Don’t Ask This Interview Question

I haven’t heard of this one but it is intriguing:

To boost the chances of preventing that hiring misstep, there’s one easy tactic everyone should take in an interview: Stop asking candidates to evaluate their own abilities.

Here’s why. Underskilled candidates consistently overrate their abilities, and more skilled candidates consistently underrate their abilities. There’s even a name for this: the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychological research finding that the poorest performers are the least aware of their own incompetence.

So I’m immediately left questioning why?  Are highly-skilled salespeople awash in humility?  I don’t think so and neither does the author.

Top performers set higher standards for their own performance, so they judge themselves more harshly than low performers.

Bullseye.  I couldn’t agree more with that statement.  We see this effect in our objective assessments often with top performers.  An interesting aspect is that they often have lower self-esteem.  It isn’t that they are shrinking violets…to the contrary, they set high standards and always strive to reach higher.  They have a drive that says I could have done better or I can do more.  It is counter-intuitive to me and took quite some time to understand this effect.

Don’t be put-off by a sales candidate who doesn’t project a booming confidence.  Trust the assessment and dig down to find out what motivates them to succeed.

Contact us if you want to learn more about how our assessments can drastically improve your sales hiring.

The Psychology Of Color

This is a little off the curve, but it’s Friday and I thought it was interesting.  From a MyeVideo blog post:

Color psychology, apart from studying physiological reactions to colors, also studies the cultural aspect of color use – the traditional deep-seated patterns in people’s minds that differ across the globe. Thanks to symbolism and psychology, we can target specific audiences that a certain product is meant for, thus achieving more meaningful sales results.

So the money question is what do the color represent?  Here they are:

Red – excitement, strength, passion, speed, danger

Blue – trust, belonging, freshness

Yellow – warmth, happiness, joy, cowardice

Orange – playfulness, warmth, liveliness

Green – nature, freshness, growth, abundance

Purple – classiness, spirituality, dignity

Pink – gentleness, kindness, safeness

Gold – prestige, luxury

Silver – prestige, coldness

White – moral purity, holiness, innocence, youth, gentleness

Black – sophistication, elegance, mystery

More Bad Ad Writing

Just saw this title to a sales position ad (emphasis mine):

Regional Sales Manager Job

“Job”…seriously?  Don’t do this in your ads.  Salespeople, especially young salespeople, are looking for opportunities, careers, even a path.  If you promote the position as a job, you will instantly limit the perspective, or upside, of the position.

Cultural Qualifying

I ran into an old coworker, whom I consider a good friend, at a coffee shop this Friday morning.  He is the VP of Sales with 75 or so direct reports.  His company is international with a majority of their revenue occurring in Asia.

He was telling me about sales training he held for the entire sales team.  The focus was on negotiating and, more specifically, how to ask the right questions to qualify the opportunity.  The Asian sales reps balked at some of the questions based solely on their approach to qualifying.  Let’s just say they prefer to take a more passive, unquestioning approach which leads to prayer rug forecasts and lower revenue.

Obviously there are some cultural issues when it comes to qualifying.  Anyone who has been to Japan knows that there are certain formalities you have to follow to honor your counterparts.  However, I would argue that the qualifying issue is an individual issue.  At the risk of sounding overly simple, sales is a difficult profession that requires a skill set that is uncommon to the majority of the population.

The training that my friend provided was not provocative, excessive nor “risky.”  It was simply communication made clear by a sound questioning strategy.  This approach is the essence of qualifying.  It spans cultures.  It leads to the important point that if you are attempting to hire stronger salespeople, you must incorporate an assessment to get an x-ray of the salesperson’s abilities.  Do they have the right mix of talent and motivation to ask the difficult questions required for successful selling?

If you are looking for a solution, we can help.

Objectivity Trumps Bias

We are all biased, it is simply how we are wired no matter what people believe.  Our brains have the innate ability to categorize – a distinct survival mechanism for sure.  This ability becomes problematic in the hiring process as hiring managers can often be influenced by their own biases when making hiring decisions.  To be blunt, hiring managers are prewired to clone themselves in their hires.

So what of this?  Does it matter?  If your hiring manager is strong, especially a sales manager, wouldn’t it be best to clone them?

No.  End of post…ok, I won’t be so short.  The key to successful hiring, especially as it pertains to sales hiring, is to maintain objectivity for as long as possible in your process.  This is part of the process we teach to companies as they move to improve and strengthen their sales hiring results.  The key to objectivity is that it trumps bias.  It provides a rational, unemotional view of a candidate before our natural biases and intuition can start forming our decision.

Some thoughts on how to improve the objectivity in your process:

  1. Your first contact with the candidate should be a phone interview.  The phone is a natural barrier that removes visual biases.  When done correctly, you would be shocked at how much you can learn about a candidate during a 30 min. phone call.
  2. Secondly, use an online assessment to “x-ray” the candidates communication style, motivations, aptitudes, skills, etc.  This is self-serving, but it may be the most critical step in the process.  The computer is unbiased to a fault.  The information provides a look into the candidate’s abilities in a way that is next to impossible to deceive.  The right tools can provide more information about an external candidate than you probably know about your current team!
  3. Lastly, use a team approach to the first interview – more people, more viewpoints, less bias.  I am a strong proponent of team interviews, especially in the sales world.  Each person on the hiring side of the table will have a slightly different take on the candidate and their responses, fit, approach, etc.  This is valuable as the team can debrief after each initial interview.  The secondary benefit is that it puts pressure on the candidate.  The candidates that handle this pressure and excel are noteworthy and memorable.  They are the ones to give strong consideration to for moving forward in your process.

If you incorporate those 3 concepts into your hiring process, I guarantee you will improve your objectivity immensely.  The increased objectivity will lead to stronger hires with far fewer misalignments on your growing team.

Managing Paradoxes

From the Herman Trend Alert email newsletter (sorry, no link):

Agile Thinking Skills. In this period of sustained economic and political uncertainty, and, agile thinking and the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is vital. In industries that face significant regulatory and environmental challenges, including life sciences, and energy and mining, the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is especially important—72 percent and 71 percent respectively, compared with 55 percent for the overall population of respondents. To succeed in the changing marketplace of the future, HR executives also placed a high premium on innovative thinking (46.0 percent), dealing with complexity and managing paradoxes (42.9 percent).

I couldn’t agree more with them – “agile thinking” is critical in the today’s world.  Everything is moving faster which inevitably leads to change.  The best candidates we assess have strong scores in these agile areas – Practical Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Using Common Sense, Intuitive Decision Making – these are all measurable traits that help identify the strongest candidate.

So much has changed over the past decade that it is problematic that companies continue to use outdated hiring models.  There are better tools today, tools that will provide more insight into an external candidate that what you may know about an existing employee!  May I suggest you test drive one of these assessments to see the power behind them?  Contact me if you would like to see what is available today.

5 Tips For Hiring A Sales Manager

This Selling Power article is a quick, solid read.  The 5 tips are all on point with this one being my favorite:

2) Metrics without context. Your candidate noted that his or her team closed $2 million in sales last year. That’s great. But what was the quota? What were the expectations? Was this half of what your potential new hire and the team were expected to do? Or did they not only exceed quota, but also outperform every other sales team at the company? Don’t rely on metrics alone; your candidate should provide context that tells the whole story.

So much of resume information is devoid of context yet many hiring managers buy into the information.  Every candidate seems to have some remarkable numbers/statistics/results in their resume, but far fewer provide the context to define the success they claim.  Always look for this information in the resume.  If you have a candidate that you would like to pursue, it is certainly a good practice to contact that candidate and ask for clarification.

Overpaid Jobs?

I grow tired of these comparison articles that look at pay for positions based on the median.  It is almost impossible to compare roles across companies, markets, industries, etc.  However, there is always one position within a company that takes the main blow…CEO.  I’ve been fortunate to work with quite a few highly-skilled CEO’s and been provided the opportunity to see their typical day.  The CEO position is extremely difficult even in the “easiest” of positions.

So here comes Salary.com with The 8 Most Overpaid & Underpaid Jobs.  And, of course, CEO’s are one of the overpaid positions.

A good CEO helps an organization meet its goals, improves profits, makes shareholders happy, and is worth his or her weight in gold. Unfortunately, bad CEOs seem to be worth their weight in gold too. And the really, really bad ones are paid astronomical amounts for the inconvenience of being fired. With this sky-high median salary, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect pay-for-performance.

Really?  Pay-for-performance isn’t in play for CEO’s?  How about news anchors on failing networks?  Or movie actors involved in multiple flops?  Those are huge salaries for people who do not head up companies that employ 10’s, 100’s or thousands of people.  Most are adept at what they do and are handsomely compensated for it.  I’m not sure why that is a stumbling block for so many people.

Leadership Jargon

Oh does this Sales & Marketing Management article hit me where I live.  The gist of the article is the corporate speak many leaders use in hopes of sounding…smarter?  I really don’t know why they do it.  I have encountered this approach when working with leaders and their teams.  Assessing teams provides insight into how the team interacts and how the leader interacts with the team.  There are many leaders out there who seem preoccupied with the latest buzzwords and corporate speak.

A waste of time in my opinion.  Apparently the author shares this view:

“My leadership philosophy is to optimally leverage the passions of my people such that at the end of the day we maximize employee engagement to get them to think outside the box and synergistically drive value-added activities in a profit-maximizing way that is a win-win for our people, our shareholders and our customers.”

“It sounds great,” says leadership trainer Mike Figliuolo. “It is polysyllabic. It uses words with long definitions. I have only one question: what the hell does it mean?”

Amen.  I have no idea what that means either and I have heard that type of mush in many interviews.  I prefer this anecdote from the end of the article:

The boss went first, emphasizing the importance of teamwork, trust and having fun. Other participants took their turns and suddenly buzzwords were being tossed out like parade candy. One team member was uncomfortable with the emptiness of what was being said, however, so when it was his turn to speak he said simply, “My leadership philosophy is simple. Say what you mean. Do what you say.” He then turned and took his seat.

Agile Leadership

Here is a Forbes article that hits on a crucial topic for the next generation of leaders – agility (h/t Rick Brimacomb).  Short article but let’s set the table:

For companies to continue succeeding, next generation leaders must be able to handle any curve ball thrown their way. Leading through this new business environment requires the capability to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible. The best way to put it: next generation leaders have to be agile.

Exactly.  The business market moves in rapid, titanic shifts requiring leaders to be nimble and agile to react.  The author’s description:

Agile individuals are motivated by expanding their knowledge, questioning the status quo, and actively migrate towards challenges. They thrive off of solving the difficult problems within the organization, as they believe it mutually benefits themself and the company.

I have worked extensively with a couple of leaders that fit this description and they are impressive to observe.  In my experience, they possess not only the agility described above but also an anticipation of what is coming.  When you combine anticipation with agility, you find a powerful leader who can move his or her company successfully through the ever-changing and evolving marketplace.

As they say, read the entire article.