ACTG Sales Management Blog

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What to Trust When Evaluating Sales Performance and Talent

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Sep 06, 2016

When evaluating sales performance - past, present and future - it’s difficult to figure out what information or data to trust when making decisions.  Just like investments where past performance is not a guarantee of future results, past sales performance does not guarantee anything for the future.  It gives you some, not all, insight into sales results, but it doesn’t tell you how the result was created.

Pipeline analysis (a great performance management tool) is a lagging indicator that can be used to uncover previous sales activity and give you some indication of future sales, but there are problems with that data point:

  • The sales person might be putting in data just to keep you off their back
  • Unless your pipeline is mapped properly with check points,
    then the probability of opportunities is subjective, not certain.
  • If the CRM being used does not provide reporting on conversion ratios from one sales step to the next, you certainly don’t have information needed for intentional coaching.

gang.jpg

Linda and I went to a “box store” to find appliances for a townhouse we had purchased.  We needed to replace all four major kitchen pieces: dishwasher, refrigerator, range/oven and microwave. We were working with a salesman and we were getting close to making a selection between models.  As Linda and the salesman were talking, Linda asked me to search for the ratings on the appliances.  This is what I found:

  • Refrigerator/freezer – 4.3 – 1,200 ratings
  • Range/oven – 4.2 – 2,000 ratings
  • Dishwasher – 3.2 – 1,600 ratings

I hadn’t looked up the rating yet when Linda asked me what I found out.  I reported the 4.3 and the 4.2; however, as I reported the 3.2 on the dishwasher, the salesman stepped back into the conversation and asked what the 3.2 was.  I told him it was the rating on the dishwasher based on 1,600 customer ratings.  His response was “You cannot rely on those ratings.  Those ratings are based on this model two years ago when it first came out – this is a newer version of the model.”

It was so hard for me to not reply with, “So I should trust the 4.3 and the 4.2, but not the 3.2?”  I didn’t want to go there because I know how I get when I challenge someone trying to sell me something. I'm a pain in the *ss.  I cannot help it when a salesman screws up the opportunity to handle something the right way and fails.  But, that’s not my point here.  My point here in this story for this article is this:

Your salesperson, and any sales candidate you are interviewing, will also refute anything negative you ask about, but will never debate the positives.

And that is a problem if you are not aware of that and deal with it when it happens.  Case in point.  We use Objective Management Group for evaluating both sales teams that exists today and future talent to hire.  The tool has been “tested” hundreds of thousands of times and is the most consistent and reliable sales talent evaluation on the planet.  (check it out)

With this business tool, we find a mix of things that are supportive of successful selling:  Strong desire, commitment, responsibility, and sales DNA.  And there are findings that indicate hindrances to successful selling:  lack of skills in consultative selling, asking questions, hunting, closing, and qualifying skills.

Time and time again, when we review the results with the sales manager or the sales person and we ask, “What did you think?”, most of the time we can count on the following:

  • I thought it was interesting.
  • I’ve taken lots of these in the past and you just have to take the results with a grain of salt.
  • I thought it was dead on.
  • I thought the findings really depend on different situations; some of the questions didn’t fit the way I sell.
  • There were a lot of things I agree with and a couple of things I didn’t understand or agree with.

We ask the sales person to then discuss the finding they want to talk about first.  Almost 100% of the time, they will want to talk about the things they disagree with. Obviously, those are the things that are viewed as “negative”.  Never, not once ever in over 20 years, has someone gone to desire, commitment, responsibility, hunting or closing findings that are positive and said,  “I don’t agree with this.  I’m really not committed, I don't have desire for success in sales, I make excuses when I fail, I suck at prospecting and I can’t even close a door.”

NOT EVER!

What they all want to focus on is the 3.2 rating to try and convince me that the negative findings cannot be true, BUT all those positive things, “Yep, that’s me.”

So, there you go.  Your salespeople, as well as the candidates, will do their best to convince you that all the positive data and outputs are accurate and true, but anything negative can be explained away.

Buyer beware!

Additional Resources:

Topics: Sales Tracking, sales management, sales assessments

Hiring The Right People Improves Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Nov 11, 2011

There is a saying in sports; “You can lose with great people but you cannot win without them.”  This theory applies to business, and winning in business starts with a winning sales team.  

Let’s return to the sports application first.  Theo Epstein was the general manager for the Boston Red Sox.  The Chicago Cubs hired him away from the Red Sox and his first item of business to address is the hiring of a new manager for the club.  

Below is an excerpt of a recent article about the process he is going through to get the right person for the job.  Earlier in the week, he had made it clear that one of most important criteria for the job was that the candidate MUST HAVE major league managerial or coaching experience.

One media person inquired what type of attributes Epstein is looking for in a manager.

"In the real world, it's hard to find a candidate that has everything you're looking for," Epstein said. "What you do is you weigh your variables and make your sacrifices where you have to. Often times, if you're going to take a candidate without previous managerial experience, even at the minor league level, he has to represent real upside in other areas. In that case, you have to do even more due diligence than you normally would because you're projecting him into that role."

One of the talked about candidates early in the selection process was Ryne Sandberg.  Below is his stellar baseball resume. 

Ryne Dee Sandberg (Ryno)

Positions: Second Baseman and Third Baseman 
Bats: Right, Throws: Right 
Height: 6' 1", Weight: 175 lb.
Born: September 181959 in Spokane, WA (Age 52) 
High School: North Central (Spokane, WA)
Drafted
 by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round of the 1978 amateur draft.
Signed June 15, 1978. (All Transactions)
Debut: September 2, 1981 
Teams (by GP): Cubs/Phillies 1981-1997
Final Game: September 28, 1997 
Inducted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA as Player in 2005 (393/516 ballots).

I won't list his stats - induction into the baseball players Hall of Fame speaks for itself.  The one thing that is missing is managerial or coaching experience at the major league level.  He was never interviewed for the position. 

The point here is that Epstein had a profile for the position and he stuck with it, regardless of the star qualities of Sandberg. 

The lessons in this story for senior sales executives include:

  • You must know exactly what qualities the candidate must have
  • You must communicate this to likely candidates
  • You must not be swayed by other experience "outside" your profile
  • You can consider other experience but consider the downside
  • You must be prepared for a "project" if you hire outside your profile

Finding the exact right candidate is a long shot no matter what the position.  As Epstein points out, you have to weigh all the information and consider what you are willing to sacrifice.  As you prepare to "upgrade your sales staff", follow these steps for Sales Talent Acquisition and improve your probability for success:

  1. Build a profile for the IDEAL Candidate
  2. Communicate that profile to "attract" the right candidate (in ads, etc)
  3. Screen (assess) the candidate before interviewing the candidate
  4. Create screening and interviewing processes that simulate the environment in which the candidate will have to perform
  5. Make the candidate sell you, DO NOT sell the candidate on the position
  6. Have a detailed communication process in place so that once hired, the candidate knows "exactly" what the objectives and expectations are.
  7. Have a very tight and detailed on - boarding process that ALL candidates go through regardless of their experience.
  8. Inspect what you expect for the first 180 days of their employment

Following these steps will improve your probability for recruiting and sales success.  To help you begin, try this Free 3 Day Express Screen Trial (select the "Sales Candidate" option).

                                   Sales Screen Trial

Topics: hiring sales people, sales talent acquisition, improving sales, sales people, sales candidates, sales assessments

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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