How Overthinking the Turnover Problem Impacts Hiring Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 12, 2021 @ 13:02 PM


When I was growing up in the hilly areas of central Massachusetts, snowstorms meant that unless cars had chains or studs on their snow tires, cars would not get enough traction to drive up a slippery hill. You could get out of the car and walk up the hill and after abandoning their cars, many people actually did that. When executives running tire and auto manufacturers grew tired of people complaining about this, they finally came up with the perfect solution.  They reasoned that since people wearing snow shoes could walk up snowy hills, they would make cars that utilized auxiliary snow shoes to augment traditional tires for snowy hills.   

The story about the snow shoes didn't really happen but automakers did invent front wheel drive and finally all-wheel drive while tire manufacturers developed all weather radials.  Together, those two solutions eventually solved the problem of slippery, snowy hills.

What my snow shoe story points out is just how easy it is for people to go way off the rails in coming up with stupid solutions to common problems when perfectly good solutions already exist.

This week I experienced a scenario with a large company whose executives thought they had it all figured out and were looking for solutions that were so poorly thought out that it was hard for me to keep a straight face.  Curious?

Coming off a year where revenue dropped by several billion dollars, the company had 1,000 salespeople and a major turnover problem. They were certain that sales selection was to blame because they already partnered with a consultant to work on KPI's, sales management and coaching.  I challenged them and asked how that could possibly be helping given their negative revenue and profit performance last year.   Since I was speaking with the very same trio that implemented and owned those changes, they were preaching from the mountain tops about what a top notch strategy they put in place. They weren't going there with me.

I asked why so many new salespeople were turning over and was told that they weren't selling enough, weren't earning enough money, and could not hold out any longer. Voluntary turnover usually means that onboarding is to blame but not at this company as they pounded their chests and explained their fantastic new onboarding program.  They weren't going there either.

They claimed that they were already doing competency-based selection (they are only measuring drive) so the only thing they need to add is experience-based selection.  But instead of identifying experiences that contribute to success, like examples and proof of prior hunting success, they want biodata

Biodata?  Are you kidding me?  Insurance underwriters use biodata to run a risk analysis before quoting your car insurance but your zip code, interests, hobbies, preferences, commute and other brilliant questions are more suitable for a Tuesday night family trivia game.  There is no way in hell that biodata could ever be predictive of sales success.  I have no doubt that this pile of dog stupidity was introduced to them by an industrial psychologist whose membership knows so little about what it takes to succeed in sales that they are largely responsible for the practices that have led to the sales hiring disasters we continue to observe in large companies.  

What about selecting sales candidates based on their sales specific competencies?  The misinformed and over-confident trio don't want to look at sales competencies until after they've selected, hired and onboarded the new salespeople.  Brilliant! 

How could their approach possibly solve the turnover problem? 

You read it here first.  Biodata - the new model for predicting sales success.  Not.

When companies emphasize stupidity over revenue, habits over competencies, and preferences over talent, they will force square pegs into round holes because selecting salespeople must always be about talent and fit.

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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