From the Harvard Business Review Tip of the Day email:

Most companies spend more on hiring in sales than they do in any other part of the organization. With an average annual turnover rate of 25 to 30%, and direct replacement costs ranging from $75,000 to $300,000, there’s a big opportunity for improvement. Here are a few places to start (emphasis mine):

  1. Focus on behaviors. A primary cause of turnover is poor job fit. Consider ramping up assessment tools, simulations, and interviewing techniques to help identify the right people. Or, try temporary positions to assess people on the job before offering a full-time position.
  2. Be clear about the relevant “experience” needed. Make sure that a candidate’s previous experience really aligns with your own market, geography, culture, customer groups, and technologies.
  3. Conduct on-going talent assessments. Salespeople need to constantly adapt their own skills to changing markets and buyer motivations, and managers need to vigilantly track those skills.

If you make only 1 adjustment to your sales hiring process, make the change to using the right sales assessment.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with sales assessment tools for the past 15 years and the reason they are effective is this – they neutralize hiring bias.  Every one of us has natural biases towards ourselves whether we are aware of it or not.  This bias can corrupt a hiring process especially if we are sitting across from a sales candidate with highly-developed people skills.

The beauty of assessments is that they are objective.  When you use them earlier in the hiring process, you maintain objectivity longer which is fundamentally important.  The hiring decision will ultimately come down to a human-based decision which introduces bias.  There is not avoiding that fact.  The key is to limit the bias to candidates that you have objectively assessed and are certain that they have the right blend of behaviors, skills, motivations and aptitudes to be successful in your specific sales role.

If you want to learn more about our unique process, please contact us here.

I’ve written about this phenomenon in the past and I continually encounter it in many sales areas – the allure of experience.  In fact, I just talked to a recruiter from a different part of the country who focuses on sales hiring.  We talked a bit of strategy and I was just dumbfounded.

This gentleman focuses solely on finding someone with as much industry experience as possible.  His primary motivation – find candidates who can bring accounts with them.  No discussion about skills, no behavioral-based questions, no attempt at learning their style and motivation…just simple experience.

I am not even sure if he asks if it was successful experience.

My attempt to move the discussion to skills, talent and motivations was summarily dismissed by him and we ended up having a rather short phone conversation.

This conventional wisdom for sales hiring is persistent today.  My thought is this – what happens when the candidate pool decreases dramatically?  Highly-specific industry experience will not be prevalent.  What then?

Perhaps that is the day I am waiting for.