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:
- 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.
- 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.
- do you really want to find more people "like" your top performers if items 1 and 2 above are true?
- 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.
- 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