Sales hiring is one of the most important tasks an organization undertakes. For the record, I have personally hired a countless number of successful—and not so successful—sales people. In many organizations it's the role hired most often; usually in field locations far from any hiring process oversight. Because of this, it is easy to become complacent and stray from established hiring process disciplines. Your sales team is the face-to-face embodiment of your brand and may be your one-and-only chance to convey your organization’s capabilities to potential buyers. An inappropriate sales hire, who misrepresents your company image, can cause significant damage to your business.
Only 54% of Chief Sales Officers Are Satisfied With Their Sales Hiring Results
According to a recent CSO Insights survey of approximately 2,000 Chief Sales Officers, only 54 percent reported satisfaction (met or exceeded expectations) with their new sales hires. In spite of this satisfaction rate, 68 percent of executives planned on adding sales personnel and 93 percent planned on raising individual quotas for 2012. The question: How do you hire a high performing sales team with a greater probability of success?
Increase Your Success By Using Statistical Interviewing Techniques
Statistical interviewing methods attempt to minimize interviewer subjectivity and bias. The benefits of this method were first introduced by Paul Meehl in his book Clinical vs. Statistical Prediction: A Theoretical Analysis and a Review of the Evidence in 1954. Meehl's research, as well as the subsequent research of others, clearly shows that predictions based on simple statistical scoring were generally more accurate than predictions based on perceived expert judgment.
Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University has furthered Meehl’s research in his recent book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman details the general phenomenon he called the illusion of validity. In this case, the illusion of validity was the interviewer’s false belief in the reliability of their own judgment; believing they could predict the performance of a recruit after only a brief, 15 minute informal conversation.
In Kahneman’s study, he didn’t allow the interviewers to engage in free-ranging conversations with the recruits. Instead, they were required to ask a standard list of factual questions. The answers were converted to numerical scores and entered into formulas measuring the recruits aptitude for the various roles. When the predictions under the new system were compared to actual performance several months later, the results showed the new system was much better at predicting results.
Five Steps to Developing Your Own Standard Sales Hiring Interview Template
Step 1 - Decide what 4 to 6 personal traits are important for your sales team members to possess. Use a team approach for trait development to avoid building the trait profile in the image of the creator. Keep your selling process and your buyer’s buying process in mind as you determine the desired top traits. Consider using Talent Analytics' tools and dashboards providing comparative data to current top sales performers and teaming considerations. Create a formula weighting each trait for its relative importance.
Step 2 - Train your interviewers on the importance of adhering to the standardized interview questionnaire.
Step 3 - Create several factual work and life evidential questions (3 to 5 per trait) to measure interviewee responses. Score each response and enter the score into your weighted traits selection formula.
Step 4 - Stack rank your sales candidates and make your employment offers. Avoid the temptation to overrule your formulaic results with any subjectivity or personal biases.
Step 5 - Revisit your sales hiring “formula” periodically to adapt to changing sales role requirements and market conditions.
With sales roles becoming increasingly complex, sales organizations need to utilize proven methods to improve their sales hiring success rate. Use the five steps outlined in this article to create an objective interview template for your candidate selection process. Team performance predictors, like the CORE Style and Ambitions Questionnaire from Talent Analytics, can also help validate your statistical scoring results. Read the longer sales hiring article on our website to learn more of how these two valuable hiring concepts can work together to improve your new sales hire success rate.
Read our follow-on post which illustrates the above concepts: Increase Your Sales Hiring Success Rate With This Simple Template
Mike Peters is the managing director of the Whitespace Consulting Group, a global business development strategy firm. The Whitespace Consulting Group has been helping multi-cultural clients optimize their business development strategy since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.