Better Sales Through Science

Features - Sales & Marketing

Abandon intuition or interview performance when hiring a sales rep. Instead, adopt sales aptitude testing when compiling your sales team.

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How many times have you said (or heard someone in your company say), “Wow, I just know in my gut this person will be a good salesperson.” This is how too many sales managers go about hiring. There’s really no such thing as the “golden gut.” And when you rely on your intuition to hire salespeople, rather than on objective aptitude data, you can end up getting burned.

And this happens all the time. It’s just too easy to hire candidates who seem great in the interview but end up underperforming over time. And right now, when markets are opening back up and your competitors are launching a full-scale comeback, you can’t afford to make a bad hire. 

You really need to hire Hunters. These revenue-producing superstars have the innate ability to develop new business opportunities and close new accounts. The problem is, Hunters are rare and exist in only 20 percent of the population. The only reliable way to snag one is by taking a data-driven scientific approach. 

Sales managers must apply a sales aptitude test early in the hiring process to both capture high-potential candidates and avoid low-potential candidates. Then, follow it up with a well-conducted behavioral interview to get past the candidate’s initial impression and unearth what’s actually under the surface.

Here are seven reasons why data-driven hiring is the only way to go to create a winning sales team.

1. There are lots of sub-par salespeople out there.
    According to HubSpot, 40 percent of all salespeople do not understand customer pain, which plays a large role in the fact that 75 percent of salespeople miss their quotas. If you don’t want to inadvertently hire one of the many smooth-talking duds that fake their way through phone and in-person interviews, you’d better weed them out with a good sales aptitude test.
2. A bad hire simply costs too much.
    The average cost to onboard a new employee is $240,000, according to SalesDrive. Wrong hires account for nearly 80 percent of all turnover rates in business. And when you look at the big picture, you will see that if you onboard a bad hire to your team, you can actually see a bottom line cost that includes the cost of hiring new employees, how much it costs to keep employees on staff, the cost of paying your employees, their severance pay when you let them go, missed business opportunities, and the potential for damage to your company’s reputation and/or client relationships.?
3. Drive matters more than anything else and it’s not easy to identify.
    Drive is the most critical personality trait needed for success in sales. It’s made up of three non-teachable traits: need for achievement, competitiveness, and optimism. A sales aptitude test helps business hiring managers identify this elusive trait in candidates before they hire one.They either have drive or they don’t. And it’s hard to tell if someone has it in an interview. Once you know drive is present, you’ll need to identify and help them sharpen other skills like persuasiveness, resilience, and so forth. However, drive should be the price of entry.
4. Salespeople are masters at fooling you in an interview.
    Too often, the interview is the best sale you will ever see out of your candidate. They are on their best behavior, probing for your pain and promising you the world. But their performance in an interview is not a reliable gauge of whether they will actually be able to sell your products and services. Sales candidates can trick you in all sorts of ways. They use their personality and charisma to build rapport with you. They exaggerate previous results. They say what you want to hear. But in the end, long after you’ve hired them, you realize you were fooled. 
5. It’s too easy to mistake confidence for drive.
    ?There’s nothing wrong with confidence. In fact, it is necessary for success in sales. But as too many hirers have discovered, you can’t rely on the confidence you see in a job interview to steer you toward the right candidate. For one thing, it can be faked and can overshadow true sales aptitude. It can fluctuate. It can go hand in hand with arrogance. Finally, it can manifest in many different ways. It’s easy to overlook qualified candidates because they don’t express confidence in an outward way. Introverts are a good example – and yes, they can be great at sales. 
6.Demonstrated success isn’t always enough.

    You might think that because a candidate has years of sales experience you don’t need a sales test. Not true. What if they have a track record of success with established products with a short sales cycle, yet your product is new and has a long sales cycle What if the products they represent have strong brand recognition and that’s what was doing the heavy lifting? Bottom line: you can’t assume a good track record means the person will be right for you.7. Personality tests are easy to fake. Quite often sale managers use basic personality test to help them hire a salesperson. Unfortunately, these fall short in many ways. They’re not science based. They’re broad, subjective, and inconsistent. Worst of all they can be faked by a candidate angling to get hired. If the question asks the test taker to rate the statement “I am very persuasive” from 1 (not at all like you) to 5 (very much like you), they need to be honest if you’re to get accurate data. In a high-stakes scenario when the candidate is motivated to score well and knows the qualities important for the role for which they are applying, they can shape their responses to fit what the employer is likely seeking, ie. a persuasive person for a sales role. 

Snow Magazine contributor Dr. Christopher Croner is principal at Sales Drive and coauthor (along with Richard Abraham) of the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, which details his research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers.