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How Much Emphasis Should be Placed on the Results of a Sales Assessment Test?0

The Pipeline Guest Post – David Pearce

Trying to distill the answer to the question of how much emphasis to place on the test down to some numerical answer really misses the point and attempts to simplify and quantify a process that can only be quantified to a degree. An applicant may “numerically” be a good fit because he has the right “scores” on the various components (including our test) of your hiring system but he may be someone you still should not hire. Conversely an individual may be weak in one or some areas (including the sales assessment) but you should probably still hire the person.

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When you are using a Sales Assessment Test in your hiring decisions, how much of your decision should be based on the results of the test? Most prospects and new clients wonder about the degree of emphasis they should place on the test when they are hiring. Some are looking for quite definitive answers to the question-30%, 50% etc. Like a lot of the answers to questions related to testing, the answer begins with “it depends”. It depends on how suitable the person is in the other areas that the sales assessment does not measure.

If it is true that “gut-feel” should not be the only thing that you rely on when hiring, it is just as true that scientific tools like tests should not be the sole factor. If hiring sales people is an art and a science then a balanced approach that relies on “gut-feel” as part of the decision makes sense. There are things that are highly important that no sales assessment test can measure. An example would be “likeability”. An applicant may have all the “scores” he needs to be considered a good hire but he just turns you off. If that is how you react to him, won’t a lot of your customers feel the same way? Another example might be an applicant’s affinity or “love” of the product/industry? For example, what if you sell cars and you have two applicants for a position, one of whom whose test scores are weak but who just loves cars and everything about them? I suggest that the “car lover” might be the one to hire because once he is in an environment that fits his passion he will be likely to stick with the job and work to overcome his shortcomings.

A sales assessment test measures the person’s potential. As such it measures what a person “can do” not what they “will do”. As you know there are a lot of people with high potential who do very little with that potential. Conversely there are a lot of people with seemingly little potential who get an awful lot done and are very successful because they use whatever they do have very well.

Fortunately or unfortunately people are complicated. View the sales assessment test for what it is, a tool to perform a specific function. As a tool it is of course not the only tool. Like all tools it works best when used with other tools that are performing their intended purpose. Depending on the particular hiring challenge you face, you should be prepared to adjust the relative importance of the sales assessment test to suit your needs.

About David Pearce

David Pearce is the President of SalesTestOnline.com. Established in 1986, SalesTestOnline.com is North America’s #1 provider of pre employment assessment testing of sales candidates as well as sales profiling tools used to evaluate sales employees for sales competency. SalesTestOnline.com has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our personality sales test to measure sales aptitude when hiring. Our online sales assessment test is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.

 

Musical Chairs Sales Style – Sales eXecution 2944

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

babies in chairs

A few posts back I wrote about experience, and how it can either be a ceiling or a springboard to further success, all determined by the individual’s outlook and the route each rep chooses. On a corporate or organizational level, experience and how it is viewed and leveraged can be significant factor. The corporate version of the experience factor, unfolds more like a game we played as kid, and one it seems many sales leaders are still playing – musical chairs.

There are a number of verticals where leaders are fixated more on “industry experience” than “sales experience”; maybe more accurately “product experience” vs. “sales success”. Let’s face it while in the aforementioned piece we assumed experience equalled success, in reality it does not. I have said this before, there is a difference between 15 years of growth, development and improvement, and the same year 15 times over.

While in theory seeking and choosing “experience” may sound right, it often does not turn out as planned. Real “rock stars” rarely have a reason to move, at times there extenuating circumstances, there may be some financial incentives, but those are outside the bell curve. Meaning those available are usually the B players, not the worst, but they come with luggage.

From my vantage point, here is how it looks. At the start of an engagement, I’ll ask the teams I am working with to give me a bit of background. Time and again, a number of the “more experienced” reps will tell me that they have been in the industry for 16 years, starting off with company A, then moving to B for a spell, and now they are with Company C. It is also not unusual to have some say that this is their second go around with Company C, and we are not talking scenarios where this may be a result of industry consolidation.

I get why the individual has moved around, what I don’t get is why the companies are hiring them. Some say that it was for the “book” of business, never works out clients are smarter than that, they know who delivers the service day to day.

I had one leader in the wireless space tell me that the product and pricing is so complex, that the learning curve is too big. Right! What do most of you think will be easier:

A.   Teach a product guy how to sell effectively in a competitive and evolving market
B.   Teach or support a great seller product specs and/or pricing plans

I’ll take B, all day long.

One of the underlying causes for this is the propensity among sales leaders to want be at full headcount, rather than the right headcount. The solution to almost everything is “we need to add more reps”. Couple that with the tendency to higher fast and fire slow, rather than the other way around, and you have the classic trap.

While not exactly the same as it was in kindergarten, this version of musical chairs, looks for anyone to fill the empty chair, rather than having the right person in the right chair for the right reasons.

Tibor Shanto

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Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Sales Management is not Cloning – Sales eXecution 2660

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Clone not
There has been lots written about the common mistake companies make in selecting new sales managers; specifically the habit of promoting some of their best sales people to the management ranks, whether they are suitable or not. To be fair, the thought behind the move is positive, rewarding deserving contributors, keeping good talent in house, and all that. There are also smart sales people who realise that management is not their first choice, who prefer and make the choice to stay in a sales role, usually with greater career satisfaction and financial rewards.

Adding to the challenge is that often these new managers are not given much help in the transition from being contributors, to effectively leading a sales team. Sure in companies of a certain size or better, they get basic training, you know, how to conduct performance review meetings, do’s and don’ts of harassment, racial sensitivity and other important “things”. But leading a sales team while managing a sales process is another thing, something HR often assumes will be provided by “the sales leadership”. In instances where this happens, it is sometimes worse that no help at all; what happens if the current sales leaders went through the same pattern of evolution, they just perpetuate the model; and the model is one of cloning.

While not isolated to the new managers above, cloning is a common and costly problem. The thought is “I was successful, they made me a manager, and they didn’t give clear direction to the contrary; so they must want me to make my team just like me.” Partially true, “they” do want you the make the team successful, as successful if not more than you were, after all the sign of a strong leader is one who surrounds themselves with people more talented than they. But this rarely means creating “mini me’s”, or even full size “me’s”.

The role of the sales manager, and other sales leaders, is to develop and bring the best out of all their teams. To shape individuals not in their image, (as man did with god), but into the best that their direct reports can be. People who can do that best, are not those who were the best front line reps. Just look and Wayne Gretzky, on the ice and behind the bench. Two different realities, two different results.

The notion that the best managers are those who have done it is simply not right. Most sales people know what they have to do, the challenge is getting them to do it. This requires a different skill set, different methods and tools, than those relied on for being a number 1 rep. Saying “here’s what I did, you can do it too”, is useless.

Every sales leader wants to surround himself with superstars, just as every coach wants a bench full of superstars. But they need to have excelled in the role of a coach. Hire someone who can lead a sales process, who can lead people to execute, the how is secondary.

Again, I understand wanting to reward star sellers, but there are other ways, ways that allow you to avoid leaving a territory short, and a disappointed sales team. The reality is that many of stars made managers often decide to go back in to the field to sell, and because of egos and politics, it is often with another company that is looking for a star, not a future manager or cloner.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Trade Deadline Sales Style0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Jump Start p

Most major sports have significant dates through the year when it comes to proactively developing the team, building a roster that will help you win now and into the future. We just had free agents day in the NHL, and the NBA and the NHL both had their entry draft in June; and all leagues have trade deadline, their last chance to make adjustments as they go into the final stretch of the season. With sales being a team experience at most companies, it is not all that different in this respect, save a couple of key areas.

First, there are no formal dates. While everyone knew well in advance that the NHL’s trade deadline was March 5th, companies do not formally announce such intentions, nor do they set self-imposed time limits for adding or shedding talent. But let there be no doubt sales leaders do review their rosters at critical times in the year. It is common knowledge that January is a time where there is “movement” once people have collected their annual bonuses, but summer is another time of year when you find movement, but this time it is predominantly driven by leaders.

While to many summer represents a lull, real leaders are looking forward, and calculating how they will not only close the year strong, coming out of Labour Day, and how to set things up right for next year. Summer is a good time to conduct a skills inventory and assess where there may be some shortcomings. This goes beyond the typical performance management process that also unfolds mid-year, and goes more to A) who is contributing, B) who is trying and needs to evolve (at times with additional help), and C) who is doing neither.

While some “leaders” feel hampered by their targeted headcount, feeling that if they are at full count there is little they can do other than train. The more enlightened leaders know that it is only a question of time before the C’s have to go (on their own, or with a wee push). Rather than worrying about headcount numbers, they hire the right talent when it presents itself, rather than when they have “cap room”, knowing that the talent may not be when it suits you. Rather than settling for a B or another C, due to timing and being afraid of having a vacant territory for more than week, smart sales leaders pick up the talent when it is available. Which means it is a great time for “the right talent” to go out and market themselves, demonstrate how they can fit in now and into future growth plans. A great opportunity to improve your lot as a seller while contributing to a smart leader’s success, a combination that pays dividends for both.

A key difference between sport GM’s and sales leaders, is the fact that VP’s of Sales cannot trade players for other talent or future considerations. Personally I think there would be merit if done right. I have seen people flourish and struggle based on leadership, product comp plans and other factors. But I think I may be the lone voice on that idea, or maybe not, what do you think?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

2014 Annual magazine with “Top Universities for Professional Sales Education” listing0

2014 Annual

In 2007, fewer than 30 universities had recognized sales programs. In 2014, the number has grown to close to 100, evidence of the success of sales programs in educating the next generation of sales professionals. One key factor driving that growth has to go to the good folks at the The Sales Education Foundation and their efforts in bringing attention to this overlooked faculty. In some ways it speaks to a reality that should be of great interest to companies and future professionals.

The average rate of student employment, within three months of graduation, hovers around 50%, sales programs report an average of 92%. Students from sales programs average 2.8 job offers before graduation. Add to that the fact that approximately half of all college of business graduates begin their professional careers in a sales role.

All this adds up to why you need to get a hold of and read the 2014 Annual magazine is housed on the Sales Education Foundation website, www.salesfoundation.org. The magazine includes the listing of “Top Universities for Professional Sales Education.”

As a college recruiter, hiring manager, sales organizations: you’ll find that statistics show sales graduates ramp up 50% faster and turn over 30% less than their non-sales educated peers. Partnering with a university sales programs ensures recruiters and their organizations with a pool of future top sales professionals.

If you are a student, you can research and choose a university that offers Professional Sales programs. Sales graduates report their career satisfaction at over 77%. The average starting salary for a sales representative is over $56,000.00. For those looking to pursue an undergraduate major that virtually guarantees employment, professional selling is the program of choice.

University looking to start a program, or connect with other programs, the “Top” listing provides contact information for these programs.
I had the opportunity to be introduced to the Sales Education Foundation, as a result of working with Dawn Deeter-Schmelz, Director, National Strategic Selling Institute, Kansas State University, where I had the pleasure of presenting during their Sales Week this past February.

The Sales Education Foundation’ tag line is ELEVATING THE SALES PROFESSION, something we should all get behind. Grab the Annual, get involved in make our profession an profession everyone aspires to be and improve.

Small Business Week – BNN Interview (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

This week is Small Business Week in Canada, as part of that BNN, Canada’s business news television network is running features highlighting the Canadian small business space, and looking at trend and advice for the small business community.

 

On Monday I had the pleasure of discussing how small business owners approach hiring sales talent, what works, and what they should avoid.

 

Take a look, and as always, share your thoughts, leave a comment.

 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Sales Apprenticeship – Sales eXchange 2122

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

apprentice

Sales like any other craft takes practice, evaluation, more practice, repeated coaching, and just when we think we have it down, we need to practice some more; and then things change, which means we get to practice some more.

I recently saw Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and Mastery, discussing what it takes to become a master at something. One thing he pointed to was the effectiveness of the “apprenticeship” programs developed as far back as the middle ages. Specifically, that the years of apprenticing, the constant practice of the craft, led to the critical number of 10,000 hours of active practice and execution that led to mastering the craft. A concept later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell.  Of course those who truly mastered their craft kept practicing and improving throughout their career, building on the 10,000 hour base, not resting on it.

Consider that in North America, there is an average 1,760 hours of active sales time. Add to that many studies peg the amount of active selling time for B2B reps from a low of 15% to somewhere just under 50%. Going with the 50% range, it means that a committed sales person will take almost 12 years full time selling to hit that 10,000 hour mark.

Given that most sales people are only evaluated by the results, rather than the quality of the effort, it often clouds how effective their apprenticeship is. Often they make quota for reasons other than sales ability, market conditions, weak or easy quotas, and more. Many sales people are unleashed on the buying public well before they are ready to succeed for their clients, companies, and most importantly for themselves.

Add to that many are offered little training or leadership in their formidable years (which again could be their first 12 years on the job). Based on stats, only about half of B2B companies offer formal sales raining, and some that think they are delivering sales training, are in fact focused on product training, or order processing training. You can find other interesting stats by reading Why a Lack of Sales Training is Hurting Your Company–and What to Do About It.

Many sales leaders who don’t hesitate to cuss out the manager of their favourite sports team for being slack on training or practice, will regularly tell me that their people do not require training, “my people have five, ten, 12 years of experience”. When I ask if that is ten years of continuous growth and improvement, or the same year ten times over, I either get a silent look or the door. None of which changes the fact that only about 60% of reps made their quota based on the latest studies. Many of those are repeat achievers, and still employed by the same company. On an individual level, very few sales people will pick up and read a sales book a year, and then put into practice the things they read, next time you are interviewing the next superstar, ask them what the last book they read was.

The great thing about apprenticeship is it was a proactive approach to ensuring one was qualified based on practice and experience and supervised coaching, all leading to the perpetuation of the craft and a flow of qualified craftsman. Something available and mandatory for other mission critical roles in most enterprises in the form of Continuing Education, often tied to licences and keeping their job. A standard that would not be bad for sales either.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

 

Protecting New Recruits From The Mediocre Masses – Sales eXchange 2110

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

Many in sales buy into, or more accurately, settle for the 80/20 rule, one example would be 20% of a company’s reps generating 80% of sales.  This post is less about disputing or validating the accuracy of the rule, if you want that, download The Shanto Principle; but more about how to ensure that your new recruits develop to be the 20%.  AT the same time, you can you use the same tactics to move from the 80% group delivering just 20% of the revenues, to the 20% club, the group that makes a difference.

Let’s look at a new rep joining a company, being social critters they want to fit in, be part of the team (part of the crowd, easy to hide in a crowd), they look around the office and take in the atmosphere.  Part of the ritual, is talking to their colleagues, getting the lay of the land, “how are things done around here?”

So who is likely to be in the office, who is likely to have time to just “talk”, rather than being out at client/prospect meetings; who lacks the discipline to not stop what they had scheduled, and shoot the breeze with the new guy?  You guessed it, the members of the 80% club.  The 20% club is too busy being out and driving revenues.

This is not to say that the 20% club members are not willing to help a new person out, on the contrary, they do, but they are not in the office, hanging around, they are making things happen.  So for the new team member, they need to make the effort to find and engage with the 20% club members.  In fact this can be an early indicator as to what you hired, how well do they seek out, engage with and model the 20%.

This is why the onboarding process is crucial, managers and organizations must proactively guide and steer new recruits, even experienced sellers, sheltering them from the 80%.

Picture the new recruit in the office with the all-knowing non-producing masses, as he or she stands up to peak out over their cubical walls, and the see the 80% members at their desk, getting ready to prospect, getting ready to learn about the new product, getting ready to go and ask the manager for a further discount so they can win the deal – putting more effort into selling the need to discount than they did selling the prospect on the value, getting ready finish their picks for the pool; for the most part, getting ready.

What is the take away for the new recruit – “hey this is the way they do things around here, if I’m gonna fit it, I best do the same”.

Stepping out to do the things the 20% do requires guidance, or expectation from their manager, and the ability to against the crowd.

Inviting the 20% club members to mentor new recruits not only instills good habits in new team members, but develops future leader in the process.  This in turn can help you increase the quality of the team, and tilt the numbers in your favour, over time, you can move the dial from 80/20, to dare we say it, 70/30.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hiring Efficient Salespeople for Your Small Business2

cc July

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

I think that a lot of us in the business world take sales for granted far more than our predecessors did. These days, it’s easy to assume that a product will sell itself, or that it will be easily marketed via free or cheap avenues like social media. Unfortunately, not all businesses and products will be able to take off this way. Many will still require the expertise of a hungry, willing, and excited salesperson.

It can be argued that people who actually enjoy working in sales for a living are a unique breed. Many of us tend to avoid sales because we don’t like putting pressure on others. But one of a book full of secrets to being a great salesperson is to apply just the right amount of pressure, without the other party realizing what you are doing. So when you run a small business, should you hire someone to do sales for you? Often, the answer is yes.

So how do you go about choosing the right sales person for your business? Hiring people for a sales job can be a bit different than hiring for other types of jobs. Here are a few things to consider:

Resumepeople in the sales business may have a very traditional resume, but in my opinion sales for small business has some room for creativity. In addition to evaluating education and work experience, pay attention to the little details, like how much time they put into creating a resume.

Interview – sales interviews can also be a bit non-traditional. You can ask your potential employee to “sell” you something in your office. I think it’s always a good idea to talk to interviewees about what their hobbies and interests outside of work are, as well. This way, you can see how their chosen career path comes across with their personal life. Their hobbies may be reflective of a driven or adventurous personality, as well.

Past Experience – of course, a sales background is the perfect precursor to a sales job. But does your candidate always need to have an extensive sales background? In small business, maybe not. Knowledge of your industry or product can sometimes substitute for a bit of experience. While you probably don’t want to hire someone who is completely green when it comes to sales, consider other factors, like if the candidate knows the art of the sales, before dismissing a candidate without as much experience as you would prefer.

All in all, hiring is tricky no matter what business you are in. Screen your candidates carefully and consider a trial period before hiring them full-time.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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