Recruiting and Hiring Effective Sales People
There are few challenges quite so tiring as
trying to recruit an effective sales force. Because of its
impact on the company's bottom line, selecting the right sales
people is a critical area that
requires a lot of attention. When the sales force does not
achieve the desired results, more sales training programs are established
and the sales representatives with the lowest level of performance are soon
replaced. It seems to be a never ending cycle in which sales
managers see little hope for relief. In most companies, 80% of
the sales seem to come from 20% of the sales force. While the
objective has always been to try to clone the top 30%, that really
never seems to happen. If a competitor manages to target and
hire away those top sales producers, what happens to the bottom
line? There has got to be a better way of finding and
developing the talented sales people we need with more effectiveness than we
Fortunately there is a much better method of
recruiting an effective and more productive sales force.
Before any new options are explored, we really need to take a good
look at exactly what is going wrong with the current process used in
selecting sales people.
In that regard, let's simulate a mock hiring routine in order to
find out where the problems are.
We have run our sales representative ads in the
target market for a month and have narrowed the field to what we
regard as two of the best outside sales candidates. Their names are Joe
Dogre and James Watson.
Joe Dogre presents himself very well during the
interview. He is about 5'9" tall with a slender
appearance. He has thin wire rimmed spectacles and
slightly curly hair. He is neatly dressed in his best blue
pin-stripped suit and his favorite red tie. Joe holds a masters
degree in business administration from a prestigious university and
makes a very favorable impression during the interview.
James Watson has a bachelors degree in business
administration with a major in marketing. James is 6'1"
tall and is slightly overweight, but carries it well with his larger
frame. In order to down play his slightly larger frame,
James is dressed in a gray pin-stripe suite with a dark blue
tie. James is very direct and quick with his responses during
the interview. He is quite enthusiastic about the position and
also makes a favorable impression on the sales manager.
The experience levels between the two sales candidates
are almost identical and it is pretty much a coin toss in deciding
between the two. Joe's resume does seem slightly more
impressive in regards to his accomplishments. His appearance
was slightly more favorable than James' and he seemed perhaps just a
little bit more warm and friendly. The reference checks are
done but little useful information is obtained regarding either
candidate. The fact that Joe has a masters degree tips the
scales more heavily in his favor and Joe is offered the position.
Three months down the road, Joe's sales performance is
less than expected. The training manager reports that Joe
seems to be a little slow and has a problem grasping the material in
the sales training classes. The sales manager has observed the same
thing and figures Joe is a little slow on the learning curve.
Another three months passes and sales are declining in Joe's
territory. The sales manager realizes that it was a mistake to
place Joe in the position to begin with and a new search for a
replacement is initiated. The sales manager wonders if the
next hire will work out any better. He instinctively feels
that there has got to be a better and more reliable way of hiring
sales people. Six months of salary and benefits costs are down
the drain, not to mention training and recruiting cost. There
is also the loss of revenue from the sales that have not been made
and the loss of market share.
The sales manager wonders what he can do to
improve his chances of hiring a top sales performer in the next recruiting
effort. He knows that he missed something with the last
salesman that he hired, but what? There has got to be a better
way than the old trial and error method. The sales manager
knows that if he keeps doing what he has always done, the results
are not likely to change very much. What mistakes were made
and how can they be prevented from happening again?
The first mistakes occurred during the
interview. Very little useful information actually came out of
the interview. The candidate told the sales manager what he
wanted him to hear. Too much emphasis was placed on warm and
fuzzy feelings, visual perceptions and gut feelings. There was
very little objective information obtained prior to making the
hiring decision (read
The Problems With Interviews). Another
problem was that the reference checks did not reveal any real clues
Making Reference Checks Count!) regarding the candidate's
shortcomings. What the sales manager needs is more reliable
and objective information upon which to base his hiring
decisions. The addition of one simple step in the hiring
process could have provided that information and prevented this
hiring mistake from ever being made.
Let's turn back the clock and see if we can make
a better and more informed sales hiring decision. This time we will
do things right. The sales candidates are administered the Sales
Achiever assessment in conjunction with the initial
interview. Their assessment reports will give you a very
good idea of just how much difference there may actually be between
two sales candidates who appear to be very close contenders during an
interview. Clicking on the links below will open up a new
window and allow you to view each candidate's Sales Achiever assessment
report. Simply close or minimize the window to return here.
Joe Dogre's Assessment
James Watson's Assessment
Only after reviewing the sales assessment results do we
realize the full tragedy of the initial hiring mistake. Not
only did Acme Pharmaceuticals hire the wrong applicant, they sent a
star sales candidate out the door and off to their competitors!
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Comparing Sales Candidates
When viewing the Sales Achiever Reports, you
probably noticed the bracketed areas on page 6 of the reports.
Those brackets represent the hiring pattern or benchmarks that were
established by testing Acme Pharmaceutical's top sales
representatives. The objective is to hire more sales people just
like them. James Watson matches the sales pattern very well.
You probably also noticed that there were no interview questions or
personal development recommendations provided in Mr. Watson's
report. That is because he was completely within the sales hiring
pattern so there were no areas of real concern to be explored.
James Watson represents an excellent sales candidate.
We will now turn our attention to Mr. Joe Dogre.
You will see a number of interview questions and personal
development suggestions provided where there are areas of
concern. These are related to the areas where the candidate
has scored outside of the recommended ranges or benchmarks.
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The Mental Aptitudes
It is extremely difficult to accurately predict
sales performance without some measure of mental ability.
Personality measures alone do not give us the complete
picture. For example, if a sales person scores high in Mental
Acuity, and low in Organization, that combination would be somewhat
expected since the individual would have the tendency to think on
his feet. A person that would be low in Mental Acuity could
achieve more balance with a higher score in Organization since he
does not have the same high level of problem solving skills. If
you were to use a sales assessment that did not utilize some type of
measure of intelligence, you would probably fall into the old trap
of looking for sales people with high levels of organization or
planfulness. If you accepted only people with high levels of
planfulness, you could very well be disqualifying some of your most
intelligent applicants. Mental acuity is a very important
measure when it comes to predicting job success.
We can see from Mr. Dogre's score in Mental
Acuity that he is a slow learner and low in problem solving
ability. This is a bit surprising to us since Mr. Dogre looked
so intelligent and holds a Masters Degree. We are normally
going to question this and that is why the interview questions are
provided, so that we can delve deeper into these areas of
concern. Let's face it, appearance is not an indicator of
intelligence. Problem solving ability and critical thinking
skills are not conferred along with a college degree.
The score in Business Terms is a real eye
opener. Since Mr. Dogre holds a MBA, we can be relatively sure
that he did not take advantage of the educational opportunities that
were available to him.
The score in Memory Recall tells us that Joe does
not pay much attention to what is going on in the world around
him. This can be extremely detrimental in sales as far as
prospecting is concerned. Would you really expect him to be
aware of competitive trends and products. What about his
ability to keep up to date with new pharmaceutical products and
their side effects?
Joe's vocabulary is also a liability in his
job. Since he is routinely calling on physicians, we want him
to be acceptable in that role. Unfortunately, he will be
viewed more in the light of a used car salesman by the doctors due
to his low vocabulary skills and associated low mental acuity.
We rarely seek advice or listen to recommendations from people that
we do not regard as being close to our own level of
intelligence. A poor vocabulary is usually associated with
lower levels of mental ability.
The Numerical Perception score is not a real
concern. It is reasonably close to the recommended
range. Joe may be over due for a new set of bifocals.
The score in Mechanical Interest is close enough
to the recommended range so as not to be a real concern.
This concludes the Mental Aptitudes.
Needless to say, there are a lot of concerns and at this point, Mr.
Dogre does not look like an acceptable candidate.
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The Personality Dimensions
The score in energy tells us that Mr. Dogre has a
low level of energy and drive. As he starts his day, his
batteries are only half charged. After three visits with
clients and prospects, he is feeling drained. His get up and
go has got up and went.
The Flexibility score tells us that Joe is not
very adaptive. When schedules change, Joe gets upset and find
it harder than most to adjust to accommodate the change. His
score in Organization and Assertiveness will compound the problem to
the point where he is far to persistent. This can strain
Joe's high level of organization is both a
blessing and a curse. While it helps to balance the low score
in Mental Acuity in some respects, it also makes him a real stickler
for the details to the point of being very bureaucratic, hard headed
Joe's high level of Communication has always been
his greatest asset. Communication is mainly a measure of
sociability. In the mock hiring example, it was his very high
level of sociability that gave the sales manager those warm and
fuzzy feelings which convinced him to hire the best actor instead of
the best candidate.
Emotional Development is mainly a measure of a
person's sense of urgency. As we can see from the report, Mr.
Dogre is extremely patient and tolerant. He does not have much
of a sense of urgency and will wait forever to see results.
The problem is further compounded by his calm nature. In some
circles, Joe would be labeled as motivationally challenged.
Joe is a very assertive individual and prefers to
do things his own way. This is very much of a problem in this
case because Joe is extremely "laid-back" (very calm and
tolerant) and he is also hard headed and obstinate. No matter
how much coaching or direction the sales manager provides, Joe will
end up doing things his own way.
Since Joe is not a competitive individual, he
does not like to compete for sales awards, trips or other
incentives. He does not see life as a competitive struggle for
survival and at best has modest ambitions about getting ahead.
Joe is a very tender minded and sensitive
individual who takes any rejection or criticism quite
personally. He gets his feelings hurt more easily than most
and generally takes longer to get over it. He will need strong
encouragement to help pull himself out of any sales slumps.
The score in Questioning/Probing indicates that
Joe takes things at face value and does not look for possible
objections to overcome.
Joe is basically security motivated. When
he reaches his comfort level, he will not be very responsive to
bonuses, incentives or other commissions.
When we look at the distortion scale, we see that
Mr. Dogre has exaggerated quite a bit regarding his answers on the
personality index. He has exaggerated his standards and has
been very careful to "put down the right answers."
Basically, he has told the company exactly what he thinks the company
wanted to hear. He did the same thing during the interview
with the sales manager. We should also not forget that one of
the reasons he was hired during the mock hiring exercise was that
his resume appeared to be a little stronger than James
Watson's. Individuals that distort on the Achiever assessments
tend to distort in other areas as well, especially on their
resume. Anytime you see a high distortion score, it should
raise a red flag in your mind telling you to dig deeper on the
reference checks and discount the resume for exaggerations.
The previous simulated hiring situation was taken
from a real life experience with a client company. Of course,
the names of the candidates and the name of the company have been
changed to ensure their anonymity. Both candidates were given
the assessment before the interview. The sales manager was so
impressed with the candidates that he did not have either of the
assessment reports processed. He thought he was saving the
company a little money!
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