Is selling an art or a science? Do new school algorithms and big data trump old fashioned methods such as a charming smile and a firm handshake?
This has become an industry-wide debate, in fact, using more science and data is now a debate across all industries including “Money Ball” in sports or native advertising in marketing.
While the science and data debate persists among salespeople, with each side having valid points, the issue becomes clearer when discussing the best practices of hiring of a salesperson.
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The fact is, while old school sales and hiring techniques are timeless, a hiring manager would be remiss not to use all the latest data, tools, and techniques at their disposal when making a decision as critical as hiring. Bad hires not only affect the company’s bottom line but can ultimately impact the lives of its employees.
Eliot Burdett, CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company, explains that a scientific approach is essential to hiring and that when hiring managers “go with their gut”, it can be a recipe for disaster.
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Why? In the absence of science, subjectivity enters the equation. Methods such as a rigorous and consistent process, using third party psychometric testing, and hiring based on score not feel, have proven to achieve better results.
Burdett offers the following 8 scientific steps proven to hire the best salespeople, a process that has led his company to achieve a success rate 50% higher than the industry average:
1) HAVE A STRUCTURED AND CONSISTENT PROCESS: Everything begins and ends with a consistent hiring process for each and every candidate. This will offer an ‘apples to apples’ comparison and allow the company to determine with the highest degree of certitude who the best hire will be. Multiple interviews involving all stakeholders in the hiring decision should be used for each candidate.
2) REMOVE SUBJECTIVITY, BE OBJECTIVE: Without science, an interviewer’s mood - good or bad - can come into play. The Halo Effect, a cognitive bias based on preconceived notions can also falsely determine the best candidate. Removing subjectivity also has the added benefit of protecting a “green” interviewer who may not yet possess the battle-tested ability to spot salespeople who ‘blow smoke’.
3) EXTENSIVE BACKGROUND RESEARCH: Every person will play up their successes. Were they real or not? Verify everything the candidate claims and cross-reference it to double check. This is an often overlooked step and taking a candidate’s word at face value can lead to a failed hire.
4) CONSTRUCT A HYPOTHESIS AND THEN TEST IT: Determine why the candidate will be successful in the organization. Is it because they have consistently exceeded their quota? Worked in the same industry for years dealing with target buyers? Are they an ‘up-and-comer’ who is hungry to move up the corporate ladder? Then put them through a rigorous test including multiple rounds of behavioral based interviews with trained interviewers, with a focus on the candidate’s experiences, selling approach, personal and professional objectives, and behavioral traits. Look for correlations between a candidate’s selling success, their selling environment, and DNA to determine situational selling results.
5) HIRE BASED ON SCORE NOT FEEL: Create a unique point system using set criteria. Award points if they have met or exceeded their quota for the past five plus years, fit into company culture, and other categories based on a particular role. While certain intangibles don’t always show up in the stat sheet, when it comes to an industry where meeting numbers is king, hiring based on score, not feel, has a proven success rate.
6) USE THIRD PARTY PSYCHOMETRIC AND BEHAVORIAL TESTING: These standardized tests or procedures give insight far beyond what an untrained mind can see. Psychometric tools vary in the degree of formality but have enormous predictive ability.
7) NON-TOKEN REFERENCE CHECKS: Calling a reference and meekly accepting canned answers about how the candidate is a “go-getter” will not get the job done. Dig deeper and really find out about their strengths and weaknesses, why they lost deals, and how they responded. This thorough approach can tip the scales between two finalists.
8) ANALYZE THE RESULTS: Tally up the results and include all the stakeholders in the final decision making process. By making the final decision based on score, not feel, in addition to the stringent, scientific approach listed above, a company will have a much higher success rate when hiring salespeople.
Eliot Burdett is the Co-Founder and CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company launched in 2006.