when you learn that they only had 5 years worth of data and the last 7 years are "hypothetical" with assumed "linear growth."

I've been in the sales development business for more than 30 years and I can tell you this.  Training results differ from salesperson to salesperson, from company to company, from industry to industry, and from marketplace to marketplace. The single biggest variable on whether training will be successful is leadership commitment.  When a CEO, President or other senior authority is visibly driving the initiative, the results will be dramatically better than when that commitment is not visible to the salespeople being trained.  The second biggest variable is whether the participants are trainable and coachable.  The third is that sales managers must be trained and coached to do two things consistently and effectively prior to training the salespeople.  They must be able to coach the salespeople to the content; and they must be able to hold the salespeople accountable for applying what they learned. The capability of the trainer and the content itself come in at fourth and fifth.

We were not told how these variables impacted the training of the underwriters in the report.

Can training fail?  Of course.  Does it fail regularly?  Yes.  However, from personal experience, it is a rarity when properly designed and executed professional sales training fails.  The first step should be an OMG sales force evaluation which, in addition to answering 19 important business questions, shows who we are working with, whether or not they are trainable, and the specific nature of their skill and Sales DNA gaps. Then, when one of OMG's 150 partners provides the training - the right way - it is very rare for training to fail.

The reality is that the report we looked at was not really a study at all. I believe that it was a lame attempt to make a case for talent analytics.  And they are completely right.  When you get sales selection right, most of these issues simply go away.

For the fifth consecutive year, OMG was named the Top Sales Assessment Tool on the planet by TopSalesAwards.  Our predictive accuracy is legendary.  You can check it out here.  And be sure to read this short article on LinkedIn Pulse on the key Difference Between Sales Winners and Everyone Else.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales training, sales talent, sales assessments

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

Sales Leadership Challenges to Having a World Class Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 @ 06:06 AM

World-Class Sales Organization.

We hear those words a lot.  Some companies aspire to it.  Others claim to be there already.  You are more likely to hear claims like those from a large enterprise, but you have better odds of actually finding it in a small-to-midsize company.

World-Class Sales Organization.

Some would say it's a description of a company's people.  Others would suggest it has more to do with results.  Many would say it's about the size of the sales force.  And a few would point to sales leadership and discipline.

World-Class Sales Organization.

The top team of sales strategists at my sales leadership consulting and training firm, Kurlan & Associates, set out to define what a world-class sales organization is and we developed this model.

World Class Sales Force

There is an important distinction to be made here.  At a large company, there could be one or more individuals responsible for each category in the model.  In a small business, one person (and sometimes fewer than that) may be responsible for all categories.  And in many companies, some of those categories are placed under the direction of people who aren't qualified  to lead them.  In other companies, there are huge gaps where some (or all) of one or more categories are missing.

Let's discuss the challenges of this model in a smaller company where there may be a half dozen salespeople reporting to one sales manager.  How is one person supposed to handle:

  • Sales Leadership 
  • Sales Architecture
  • Sales Infrastructure
  • Sales Talent Management
  • Sales Enablement
  • Sales Human Capital
Some of the help, which we provide in small and mid-market companies, occurs when some (or all) of these pieces are missing altogether, or when they have been undefined or improperly executed.
 
We are nearly halfway through 2013, so this is a good time to determine where the gaps exist in your sales organization and then deal with them.  It's not as important that you get it right, as it is that you have the above in place.  You can get them right over time.

Speaking of time, we're on the cusp of summer which begins on June 21 and it can't come quickly enough for me!  Nancy Bleak, author of Conversations That Sell, has published her 3rd Annual List of sales books you can bring to the beach.  We are proud and thankful that Nancy has chosen to include my best-seller, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball on her list.  We also encourage you to include Frank Belzer's terrific book, Sales Shift, on your summer reading list.
 
If you found this article helpful, you might find these articles on the subject of sales leadership helpful too:
 

Help is Here for Salespeople Who Find Themselves as the Underdogs

How Coyotes are at the Heart of Sales Motivation

What Percentage of Sales Managers Have the Necessary Coaching Skills?

Quadruple Dittos Motivate Your Sales Team to Achieve

Latest Debate Had Some Great Sales Leadership Examples

The Secret to Coaching Salespeople and Why It's So Scary 

The Conversation Sales Leaders Must Have with Salespeople

Connecting the Dots on Sales Management

Verne Harnish's Rant and 3 Sales Leadership Issues

The Most Important Sales Issues Heading into 2015

Keys to Improved Sales Performance - Part 4 of 4

The Real Problem with the Sales Profession and Sales Leadership

Why Sales Leaders and Salespeople Get Frustrated

Top 10 Sales Leadership Tips From 2013 - So Far

Top 5 Sales Leadership Articles of 2013 - So Far

How Much Sales Development Can Leadership Do In-House?

Sales Leadership Challenges to Having a World Class Sales Force

Sales Leadership Observations about Pipeline and Terminations

Sabermetrics for Sales Leadership - Projecting Sales Revenue

Disagreement Over Sales Leadership Best Practices?

The Sales Leadership Landscape - A Different Perspective

Are Sales Leaders More Receptive to Training Than Salespeople?

Sales Leaders Got These Issues All Wrong

Sales Strategy and Tactics - Thoughts from the Super Bowl

What Sales Leaders Don't Know About Ego and Empathy

Sales Leadership - a Balancing Act to Achieve Compliance and Quotas

Sales Leadership - It's Not About the Title

Sales Leadership - 6th of the 10 Kurlan Sales Management Functions

Sales and Sales Leadership Lessons from Lou Piniella and the Umpire

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Force, sales enablement, sales architecture, world class sales organization, sales talent, top sales books, sales infrastructure, sales strategy

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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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