Sales Selection - Should You Go for Skills, Industry Experience, or Talent?

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 @ 10:11 AM

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I have met with hundreds of salespeople who appeared viable, only to see them stumble badly in their sales interview. Often, they were candidates whose resumes were full of relevant experience, came highly recommended or were great at quickly establishing relationships.  Here are some reasons as to why this might happen.

Sometimes, experience provides hiring managers with a false sense of security, believing that candidates will quickly ramp up, require less training and present with credibility early in their tenure. However, without proper vetting, experience can be very misleading. Lacking a clear understanding of whether the candidate possesses the required competencies for the specific role and day-to-day responsibilities, experience which appears to be strengths could actually be weaknesses in disguise. Expect challenges if the competition, decision makers, pricing strategy, size of company and resistance from their prior selling environment are different from your selling environment. For example, salespeople who have great industry background in a long sales cycle will likely have a hard time adapting to a shorter sales cycle.

One of the biggest challenges occurs with something we call, Why Buy vs Why Me?This occurs with salespeople who have sold products or services that customers will purchase, but they must determine who to buy it from. Getting those salespeople to sell products or services where the question is "Why buy at all?" is extremely difficult. In the services space this is particularly problematic. Salespeople that have sold “why me?" focus on differentiating the value of the solution instead of helping their prospects discover that they have challenges that need to be addressed.

Many companies, particularly later in the selection process when multiple interviewers get involved, spend too much time “selling” the opportunity. For salespeople who are good at relationship creation, this significantly limits their ability to gather critical information. This can result in hiring people who are good at bonding and rapport but not consultative selling. The capacity to build strong relationships quickly is critically important but it’s only step one in getting people to open up and talk honestly.

There are many salespeople who are students of selling. Whether this comes from training, reading or other sources it’s a good thing but knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. For example, think about the last time a salesperson had the correct strategy prior to a sales call and then returned having done something completely different. Candidates who are articulate and knowledgeable will sound great but frequently their expertise is more theoretical than behavioral. 

Imagine a candidate who comes referred, quickly and effectively builds relationships, and knows your industry. Which of the following is your starting point?

  • They look like a great candidate, or
  • I need to ignore all of that and interview them as if I know nothing about them?

I’m all for having a candidate referral program but that’s as far as it should go. That leaves talent as the primary quality you should seek.

I know you may be a New England Patriots hater, but their coach, Bill Belichick, says he looks for three things:

  1. Love of football
  2. Work effort
  3. Unselfishness.

In addition to a love of sales it’s essential that new hires have significant passion to improve. Passion combined with humility with help salespeople work through the highs and lows of selling, open the door to impactful coaching, improve your sales culture and help lower resistance with prospects.

Would you benefit from having more salespeople with these traits? Accurate and predictive Sales Candidate Assessments will help you select salespeople with the sales core competencies required for success in the role.  These are the best.

Topics: sales recruiting, hiring sales candidates, sales selection, sales assessments

When Does Sales DNA Lead to Sales Hiring Mistakes?

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Sep 04, 2014 @ 14:09 PM


Sales DNA describes a salesperson’s underlying strengths and weaknesses.  Using athletic traits as an analogy, they are comparable to good hand-eye coordination, quickness off the line, acceleration, and balance.

A salesperson’s Buy Cycle (how a salesperson purchases), the time it takes for them to Recover From Rejection, and whether they Get Emotionally Involved when selling can significantly influence selling behavior and outcomes.

Sales candidates either can sell or will sell.  The challenge is selecting the ones who will.  Effective sales recruiting requires science, the right process, patience, and excellent interviewing skills.  Unfortunately, many companies don’t approach sales recruiting holistically.  The most common, first mistake comes in identifying what they’re seeking.

Science is critical to consistently hiring “Will Sell” salespeople.  Recent data from the Objective Management Group sales candidate assessment and sales force evaluation identifies the following:

  • 90% Have Unsustainable Pipelines,
  • 83% Lack Written Personal Goals,
  • 60% Make Excuses,
  • 55% Lack Urgency,
  • 45% Are Not Self-Starters, and
  • 21% Have Consultative Selling Attributes.

Because prospects are more knowledgeable (due to the internet), increasingly skeptical, and empirically proven to contact salespeople much later in their buying process, hiring managers absolutely must identify a salesperson’s DNA and skill gaps very early in the recruiting process.

On Objective Management Group’s Sales Candidate Assessment Dashboard, Sales DNA is reported as a percentage.  The difficulty of the sales position drives what the minimum required score is for Sales DNA.  The candidate’s Sales DNA must correlate with the specific sales role for which they are best equipped.  For instance, salespeople who must hunt require very different attributes to be successful than those who will manage accounts.

Benchmarking, while commonplace, universally misses one critical component.  If you identify only those elements that your top salespeople have in common, the analysis is inherently flawed.  For example, in one company, executives bragged that all of their top performers were highly motivated.  That proved to be an irrelevant finding when we showed them that their bottom performers were also highly motivated.  We were able to show them that while their bottom performers had difficulty recovering from rejection, their top performers were rejection proof.  While both their top and bottom performers were committed to sales success, their top performers all scored more than 15 points higher for commitment than those of their underachieving peers.

Great data and science create a foundation for successful recruiting.  A best practices, sales-specific, recruiting process, combined with practiced, honed interviewing skills, will increase your percentage of “Will Sell” salespeople.

Join me at the EcSELL Institute Fall Summit this October in Dallas for a lively, real world discussion about the science of sales recruiting and how you can learn to attract, screen, interview, hire and onboard great salespeople.

Topics: sales assessment, sales hiring, sales recruiting, Top Performer, EcSELL Institute, Sales DNA, Sales Candidate, Candidate Assessment, chris mott

Top Five Sales Enablement Steps for Sales VP’s

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 09:01 AM

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This is the 7th article in a January series on the Architecture of the Sales Force.  Here are the others:

Operationally, sales forces have become more complex.  Pipeline management tools, CRM, proposal generation, scheduling software, and inbound and network marketing have all exploded.  It's commonplace for companies to sell directly, through distribution, via representative firms and through partnerships.  Value propositions across product lines are different, sales cycles vary greatly, and the compensation and skill levels across most sales organizations are distinctly different.

Following the economic downturn of 2008, large numbers of salespeople left the industry and both the financial services and building construction verticals saw significant declines in their sales population.  Today, there are fewer skilled salespeople available.  Making this worse, large companies, which for decades hired and trained new salespeople, have cut back significantly in this area.  Today, virtually every established company with whom I speak have a large number of salespeople nearing retirement.

On the customer side, prospects have more information, feel more empowered and often have greater autonomy.  The productivity gains of the last five years have also forced employees to be responsible for a wider range of topics, creating less expertise in any one specific area.  In many situations, salespeople must first unsell a prospect before they can begin the process of selling to them.

To succeed in today’s environment, VP’s of sales and sales enablement need to rethink and execute.

Factors to Consider

  1. Development should begin prior to hiring.  Adopting or expanding a behavior-based interviewing approach is essential.  Salespeople know how to present themselves in a favorable light.  They offer facts and examples of success that often go largely untested in an interview.  The real story about their role, responsibility and context for success requires investigation, which can go 3-4 levels deep.  Finding the underlying limitations (or sales DNA), by using a sales-specific assessment early in the sales recruiting process, helps to identify priorities for development.  Discussing and gaining agreement and commitment to address issues and challenges should be part of the selection process.
  2. Most sales managers want to hire people whom they believe don’t need to be managed.  Objective Management Group has evaluated 700K salespeople since the 1990.  Only 18% of sales managers are having a real impact on their sales forces.  One factor is a manager's lack of desire to truly manage people.  If your goal is to develop people to their maximum potential, this approach is fundamentally flawed.  New hires are commonly given too much latitude in their first 90 days.  This empowers a belief that “I will figure it out on my own” and makes it much more difficult for managers to hold people accountable and emphasize their development.
  3. Many CRM systems track a sales process which measures whether the required steps have been completed for the company to close a prospect.  These systems do not measure whether or not the salesperson has developed a high-value relationship, identified and thoroughly discussed the business drivers of a purchase, and if the salesperson has identified a compelling reason for the decision-makers to do business with them.  All too frequently, management is relying on a forecast derived from the wrong data.
  4.  Process and control systems are great, but only when the managers on the ground use them consistently.  Major account management, overseeing channel relationships, selling internally, planning, and strategy development occupy a growing percentage of a sales manager's and VP’s time.  Situational coaching, focused on how a salesperson reached a call outcome and how a different outcome could have been achieved, are the mechanism for competency and performance changes.  How many weekly, one-on-one, development-focused coaching sessions does sales leadership conduct?  If you know the answer, what was talked about, what changed and what is the mechanism through which others in the organization learn from this?
  5. Listening is an art and a science.  On balance, human beings are really bad at listening.  The desire to say something intelligent, make our point, hear ourselves speak and plan what we will say can be all-encompassing.  When we are invested in the outcome, things can become even worse.  We all know that our salespeople need to ask better questions.  You do need to verify that your salespeople can articulate key business issues on demand without thinking, but the real skill is listening.  Management puts too much emphasis on whether their salespeople can articulate a value proposition and not nearly enough on whether they are actually hearing what prospects and clients say.  Developing this skill only comes from practice - something that most salespeople and sales managers rarely, if ever, do.

Frank Belzer’s post, Organic Sales Growth and Its Impact on Sales Architecture, discusses how sales managers must invest their time to have significant impact on their sales organizations.

I invite you to join me and a panel of sales experts for an impacting, one-hour webinar discussing sales architecture and more on February 5:  "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11:00AM Eastern Time.

Topics: sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, sales enablement, trust

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