Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sales Selection and Training -- a "DIY" Project?

In a recent Chief Executive Boards International meeting, a member told his Board he'd found a local provider of sales training with which he was very satisfied. The member is the "chief rainmaker" for his own company, despite having not had much, if any, formal sales training before starting his company.

Realizing that he really didn't know how to train sales people, he figured it wasn't a "do it yourself" project and he needed an outside resource to help him. He turned to a local franchisee of one of the nationally-recognized sales training organizations for help.

What he learned next was amazing. The first thing the trainer wanted to do was a set of psychological profiles, to give himself some clues on where to start with each of the several sales people he was to train. He came back to the client, saying: "In the case of one of these people, I can't in good conscience take your money to train him in sales. His psychological makeup is such that he'll never be successful as a sales person. He has multiple deep-seated attitudes and personality traits that will prevent him from succeeding in sales, no matter how much we try to teach him." Not surprisingly, this person was the lowest performer of the group, and part of the client's motivation to hire an outside resource.

This is what psychological profiles are all about -- helping you better predict success, usually of a new hire. Most credible training organizations, especially in sales, will start by assessing the incumbents, thereby establishing a starting point for their respective programs.

The second chapter of this story is currently being written. The CEBI member has gone to the non-performing sales person, shared the results (with which the person fully agreed), and offered him an alternate, more technically-oriented position. It's up to him how this second time "at bat" comes out.
A similar case in my own business coaching practice comes to mind, and offers an additional lesson on the subject of assessments. Assessments themselves are probably not DIY tools, either, despite the fact you can buy and run them online. I once reviewed some already-completed assessments with a client, who was disappointed that a newly-hired "experienced sales person" hadn't delivered any sales of her own. While the assessment instrument was new to me, after drilling down into the individual behavioral metrics, I asked why he had hired this person -- in my view she had few of the attributes of a successful sales person. He referred me to a line in the summary on the 2nd page of the report, saying something like "Jane should capably perform in a sales role." Why did it say that if she was a marginal candidate?

Remember, litigation abounds. If you were the company doing the assessments, would you add to that sentence "but will probably not be very good at it"? I think that's what they meant by "capably" -- perhaps they should have said "just barely". They didn't say "excellent", "outstanding", "in the top quartile", etc. These assessments have their own code words that are best understood by a professional who has seen dozens, if not hundreds, of runs of the same instrument.

So, besides doing assessments of every new hire, particularly sales people, also spend a few extra bucks to have them interpreted by a pro who knows how to read and interpret them for you.

The next chapter of this second story didn't take long -- the client realized he'd made a bad hire, cut his losses, and the lady is off to another place where, hopefully, she has a higher likelihood of success.

If you have ideas or practices that have improved your sales selection or training process, please click "Comments" below and let us know about them.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

1 comment:

  1. We use a testing system for all our sales applicants that we get from The first part is a free test that basically measures money and power, the idea being all great salespeople are interested in these two things. If they pass that, we then give them a more complete test, which I think costs us $45. This gets into a lot more detail, depicts what type of salesperson they will be as well as give coaching on how to manage them to top performance.


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