Revenue Partners Blog errors hiring sales executives

It’s every Sales Managers’ dream to have a team brimming with A players who shoot the lights out, month after month. In reality, teams comprise mostly B players, with some A and a serving of C.

And when it comes to improving performance, training and coaching can only take you so far. If the person you’ve hired for the job, fundamentally lacks the ability or aptitude to cut it in your environment, there’s simply no remedy… and so, the arduous task of performance management begins.

What’s the fix to solve this time, revenue, and morale sapping ordeal? It all begins with hiring.

One of the five pillars in high-performing Sales Organisations is Pillar 3: Sales Talent. And when it comes to Sales Talent, our work at RevenuePartners, frequently entails reviewing our clients’ hiring processes and deploying scientific methods of assessment.

In the course of this work, we’ve been in a unique position to observe common gaps in hiring. We sat down with Chantal Snelling, Senior Psychometrist at RevenuePartners to get her insights on where companies should be focusing to plug these gaps and hire more A-Players.

On average, how extensive are the hiring processes of clients you’ve worked with? 

The vast majority of the clients we work with already have hiring processes in place. The problem is, the hiring process is a chain with many links, when one of those links is weak or missing, it can cause real problems and become a costly exercise if not done correctly.

Looking at some of these ‘weak links’ in the chain, where do you advise companies focus first? 

I’d say the starting point is a role profile. Many companies have role profiles written up but, in some cases, they are too brief, or they don’t consider a weighted approach to exactly what the Sales Rep is required to do on a day-to-day basis, or the role profile is simply out of date. For example, if you consider the massive shift we’ve seen to remote selling – the tasks and competencies for a Sales Rep may have changed significantly.

I can’t over-emphasise the importance of job ads. Your company is looking to hire top performers, and so your job ad needs to appeal to that calibre of person. And if you’ve designed a rigorous hiring process – one that will demand a lot of time and effort from applicants – then you need to show sufficient value in the job ad in terms of the value offered by your company and the position, to ensure they stick with the process and see it through. Importantly your job ad also needs to provide candidates with an accurate picture of exactly what the job entails, (such as what they would be doing day-to-day) to ensure that you are attracting the best-matched candidates from the start.

Then when it comes to screening, you want to make sure you’re weeding out non-fit candidates early on in the process. So here we help our clients to create pre-interview assignments that both test for competencies and filter candidates. We also use Psychometric Assessment Screens as a cost-effective and scientific tool to save Managers a lot of time at this point in the hiring process.

So, after the organisation has refined their role profiles, job ads and screening process, what’s next?

Basically, there are three essential areas that must be tested to give you a holistic view of the candidate:

  • Firstly, cognition, meaning their intelligence.
  • Secondly their personality, referring to the individual’s preferences – what they prefer to do.
  • And thirdly, their behaviour – in other words, their competence to perform in the role.

A comprehensive hiring process must take each of these three factors into account by testing the candidate and importantly, by removing subjectivity in as far as possible.

And I think that’s where some companies fall short, by not being rigorous enough and applying scientific measurement to all three of these factors.

Can you walk us through how companies can measure these factors?

If you’re looking at cognitive intelligence that the person needs to have to perform – be it mathematical ability to calculate complex proposals, or verbal ability to form and translate logical thoughts into sentences – interviewers can use the GRT-2 Assessment offered by RevenuePartners to test the candidate’s verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning ability.

For personality testing you’re looking to gauge the individual’s innate preferences – for example, their approach to planning and time management, their like or dislike of close supervision, their resilience in response to rejection, etc. The POP7 Psychometric Assessment we offer assesses Sales Reps against Competitive Sales DNA factors and is the only assessment to provide ‘Predictor of Performance’ and ‘Predictor of Retention’ scores.

Finally, to test competence you’re looking at role plays, assignments and reference checks to validate the candidate’s ability to perform in your particular role.

What’s important here is to combine the results from testing these three outcomes with your interviews to gain an overall picture of the candidate and predict job performance.

In hiring Sales Reps, role plays are typically used to try and simulate a real-life sales interaction. How effective have you found role plays to be?

The topic of role plays is an interesting one, because not all role plays are created equal.

In many instances companies either use role plays in which they construct a hypothetical situation involving their solutions for the candidate and interviewer to engage, or they’ll ask the candidate for some details on the current solutions they’re selling and will base the role play on that context.

These types of role plays often fail to deliver a true test of how the Rep performs in your specific sales context, because in most cases the responses the interviewer is looking for are fairly superficial – it will typically be things like how the Rep handles rejection or push back, if they’re able to ask the right questions and how tenacious they are in tackling objections. The panel will assess the candidate’s performance along with factors such as likability, smarts, and confidence – with each interviewer focusing on their particular area of interest or concern.

This results in a high level of subjectivity and often fails to shed light on important skills and requirements for the job.

Where we help our clients, is through the development of case study-driven role plays designed to test a range of specific competencies, coupled with weighted scorecards that all interviewers use to rate the candidate across numerous areas with predetermined criteria.

By using weighted scores, with inputs from numerous raters throughout the hiring process from start to finish, we’re able to remove a high level of subjectivity while ensuring key competencies are not overlooked.

Most companies perform reference checks on candidates, are there other methods that are effective in flagging misrepresentation and dishonesty?

Misrepresentation can be a big problem and for many reasons. Candidates applying for your position may be doing so because they’re currently under performance management in their current roles; or they may be out of work – so because the stakes are high, they may misrepresent or falsify information on their CVs or in the interview to try to get the job.

We’ve found it’s essential to collect as much ‘evidence’ to validate claims made by candidates. For example, if a candidate has told you that they were a top performer and achieved various targets and earned commissions, it’s advisable to ask them for a copy of their IRP 5, to validate their earnings and commissions.

Another area to check is the CV, so a couple of calls to companies where they previously worked to confirm their stated start and end dates is important.

Another area that requires rigorous due diligence is the reference contacts. Where employees have not performed well in previous positions, you’ll typically find that they provide references of a peer or adjacent Manager, instead of their direct Line Manager. So before you contact the reference, it’s advisable to call the company to ascertain the reporting structure and whether the reference contact details you were given, are those of the correct Manager.

As a further check, our Psychometric Assessments have a built-in warning system that alerts us when a candidate is answering questions to show themselves in a more positive light relative to their true innate nature.

Using our Assessment Report together with the interview questions (tailored to each candidate within the Report), the interviewer can then follow up with the individual, to clarify why they answered those questions in a particular manner.

Finally, are there any considerations when it comes to being more purposeful in linking hiring to onboarding?

It’s nearly impossible to find the ‘perfect’ person for a position. While they may score well in the majority of competencies for your role, there may be some factors that need improvement. The onboarding process is essential to not only orientate the new hire in the position and equip them with the right company and product knowledge – onboarding (and further training or coaching) is also essential to shore up any weak areas.

For example, a Rep who aced their interview maybe weak at Excel – a tool used by your company to build proposals – and one that is essential for good performance in their role. Or they may be naturally introverted and may need coaching and encouragement to blossom. This is an area where interview score-carding and the coaching guides contained in our Psychometric Assessment reports can support HR and Sales Managers, in helping to comprehensively onboard candidates and get them hitting target sooner.