It’s a little unnerving to look back on a salesperson’s first six months and realize that the interview was that employee’s career highlight. Too often sales leaders make hiring decisions based on how well a candidate performs during an interview, not how well he will perform in the field. Why is it that the salesperson you interviewed doesn’t turn out to be the salesperson you expected? Why does the recently interviewed, newly hired salesperson always seem to be running in ten directions but never bringing in business? Why does he always need to give significant discounts to close the order?
Unfortunately, the interview process is stacked in the favor of the candidate. When you ask a question, you set the stage for the candidate to provide you with the best possible picture of himself. It’s not that the candidate is misleading and dishonest in those answers, but his sole purpose is to convince you to hire him. To counter this, sales leaders need a way to stack the hiring deck in their favor.
There is a recent trend in using cognitive assessments to better understand sales candidates. By understanding cognitive patters of an individual, in addition to personality traits, a sales manager is better able to tell if someone is a good fit for the company and could be a successful salesperson. To understand the solution, it’s important to first look at the many problems built into the typical hiring process.
Personality style and experience are not enough to make an informed hiring decision
Most sales managers make a choice between candidates based on two factors — personality and experience. While they do give a reflection of someone’s past, these two areas are the least likely indicators of a salesperson’s capacity to perform in the future. Just because someone is direct, assertive and relational doesn’t necessarily mean he will be a “self-starter” or handle rejection well. A salesperson’s behavior style only tells you how he will sell. Sales candidates know you’re looking for someone who is a go-getter, confident and friendly. They will maximize those behavior characteristics during the interview because nobody hires people who are lethargic, insecure and distant.
Previous sales experience is great, but can sometimes be misleading
The second component most interviewers look for is whether or not a candidate has a proven track record in sales. Many interview questions revolve around previous work history. “Who were your biggest clients?” “How did you win the #1 Salesperson Award three years in a row?” “How long have you been in sales?” These questions can give some relevant information, but what they really tell you is whether or not a person can sell. From the candidate’s standpoint, these questions provide an excellent platform to tell you all the wonderful things he or she has done in the past—which will always come out sounding pretty impressive.
So, the candidate across your desk is a high-energy, relational sales veteran. There’s not much about him you don’t like. It seems like he’s got everything you’re in the market for. Despite your strong feelings in favor of hiring, you want to be sure, so you run a “personality” assessment on him. It validates your thoughts. The personality assessment tells you he is aggressive, people-oriented and charming. It’s a match if you ever saw one, so you hire him.
Then the unexpected happens — in nine months are you forced to let this same person go. Was the assessment wrong? Probably not. There are over 1000 assessment tools on the market today, and most of them accurately measure what they are designed to measure. The problem has is more one of depth than accuracy. Personality assessments simply do not go deep enough to answer the pertinent questions. Assessing someone’s behavior style will never give definitive answers to the questions “Will this candidate sell?” and “Why does this candidate sell?”
Here are 2 things you need to measure with every sales candidate
The purpose of a sales assessment tool is to provide information not readily visible on the surface. A candidate’s decision-making capacity and personal motivators are two critical components that are not revealed during a job interview question and answer session, but they are essential to evaluating a salesperson’s capacity to perform.
1. Decision-making capacity
Decision-making capacity examines a salesperson’s ability to determine the best course of action that results in outcomes that meet your expectations. A sales candidate that has a great “Type A” personality may not be a good decision-maker. He may not be able to handle rejection, which can lead to prospecting reluctance. He may not have self-starting capacity, which means the sales manager will be constantly pushing him to make calls. Decision-making capacity actually overrides personality style, so even the most energetic, outgoing salesperson can be an underperformer if his decision-making capacity is limited.
Our xPlore Sales Assessment measures decision-making capacity across 75 attributes. Only this type of in-depth assessment can make this type of measurement available to you. You simply cannot get this level of analysis from an interview or background check.
The second critical component that often goes unnoticed and unmeasured is often the most important determining factor to future performance. A salesperson’s core motivation tells you what drives him or her to act. Knowing that a salesperson is driven to act by making money or exerting influence or by knowledge or helping others will tell you when and how he or she is most likely to perform.
Without knowing what motivates a salesperson, you have no way of determining if that employee is going to actually do anything. A person’s motivators typically don’t change, they are engrained very early in life. Therefore, a classic Type-A personality sales rep can fail miserably if they are not motivated by what your specific sales job rewards.
Again, this needs to be assessed with the xPlore Sales Assessment. Ensuring alignment between your candidate’s motivators and what your sales job rewards is critical to success. Without proper alignment, you’ll get lower levels of performance, job dissatisfaction, turnover, and frustrated management.
Sales managers face a tremendous challenge. You must hire the best qualified salespeople, face the cost of training and putting them in the field, and then cross your fingers and hope they succeed. Even with the best résumé, interview, and the assistance of personality tests, it’s far too easy to make a hiring mistake. Measuring a sales rep’s decision-making capacity and core motivators, provides you with a hiring deck stacked in your favor. The result is fewer bad hires and more winners on your sales team.