NY Times Article, ‘Job Interviews Are Broken. There’s a Way to Fix Them.’

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Below is a link to a terrific article in The New York Times called ‘Job Interviews Are Broken. There’s a Way to Fix Them.’  The article is written by Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton. He is the author of “Originals.”

Here is the link to the article.

If you have further interest in this topic here is a link to our own article that we published about the effectiveness of sales interviews.

I hope you enjoy Adam’s article as much as I did.

For nearly 35 years we have helped hiring managers to make better decisions about the sales people they hire by ensuring they are not fooled by job candidates who interview well but can’t sell.  Here is a link to our web site in case you are interested in learning about what we do: SalesTestOnline.com .

What Makes a Top Sales Hunter-Skill or Personality?

images-1In a twist on the old ‘nature vs. nurture question’ I’m often reluctantly pulled into discussions of whether top sales hunters just naturally possess the material that makes them such great hunters or, if they have learned how to be great sales hunters through training, experience and development of the requisite prospecting skills.

This ‘skill vs. personality’ question is pretty important to settle in your own mind if you are charged with hiring and managing sales people. Why? Because it is the logical starting point for many critical decisions you’ll need to make about who you hire and how you should go about interviewing and evaluating them, as well as many other post hire decisions about how to manage, motivate and train them.

Let me start by stating that I would never dare suggest that there is a definitive ‘answer’ to this question. Making definitive statements about why an entire group of people are successful or not only serves to ‘dumb down’ an obviously complex issue. It is best then not to approach this question with an ‘either or mindset’.

What I’m offering are opinions based on my own rather specific experience and my observations based on having done over a million sales assessments, along with more than 35 years of feedback from front line sales hiring managers.

Hiring Manager Feedback

Though it is clearly anecdotal, the extensive feedback and insights I’ve received from sales hiring managers is convincing and powerful since it is based on actual hiring and management experience. Over the years, I have posed the following question to literally thousands of sales hiring managers:

Sales people rarely fail due to a lack of skills, training, education or product knowledge. They almost always fail because their personality traits are a bad match for the requirements of the sales role. Would you agree or disagree?

Bear in mind that these sales hiring managers represent a very diverse cross section of backgrounds and experiences. They come from every size and type of business, from a highly varied range of industries as well as every level of experience in hiring and managing sales people. Nevertheless, their feedback is virtually unanimous.

I have yet to have a single hiring manager disagree with that statement!

Studies of Top Performers

It is equally hard to ignore the results of the many studies we have performed over the last 34 years. I have never made a count, but I would guess we have studied the top performing sales hunters in more than 600 sales forces. Again, we’ve conducted these studies for an amazingly varied group of clients.

To conduct a study we typically have the top performing 15-20% complete our sales personality test. This is followed by an analysis of where they fall on our primary trait drive scales-Assertiveness, Sociability, Patience and Dependence. These trait drives and their many combinations tell us about their sales strengths, weaknesses and overall sales style, which includes work tendencies. This includes a specific rating on our Prospecting scale.

In virtually every single study the very same traits and combinations of traits are clearly evident in most of the top hunters. In this previous article, Hunters Defined I spelled out those traits in some detail. To summarize, top sales hunters tend to have high assertiveness, have high sociability as well as being very impatient and quite independent.

Interviewing and Hiring Hunters

It is obvious from hiring manager feedback in tandem with the results of our many studies that there is such a thing as a set of ‘hunter personality traits’. Furthermore, it is obvious that having these hunter sales traits correlates to a very high degree with sales success.

These traits are ‘natural’ to the person and are not learned through training or experience. Their presence indicates if the person has the raw material or potential to be successful as a sales hunter. You will know what the person can do but not what they will do.

Hiring sales hunters would be very simple if all you had to do was ensure the candidate had potential by identifying personality traits. Of course when it comes to people issues it is never that simple! It’s also not that complicated either.

It is true that you need to determine if the candidate has the hunter traits. But you also need to understand the candidate’s skills and experience. If the candidate has the traits and has the skill and experience the chances of success are pretty good. If, on the other hand, the candidate has the traits but lacks the experience and skills then the presence of the traits tells you that the candidate is worth the financial and time investment to train them. For example, this would be the case when you hire college graduates. See this article, 3 Great Reasons to Evaluate New Grads with a Sales Test.

Interviews Cannot Uncover Hunter Traits

Volumes have been written about the ineffectiveness of interviews so I am not going to go over that topic here. In this previous article about how candidates play roles to get hired, I explain this issue and others that are specific to what occurs when you are evaluating sales hunters. The issues described will be painfully familiar to any hiring manager who, has interviewed a sales person who looked and sounded like a real winner who on being hired, turned out to be a complete sales failure. Again, you cannot reliably determine in interviews whether the candidate has the necessary traits to be successful. What you see is quite often not what you get!

Conclusion

The key take away is that without the natural sales hunter traits, your candidates are quite likely to fail. Conversely, if they possess those traits, they have good potential to succeed. Nevertheless, without ensuring they have the skills and training you run the risk of never seeing that high potential develop into sales success.

What Makes a Top Sales Hunter? Skill and Personality!

I do hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have any questions I would be very pleased to hear from you and would enjoy learning about your particular hiring challenges. I’m happy to share what we have learned and I promise to be very frank and forthright in any of our conversations.

 

Sales Assessment Tests – Customized vs Non-Customized

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Take a tour around the SalesTestOnline.com promo site and you will quickly see that one of the great features of our service is that it is customizable to the specifics of your sales role(s). Briefly, customization to your criteria is important because all sales roles differ. In order to evaluate candidates most effectively, and therefore to understand whether you should hire them, it is critical to compare and rate them against your unique criteria. Customization does this!

Navigate to our Articles or Blog pages and you will see numerous articles about the many aspects of this customization and how predictive of sales success it is. Why then, might you ask, do we offer both a customized and a non-customized version at our pricing/sign-up page and what are the differences? The intent of this article is to explain how they differ so that prospective clients can make an informed decision.

Similarities

So where are they the same?  Firstly, the test that candidates complete and the entire candidate experience are identical. Secondly, the reporting format of test results is also identical. This is the case whether the service is used for sales or non-sales roles. Thirdly, you also have the flexibility to test for as many different roles as you require. Fourth, it is just as ‘scalable’ in its set up, meaning that we can set up access for multiple managers. Finally, our legendary customer service is also just as legendary for both.

Differences

From a functional perspective there is really only one important difference. That is, users of the customized version will have a Suitability Rating on test results. This rating is a score (eg. 80-100% Excellent) that compares the candidate to the specific sets of traits i.e. Target Profiles, necessary for success in that role. These Suitability Rating scores have proven to be highly predictive of sales success. Setting these Target Profiles is a human function that is performed by our trained experts against a backdrop of over 3 decades of sales testing and literally millions of sales assessments.

Users of our customized testing have the ability to communicate to us about the roles for which they are testing. This is done online in your account via our Job Profile Form. We look at this and other pieces of information, such as a job description, employment advertising and your company website. As well, most new clients choose to test their top sales performers so that we may conduct an analysis of their results as an important additional part of the mix.

A key to why this works so well is that we have such a storehouse of knowledge to draw from when we are preparing to set your Target Profiles. Even when we might not have tested sales candidates for roles that are identical to yours, we have most likely tested candidates for roles that are extremely close. It is this deep, relevant and practical experience that accounts for why the resulting Suitability Ratings tend to be so predictive of sales success.

It might surprise you that the second area where the customized version differs has nothing at all to do with the technical issues’ or ’functional aspects’ of the service. This key difference to which I refer is the price per report. More surprisingly, it is the fact that, on a per report basis, the customized version costs significantly less.

Why is this? Here is a link to our pricing page. As you can see, our testing is purchased exclusively in pre-paid blocks, with the non-customized coming in packages of 5, 10 and 15 tests while the customized version comes in minimums of 25 tests, but with the customization included for an unlimited number of roles.

The significance of the lower per report cost is that it fundamentally alters the way to use the testing. Specifically, it means you can affordably test relatively large numbers of candidates very early in the hiring process by having them take the test online prior to actually having to meet them. This capability, coupled with the Suitability Rating score on their test results, lets you know immediately who has high potential and therefore which candidates truly deserve an interview.

While many larger clients do test every single candidate, the majority will give the test to large numbers ‘close to the top of the funnel’ but not to everybody. The point at which it is used in the process tends to vary from client to client. Given the low cost of the customized service, and bearing in mind that the tests do not ‘expire’, many of our clients for the customized version might hire just 3-4 people per year. In this scenario it is not unusual for them to test 20-25 candidates over this time period.

On the other hand, the non-customized version of our service is typically purchased by smaller businesses. These clients might hire one or two people per year and usually choose to have only their short listed candidates take the test. For these clients, not having a Suitability Rating score is not really a problem since the reports still contain all the detail needed to make an informed decision. Besides, they are welcome to give us a call for us for guidance and advice.

Conclusion

Given the challenges and risks inherent in hiring sales people I believe both levels of our service offer tremendous value. No matter the size of your organization, sales hiring mistakes are very expensive mistakes!

I do hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have any questions I would be very pleased to hear from you and would welcome the opportunity to learn about your particular hiring challenges. I’m happy to share what we have learned and I promise to be very frank and forthright in any of our conversations.

High Assertiveness = Closing Sales

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Here at SalesTestOnline.com we’re given the opportunity to evaluate large numbers of top sales people within a wide ranging and highly varied group of sales forces. Name the service or product, and we’ve probably tested many successful sales people who sell it.

Sales roles do differ considerably of course, so the criteria for what it means to be a successful rep can vary a lot from role to role. These differences aside, nothing is a more fundamental definition of sales success than closing the sale.

Since sales closers are the ones who ‘put food on the table’ so to speak, management is always interested in better understanding the commonalities among these closers with the end goal of hiring more of the same. This of course means we often find ourselves discussing the traits of their top closers based on the findings of our sales assessment test.

We do our utmost to make them understand that when it comes to the traits of top closers, it is about the combinations of traits and how they work together that ultimately matters. As well, that while these trait drives are critical and important, they are just one factor among many that determines success. Put simply, when it comes to why someone is likely to be successful there are no easy answers.

That said, in my experience, hiring managers really appreciate it when they’re able to zero in on a single indicator that tends to predict sales success. So with qualifiers mentioned, this article is about that single indicator, a high level of assertiveness.

One of the pitfalls of talking about personality traits and other characteristics is that many of the terms one references mean different things to different people. As we define it, assertiveness refers to a need for control, competitiveness, self-motivation, drive, dominance, ego and the need to make one’s own decisions and to be in charge.   Therefore, when we say that they have a high level of this trait drive it means they are authoritative types who can be assertive in putting forth their ideas, they are dominant in the sense of wanting to be in charge and have a real need to control their own destiny and to make their own decisions. Tending to thrive on competition, they are motivated by being measured, whether against others or against goals. Their competitiveness and large egos mean they have a very strong sense of self worth and a need to win. As well, they tend to think big with little concern about risk and will be highly motivated by, and responsive to, commission and incentive based compensation.

In study after study of top sales closers, the majority and often the vast majority, possessed a high level of assertiveness. This holds true not only for most kinds of B2B sales but also many kinds of B2C sales. What the reps are selling and whether it is a tangible or non-tangible seems to make little difference. Sales force size also has no bearing on the results. Below are a few examples:

  1. Home improvement service sold to homeowners: Of the top 30 closers just under 70% had high assertiveness
  2. Business consulting sold to senior executives: 75% of the top sales closers had high assertiveness.
  3. Real estate investment sold to high net worth individuals: 60% had high assertiveness.
  4. Telecom services for business: 80% had high assertiveness
  5. Educational Services sold to individuals: 55% had high assertiveness.

What’s more, while these numbers show the clear relationship between high assertive and top closers there is one other factor that adds weight to the assertiveness equals closing argument. That is, many of those reps that are not in the ‘high assertiveness category’ actually have ‘moderately high assertiveness’. In other words, just because a rep does not have high assertiveness it does not necessarily mean that his assertiveness is low.   In fact when you combine these two groups, the ‘highs and the moderately highs’ they vastly outnumber those with low assertiveness in every single case.

Many would have you believe that traits and personality have nothing, or at least very little, to do with sales success. They would prefer you to believe that the determination of potential success is exclusively about training reps, imparting product knowledge and having reps follow specific systems, methods and procedures. Our data and our experience demonstrate clearly that traits matter a lot.

Are you using a sales personality test to identify candidate traits and fit? If not, then you are essentially operating blind and failing to measure a critical predictor of sales success. Unacceptably high costs, wasted time and money due to hiring mistakes will be the inevitable result.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so and you’d like to explore a solution I would enjoy having a frank conversation with you. Please feel free to email me directly at dave@salestestonline.com

Sales Assessment Test Pricing

imagesAccording to conventional wisdom, one should not put pricing on their website. There are many reasons for this thinking, but basically they boil down to the idea that, unless the prospect has had a discussion with you in order for you to explain the value of your offering, then the pricing is meaningless. As well, when your price is right out front for all to see then some prospects (suspects?) will just focus on the price and will shop around to save a couple of bucks.

I don’t know about you but these days when I’m researching a service I don’t really want to talk to a rep until I am very seriously interested. For this reason, if the website wastes my time by not fully explaining things and does not have the information necessary to understand the offering, the last thing I am likely to do is waste my time conversing with a sales rep, whether about price or otherwise. It seems to me that it is just showing common courtesy and above all respect for the prospect’s time to have a website that clearly explains what you do and the value of what you do. In my view, this includes the price of what you do!

Therefore, since I determine what appears on our website, you will notice that the price of our sales assessment tests is right here on this pricing page for all to see.

You will also notice that we do not offer single sales tests and only offer our testing in pre-paid blocks with a sliding discount that offers lower per-evaluation costs for larger quantities.

Why are single assessments not offered? The reasons are quite simple really. Our goal is to keep the cost of our sales tests extremely low, which in turn will mean they will be liberally used and in particular they will be used very early in the hiring process. In this article we discuss the pros and cons of rather expensive sales assessment tests and how they do not get used because hiring managers are woeful about ‘wasting’ these expensive tests on candidates who are not ‘test-worthy’. Another common issue we’ve found with small companies is their tendency to test just one candidate per open position. The problem with this is that the hiring manager’s mind is already made up about the candidate. In fact, they should have tested their top 3-5 people so as to compare candidates and to use the information to probe into the relative merits of each. By purchasing a small block of tests they’re able to do this quickly, efficiently and very economically.

Sales testing shouldn’t be like that expensive tool or appliance you never touch for fear of breaking it, or like the sofa your grandmother kept permanently covered in plastic. No, our belief is that a sales test isn’t much good unless it actually gets used. Therefore, our pricing makes this happen! So if you’re actually interested in using a sales test because you want to hire winners then I’d love to hear from you.

Please feel free to get in touch. As always I would be more than pleased to learn about your particular sales hiring challenges. I promise to be very forthright in my comments and I am pleased to share what I can.