There is More Than One Type of Bias in Hiring Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 04, 2020 @ 10:12 AM

bias

Biases drive decision making.  You have them.  I have them.  We all have them.  Most of the time those biases are fine but when it comes to hiring, and specifically sales hiring, bias can get you in a heap of trouble.

While some biases simply cause bad hiring decisions, others have led to the growth of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) role in companies. This article attempts to explain and make sense of the various biases, how they affect selection, and how that correlates to sales success.

Assumptions - In the hiring process, when we make broad, sweeping assumptions about groups of people, including their gender, religion, ethnicity, age, or disabilities, those assumptions violate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines.  The EEOC states that employers may not discriminate against any protected minorities whose members include:

  • anyone who isn't male
  • anyone who isn't white
  • anyone who is over 40

When it comes to hiring decisions, women, people of color, and people over 40 are protected minorities.  That's basically everyone except white men under 40!  These guidelines were originally intended to prevent hiring bias against these groups but as you probably know, these guidelines haven't changed for decades and we have progressed to the point where the protected groups are a huge part of our workforce. I believe that today, candidates in the protected group would be hired regardless of whether or not these guidelines remained in place.

Some companies proactively seek to hire specifically for diversity and inclusion.  Reaching beyond the protected group, they seek out those who are different as they attempt to create a wonderfully diverse culture. Our company, Objective Management Group (OMG), has a history of hiring a very diverse workforce.   

Biases in Sales Hiring - Is diversity and inclusion a good strategy when hiring salespeople?  It's complicated because it depends on who the diverse group of salespeople will be selling to as much as it depends on how they will be selling.  For example, if your salespeople will be selling face-to-face, including virtually via video, to the C Suite of corporations, your salespeople must be able to present themselves and your brand as professionally as possible, without allowing their personal preferences (their own bias) to sabotage their success.  And even though our biases may have been removed, it doesn't mean that the executives they'll be selling to in the C-Suite are without biases towards the diverse group of salespeople. In other words, it's risky to make "more diverse" more important than the larger mission to grow revenue.

If your same diverse group of salespeople were to sell only by phone and target business users or middle managers they would likely have far greater success.  You must put all salespeople in a position (a selling role), that provides them with the greatest chance of success.  You should not confuse hiring bias with a thoughtful understanding of what it takes to succeed in a specific selling role and which salespeople would best fit that selling role.

Types of Personal Biases in Sales Hiring - Sales managers regularly commit two types of hiring bias. They sometimes fall in love with the idea of a particular candidate from experiences listed on resumes.  Sales managers sometimes fall in love with candidates after a particularly wonderful interview where the candidate said all the right things, was very likable, and the sales manager's gut instinct was saying, "perfect!"  In feeling this way, sales leaders develop bias for certain candidates and this bias is what leads to so many sales hiring mistakes.  Sales managers get it wrong at least half of the time!

An example of bias against a sales candidate occurs when sales leaders refuse to hire salespeople from outside their industry.  They might have a valid reason, they might have had a succession of failures, and the bias might seem important for this particular sales leader.  That said, a negative experience from a very limited sample size does not make it fact.  Pedigree, or college degrees, are another example of bias where certain diplomas are preferred to others.

The New York Times recent article about choosing Talent over Pedigree shows how we can raise the standard of living for many people who lack the prestigious college degree or college at all, but have the talent.  While the Times article isn't sales specific, it's not a stretch to apply it to sales. 

In 2017, I wrote an article on hiring biases where I said that some sales hiring biases are good.  Has that stood the test of time?

Eliminating Biases from Sales Hiring - As much as a company might attempt to eliminate biases from their hiring practices, the reality is that it is extremely difficult unless you use the right assessments.  For example, personality assessments, like Caliper, and behavioral styles assessments, like DiSC, are not role specific and have been challenged in court.  Personality assessments that claim to assess sales traits are not only inaccurate and not predictive, they too can be challenged in court.  The one sales assessment that is not personality based measures every sales candidate equally across 21 Sales Core Competencies.  OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment is customizable for each selling role, extremely accurate and distinguished by meeting the requirements for predictive validity.  It also meets the requirements for having no adverse impact on protected minorities. By utilizing the OMG assessment early in the sales process, it completely eliminates bias, recommends only those candidates who have the selling capabilities required for the role while rejecting those who do not.  In essence, it helps you to become blind and deaf while creating a candidate pool of extremely qualified candidates, regardless of what they look like or sound like, where they come from, or their status in life.

In summary, when it comes to hiring salespeople there are four types of bias in play:

  1. Biases in favor of certain candidates 
  2. Biases against certain candidates 
  3. Biases that your salespeople have against their prospects and customers
  4. Biases that your prospects and customers have against your salespeople.

Eliminating bias from hiring is a game changer but helping your new sales hires succeed takes more than getting unbiased sales selection right.  Comprehensive on boarding is just as important and after that, regular, consistent and effective guidance, direction, coaching and accountability are the components that will lead to sales success.

Read this article on how to get your new salespeople to take off like a rocket ship!

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Personality Tests, sales assessements, sales selelction

The Difference Between OMG and Extended DISC Assessments

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 07, 2020 @ 12:10 PM

Legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen is dead at 65 - ABC News

This is gonna be fun!

In 2005, GM produced four mini-vans known as the Buick Terraza, Chevrolet UplanderPontiac Montana SV6 and Saturn Relay.  These four cars were exactly the same, with the brand logos being the only differentiators.

Today, some Luxury car companies dress up the cars from their primary brands as Toyota is known to do with its Lexuses, Nissan with its Infinities, Honda with its Acuras, and Ford with its Lincolns.  But we all know this. 

What about something you might not know?  With Eddie Van Halen's passing yesterday, I was thinking about great guitarists and that led me to who actually manufactured your well-known Japanese guitar brand?

And then there are the cheap Chinese rip-offs of quality American products.

When it comes to sales assessments, things are also not what they appear to be.  For example, take the FinXS Extended DISC which, at first glance, appears to have much in common with Objective Management Group's (OMG) Salesperson Evaluations and Sales Candidate Assessments.  But are they the same, similar, or is it more like the Chinese rip-off?

Let's take a look under the hoods of both assessments and then you can decide.  We'll begin with a comparison of the two respective dashboards.

 

                                                       FinxS Extended DISC                                                                             Objective Management Group Salesperson Evaluation

While they don't look the same, the FinxS Extended DISC has copied 8 of the 21 Sales Competencies that OMG measures, as well as 5 of the underlying attributes from other competencies.  So on the surface it appears to measure 13 of the competencies that OMG measures.  But does it really?  Let's dig deeper.

DISC assessments have four dimensions, one for each letter in its name.  For those who aren't familiar, they include Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance.  While there are some variations to the questions and formats of the various DISC tests, what they all have in common is that the questions are asked in a social context.  This particular assessment also asks some questions in the context of selling.  You can see some DISC questions here.

All of OMG's questions are asked in the context of selling; what you do, how you do it, when you do it, what causes you to do it, how you think about it, what you believe, etc. None of the questions are in a social context because people act and behave differently in social settings than they do in business settings.

From 30,000 feet, the first question that must be asked is how in the world does the FinxS Extended DISC arrive at findings like Prospecting, Qualifying, Handling Objections or Sales Process from a DISC assessment with only the four dimensions? 

The quick answer is that they can't!  If you dig deeper into the FinxS Extended DISC report, they actually measure something quite different from what their summary says.

For example, look at this description of the prospecting finding:

See it?  Whether one scores low or high, it's about a mindset, not a sales capability or competency.  So what does FinxS Extended DISC mean when they refer to a prospecting mindset?  Let's dig further!  This is their description of the Hunter mindset.

Huh?  It's instant gratification!  I'm not kidding!  It gets worse.  Let's dig further!  This is their description of what the Prospecting score actually measures:

That's right - it has nothing at all to do with prospecting.  They are lying to you in their dashboard summary! 

For comparison, look at what OMG measures for the Prospecting or, as OMG calls it, the Hunting competency:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It should be obvious that OMG's prospecting competency is all about hunting for new business, right?  So you might be thinking I picked Prospecting because that's the FinxS Extended DISC score that's easiest for me to debunk. Think again.

What if we repeat this process with Qualifying?  This is the Qualifying score in the FinxS Extended DISC:

Whether the salesperson has a high or low score, they are telling you that it's about uncovering whether the prospect is a good fit through questioning and listening.

They are talking about a mindset again - this time it's about finding the truth:

Okay.  So in a social setting, perhaps that's asking a question like, "Where are you?"  "Who are you with?"  "When will you be home?" Is that really the same as Qualifying an opportunity?  And what are they actually measuring?

Once again, what they can actually measure has nothing to do with qualifying a sales opportunity. And the best part is that they are reusing Hunter! Remember? Instant gratification! You can't make this stuff up!

And what does OMG measure and report on for the Qualifying competency?

Does that look like finding the truth?  It looks exactly like what a salesperson must do when qualifying an opportunity.

I can do this for all 18 of their supposed sales scores but all you need to know is this.  As with ALL personality and behavioral assessments passing themselves off as sales assessments so as to compete with OMG, they lie.  They have no ability to measure a sales competency.  You can't report on what you can't measure and personality and behavorial styles assessments simply can't measure sales capabilities. 

The assessment business has much in common with both the Chinese rip-off model as well as the Japanese guitar manufacturing model.  The FinxS Extended DISC is like the Chinese rip-off because it appears to be measuring the same things, but upon closer inspection it measures little of what it purports to measure.  Other assessments fall under the Japanese model. For example, 16PF is an assessment that most people haven't heard of yet they produce more assessments than anyone else, but under different brand names!  Consultants can design an assessment and use the underlying 16PF, choose which of their findings to include, and then call those findings whatever they choose!  The lie!

If you want to evaluate your sales force and learn why they aren't performing as well as you need them to, or assess your sales candidates to identify those who will succeed in your business, stop messing around with imposters and get the real deal.  Objective Management Group (OMG) has been named the Top Sales Assessment in the world for nine straight years.  It's hard to argue with that. It's even harder to argue with the science.  It's the only sales assessment that has been validated using predictive validity.  That means that OMG's findings have been correlated to on the job performance.  Try doing that with a personality or behavioral styles assessment!

Knowledge is power.  Now you have the knowledge to choose the proper tool to evaluate your current sales team for development purposes, and to assess sales candidates for selection purposes.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessment, sales evaluation, improving your sales team, personality test, DISC, sales selelction

Masks and Sales Assessments - You Lose a Little Freedom and Control for Safety and Confidence

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 18, 2020 @ 13:09 PM

mask-in-public

A short end-of-the-week post.

Earlier this week I wrote this article about correlation versus causation.  I compared analyzing restaurant dining and positive Covid-19 tests, and assessment findings and results.  This article will depart from correlation and causation but we'll still use the Pandemic as a metaphor for certain sales assessment experiences.  

I wear a mask whenever I leave the house or the car.  As someone in the vulnerable age group for Covid-19, a mask makes me feel much safer and more confident when I encounter other people.  When I wear my mask, I lack some of the freedom I previously had and I lose some control because I can't see where my feet are when I'm walking down a flight of stairs!  Of course that's only problematic if I miss a stair and knock on wood, that hasn't happened in the first 6 months of the Pandemic.

You lose a little freedom and control but you feel a lot safer and more confident when going out in public.

The same thing happens when clients use Objective Management Group's (OMG) accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments.  They lose a little freedom because they no longer arbitrarily interview salespeople who they feel like interviewing, and refrain from simply offering positions to people because they have a gut feeling about a candidate.   However, they lose some control because one half to two-thirds of the candidates will not be recommended when they aren't great fits for the particular sales role for which the company is hiring, or simply aren't very good salespeople - period.

HIRING-PANDEMIC

Companies that use OMG sales candidate assessments for sales selection are seeing huge improvements in applications, assessments completed (the candidate pool), and a sharp decrease in recommended (more lousy sales candidates and/or imperfect fits for the role) candidates, cost per assessment, days to hire and compensation.

quota-attrition

Companies that use OMG for sales selection have 80% higher quota attainment, and 238% lower attrition. 

You lose a little freedom and control to feel a lot safer and more confident when offering sales candidates a position.

Image copyright 123 RF

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, hiring salespeople, OMG Assessment, sales selelction

Part 4 - The Real Story Behind the Sales Selection Fiasco

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 @ 09:10 AM


The 2016 MLB playoffs are in full swing, so forgive me if I refer to baseball for exactly the 100th time in the past 11 years and 1,350 Blog articles.  Clutch hitting - at bats in pressure situations that usually occur late in the game - has been studied a lot in recent years. While the sabermetricians say there isn't much of a difference in the overall statistics, there are individual players who have significant differentials between their clutch and non-clutch performances.  This week, we uncovered such a differential in sales!

Objective Management Group (OMG) produces nearly 200 findings that come from our ability to measure sales capabilities and there is tremendous consistency within the data.  Earlier this week, while mining the data from  salespeople, we found an anomaly.  Over the past 25 years, only our measurement of motivation has changed enough to be statistically significant and it wasn't a change in the percentage of salespeople who are motivated, as much as it was a shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

But this week we discovered a statistical difference between those salespeople who currently work for a company whose sales force was evaluated, and those sales candidates who were applying for sales positions.

One of our findings is Enjoys Selling. We found that while 88% of the salespeople that were part of a sales force evaluation enjoy selling, an astounding 97% of the sales candidates enjoy selling. Can you explain the difference?

Of course, there are several possible explanations:

  • The candidates are lying.
  • The candidates are different.
  • The candidates aren't as complacent.
  • The candidates actually want to be in sales.

Let's explore the last possibility.  If that were to be true (that they actually want to be in sales), does that mean that the existing salespeople don't want to be in sales?

The 9% differential represents approximately 9,000 salespeople.  I think it's fair to assume that of all of the salespeople whose companies had moved them into a sales role,  9,000 of them were not enjoying sales.

The real story here is why executives decide that people like Bob (usually engineers or product experts) should be salespeople.  The Bobs of the world are consistently among the least effective salespeople and aren't as valuable in their selling roles as they were in their prior roles.

STOP moving people into sales because they know stuff!  Move people into sales when they ask to be moved into sales AND when they have enough supportive Sales DNA to help them succeed in that role.  The skills can be taught over time.

Of course, this is only a single data point and it's part of a much bigger issue in and around sales selection.

I've been writing about this for the past two weeks and prior to today's article, there were 3 other articles that preceded this one.  If you start with this article on LinkedIn Pulse, it links to the two other important sales selection articles in the series.

Chad Burmeister, VP of sales at ConnectAndSell and the primary author of the new book, SalesHack, added this article on his Blog, SalesHack, after a follow-up conversation with the CEO of BigBrains.

After writing these articles about his company, BigBrains, their CEO's take was to suggest that we develop a new assessment that would be customized for the SDR role at his company.  That's right, consider this:

  • We were successful in predicting 83% of their top and bottom performers.
  • They were no more successful at selection than a coin flip.

They had 3 other successful people that would not have been recommended because they weren't really interested in sales, didn't enjoy selling, and lacked desire for success in selling.  Because of those 3 anomalies, they want an entirely new assessment that would identify more sales candidates like those 3, instead of the time-tested and proven assessment that consistently identifies top performers in SDR roles in more than 11,000 companies.

Go figure!

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales selelction

Sales Success is Like Making Great Tasting Soup

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 03, 2014 @ 10:11 AM

french_onion_soup_med

Believe it or not, most people still believe that sales success boils down to getting a lot of people to agree to watch a demo.  While that's the case with technology, it doesn't vary too much from that in non-technology sales where most people believe that sales success boils down to one of two things - either a critical mass of meetings, or a proposal or quote.

On the other hand, depending on which experts you listen to, sales success boils down to how effective one is with either Inbound, Social Selling, Consultative Selling, Qualifying, Value Selling, Solution Selling, Relationship Selling, The Challenger Sale, acceptance of the Buyer Journey, Sales Process, Sales Methodology, Prospecting, Telesales, Reaching Decision Makers, Closing Techniques, Value Propositions, Capabilities, Presentations, Metrics, Tools, CRM, Pipeline Management, Training, Coaching, Sales Management, Selection, or Timing.  I'm sure I've missed a few, but you get the gist.

Sales success is no more about any one competency than great-tasting soup is about one ingredient.  If you omit one ingredient, like salt, the soup will taste bland.  If you omit one competency, like Qualifying, your sales effectiveness will suffer.  While you can't leave one ingredient out of the soup, it's also not possible to make soup by focusing on and including only one ingredient.  Likewise, with sales, you can't expect to succeed, dominate your market, and celebrate your results if you focus on and include only one of the competencies on my list.  

It requires all of the competencies, all of the tools, all of the systems and processes, and effective sales leaders to bring it all together.

Companies that abandon their time-tested and proven approaches for new tools and technology are as short-sighted as companies that fail to adopt the new approaches, tools and technologies.  It's not about extremes or polar opposites as much as it's about planning, integration, a practical approach and inspection.

Sometimes, the leaders are too close to know what to keep, what to discard, what to adopt, and how or when to adapt.  Sometimes they are too smart and know the answers without knowing which questions to ask.

Just remember, sales success is a lot like making soup.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, sales methodology, closing, sales performance, sales selelction

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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 nine 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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