The Science of Hiring Sales People
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison
According to a Harvard Business Review article, “The Best Ways to Hire Salespeople,” the average annual turnover rate in sales is 25 to 30%! Why is that? Basically there are two reasons. Either the sales person is not producing and is let go, or the sales person is not making enough so they leave. “Not making enough” is a problematic statistic because each sales person decides just how much is enough to make them happy. But what about “not producing”? That’s a statistic you can work with. At its simplest level, you have a billable goal. If you don’t achieve the billable goal, eventually, you will be let go. Forget about what the product or service is that is being sold, or the length of the sales process, or the company, or any other intangible items. Let’s simply look at the level of producing or not producing.
So if you are hiring a sales staff, the expectation is that they will produce. They will sell your widgets. So now my question is, how do you hire a sales person? What do you look for? I’ve said in my previous blogs that we all have an internal bias when we hire people. We have a tendency to hire people who think like us. We like people who think like us. We get along with people who think like us. So, we hire sales people who would sell like us and who have the same characteristics as we do.
Using that premise, if we are assertive, boarding on aggressive, extraverted, goal oriented, etc. then we look for people who have those identical traits. Additionally, we look at their history and how much they’ve sold in the past. We assume that because they sold a lot of widgets for another company, there is no reason to believe that it wouldn’t be the same for our company. But if most sales managers hire that way, why would the turnover still be so high?
I believe the reason is twofold. First, other than a person’s selling history or how well they may have impressed you in the interview, we really don’t know whether the person’s selling behavior at one company matches what we’re looking for at our company. There are other factors at work here that the interview, resume, and/or LinkedIn profile don’t reveal. We think, we hope, but we can’t prove.
Second, in order to be a top sales person, we assume that they are well-versed in all steps of the sales process. That may not be the case because maybe in the other companies this person has worked for, only the close portion of the sales process was important and this person excelled in that area.
So, is there a better way to hire sales people? A better way to qualify good sales candidates? The answer is yes. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you will know that I am a big proponent of assessments and I have come across and use three very good ones to help companies improve their sales people hiring process.
TTI TriMetrix DNA and HD Sales Coaching Assessments
These particular assessments can be used to help hire better sales people and to coach your current sales staff. In that same Harvard Business Review article mentioned previously, two of their suggestions were to utilize “on-going talent assessments” to measure competencies and to “focus on behaviors.” These two assessments do just that.
Both assessments utilize the same three sciences. The first is behavior style (how they respond to problems and challenges, how they influence people, how they respond to the pace of the environment, and how they respond to rules and procedures set by others). The second is motivation or driving forces (basic interests or motivators). The third is competencies (25 specific personal skills are measured to see how well developed they are). The HD assessment adds a fourth science, acumen, which measures a person’s external view of the world and internal view of themselves in areas of understanding others, practical thinking, systems judgment, sense of self, role awareness, self-direction, decision making, control, problem solving ability, and situational awareness.
The results of the assessments are used in the context of the sales process. How well does the person’s behavior style fit into each step of the sales process (Prospecting, First Impression, Qualifying, Demonstration, Influence, and Closing)? Utilizing that along with their motivators, competencies, and acumen will give you an objective view of not only what kind of a sales person they would make, but also whether they have what is needed for a good cultural and organization fit.
Sales Skills Index Assessment
The Sales Skills Index assessment is an excellent tool for assessing a sales person’s strengths and weaknesses within the sales process. It consists of 54 total situational questions dispersed within each step of the process researched and validated with over 2,000 sales people from various industries and countries. The end result is the identification of a sales person’s comparison of answers with top sales people from around the world.
Why is this so valuable? It identifies weaknesses within the sales process so that hiring or firing decisions are not made solely on the basis of hitting the numbers. A weakness in one area can be coached and improved. Coaching is far less costly than hiring or re-hiring and can help reduce the overall 25 to 30% turnover rate identified previously.
Three valuable assessments for gathering objective data that will help not only produce better sales people for your organization, but will result in a greater number of sales while also reducing hiring time, turnover, and overall hiring costs.
How do you hire sales people? Maybe it’s time to use a little more science and a little less gut instinct!
About the Author — Ron Feher is the Chief Improvement Officer at WhiteRock Business Solutions. His mission is to help make businesses better by making their people better. WhiteRock’s service offerings include Executive Coaching, Manager Mentoring, Candidate/Job Matching, staff/team development, staff recruiting, and career coaching. Ron is a certified analyst with TTI Success Insights® and Career Direct. He utilizes their assessments to gather and use objective data to help make his clients more efficient and effective. WhiteRock can be found at www.whiterockbusiness.net; or contact Ron (www.linkedin.com/in/ronaldafeher) directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (949-466-0943). @RonFeher