Tl;dr - Sales hiring and recruiting is a time-consuming and vexing process; a crapshoot for most companies. A structured process that incorporates effective sales assessment tools to screen every candidate offers a number of significant benefits.
Your Process and Your Skills Are Poor
70% of American men say they are "more intelligent than the average person.1"
100% of business leaders think they are above average at hiring salespeople.2
Here's the problem. Hiring is hard.
You try to gauge who's a strong enough performer to elevate the performance of your team while also being reliable, honest and a good cultural fit.
Hiring for sales is many times harder yet.
You're selecting from among people who are trained to sell themselves. You're investing time that should be focused on other pressing matters, but you have an empty or underperforming territory that's costing you money. So you're going to have happy ears when you encounter a candidate that might be OK.
Once you hire, you'll have to spend time onboarding, training, coaching, and letting the person settle in. If your sales cycle is long, you'll need to be patient to see if they can succeed. If they don't, you'll put them on a performance plan and wait to make a change. In the interim, you'll be too busy to actively recruit for sales - and after all, you hope they'll make it. So then you hesitate to fire because you don't have a replacement.
And the cycle continues.
But it's actually worse than that.
You'll never get ahead because your process almost guarantees that at best you'll hire an average rep.
My friend Andy Miller recently published amazing research on sales hiring3. Here are some key findings:
- Many of your hiring tools are surprisingly ineffective at predicting sales success.
- resumes - 18% predictive of success
- traditional interviews - 18%
- behavioral assessments - 20%
- personality assessments - 22%
- reference checks - 23%
- EQ tests - 23%
- sales skills - 23%
- IQ - 51%
- structured interview with scorecard - 57%
- sales specific, multi measurement assessment - 91%
- Candidates have a say too
- 43% of new hires say the job was misrepresented
- 50% go to Glassdoor first
- 48% of hires come from external sources and 72% of those from social and job boards (not the recruiters you probably turn to for time savings)
The bottom line is that most companies:
- describe their job poorly and therefore attract the wrong candidates
- source candidates where it's convenient and prioritize industry experience over sales chops
- justify hiring based on unreliable indicators
- take a cavalier approach to onboarding
- fail to manage reps to achieve mutual success.
And so, in the end, most sales hiring decisions are made under duress, based on gut feeling.
How Sales Assessment Tools Help
There are three key challenges embedded in the common situation described above.
- Resource constraints - limited time available for recruiting, hiring, and onboarding salespeople
- Lack of predictive validity in methods - making important decisions that impact the company, you, the candidate and their family without real data
- Candidates who are skilled at putting themselves in the most favorable light
Sales assessment tools have the potential to alleviate all three if you use the right ones, and use them correctly.
That means consistently and as part of a structured process.
Let's look at specific ways they can help, and the reasons why it's important to use the right tools, in the right way, at the right time in the process.
11 Reasons You Should Use Sales Assessment Tools with Every Candidate
While each company is different (e.g. role of HR in supporting sales recruiting), there are 11 common reasons why it's beneficial to assess EVERY sales candidate.
- Save time
- Find candidates who will succeed in your environment
- Eliminate your conscious and unconscious bias
- Have a roadmap for the interview
- Save money
- Shorten ramp-up
- Tailor onboarding
- Reduce DEI (diversity/equity/inclusion) liability exposure
- Make continuous recruiting feasible
- Avoid awkward conversations around referral and internal candidate decisions
- Build customized sales management plans
Let's look at each in detail.
1 - Only Interview Candidates Who Will Likely Succeed
The typical process involves sorting through piles of resumes and wasting time trying to judge which candidates might be worth interviewing - a technique that only has 18% predictive validity. The review is time-consuming, as is the time spent on interviews which turn out to be fruitless. By asking every sales candidate to complete an assessment you inherently gauge their degree of interest (will they invest 45 minutes?) and you dramatically reduce fruitless interviews by selecting only candidates with the requisite sales competencies for interview. You'll spend time with those who WILL sell, not just maybe CAN sell. (And even then, if you follow our recommended process, the first step is a 5-minute phone screening.) You'll save time.
2 - Focus on Candidates Well Suited to Your SPECIFIC Environment
Lots of people can sell lots of things yet fail at selling others. Your transaction size, sell cycle, typical decision-maker, degree of competition, and other factors are relatively unique to your business. Someone who successfully sold $1,000 annual payroll compliance poster subscriptions to office managers with a one-call close won't necessarily succeed when selling $5MM engineered capital equipment systems to multi-national Global Directors of Engineering over two-year sales cycles. Sure, the former might prospect effectively for the latter, but freeze when discussing big tickets with high-level folks and fail completely to create compelling reasons to buy and manage complex buying teams through to close.
3 - Don't "Fall in Love"
We're all human and have personal preferences. These could be for alumni from our alma mater, military veterans, or people with certain physical mannerisms. Too often, once we encounter a candidate who flips these switches, we shift our perspective and start to emphasize positives and ignore negatives. The opposite also happens - when we're uncomfortable with someone we may discount positives and emphasize negatives. Starting with an unbiased assessment can save us from ourselves.
4. Know How to Interview
An assessment will help to interview effectively. Even great candidates will have areas of weakness. Knowing them in advance allows you to tailor questions to probe those weaknesses. You'll ask relevant and informed questions rather than routine, formulaic ones.
5. Stop Wasting Money on Recruiters and Mistakes
Don't get me wrong. Great recruiters can play an important role, particularly in very tight talent markets. Most recruiters, though, work hard to sell candidates on your role and hope they're hired - that's their incentive. A structured process of consistent efficient recruiting will keep your talent pipeline full without the expense of recruiting fees. Even more expensive than recruiters, though, is the large cost of bad hires. For a typical capital equipment sales role that's around $500K!
6 - Get Reps Revenue Positive Faster
Depending on your sell cycle, ramp-up time may be as much as a year. Mediocre salespeople will take much longer, and of course, top talent will hit their stride faster. Each day represents an opportunity cost in the territory and carrying cost in compensation and coaching. Select sales candidates who will ramp up faster!
7. Onboard Efficiently
An assessment will provide a roadmap to tailor onboarding. This supports #6 above and also helps to balance resource requirements.
8. Prevent Bias From Creeping In
Companies are eager to eliminate bias in recruiting and hiring. Not only can bias limit the pool of candidates, but also create liability for discrimination claims. An assessment with high predictive validity, used as recommended by the vendor, can solve both. Assessing every candidate prior to reviewing resumes (even with names scrubbed to eliminate bias) results in a pool of likely candidates selected based on objective job performance criteria. (It's important to note that using assessment tools that don't meet these criteria, or in ways that are specifically not recommended, may increase your exposure! Select carefully and use correctly.)
9 - Recruit Every Day
Many poor sales hiring decisions are made under pressure. You've just fired someone (after waiting too long because you didn't have an alternative) and now need to fill an empty territory. Hiring is no different from prospecting. If you only look for business when you need it, and don't keep your pipeline full, you'll experience exaggerated cycles in business - and then you'll take deals you know aren't going to end well, and offer silly discounts. Strong sales teams prospect consistently to build predictable pipelines. An efficient, structured process for recruiting sales candidates offers the same benefits. Even if you don't have open positions or can't create one, finding top candidates lets you create a relationship that you can nurture. Companies don't do this, though, because the typical hiring process is so time-consuming and problematic. Assessments are a key tool in an efficient process that runs consistently.
10 - Make All Sales Hiring Decisions Empirically
You might offer referral fees for employees that bring you candidates who are hired, and you certainly ask friends and employees to recommend folks even if there's no financial incentive. But what happens when you decide to hire some, and not others, and can only shrug when asked to justify your decisions? You'll create resentment and reticence - and you'll have some unpleasant conversations. By assessing every candidate - from job boards, social media, recruiters, referrals, and internal candidates, you establish common, empirical, and clear criteria.
11 - Support Effective Management
A detailed understanding of strengths, weaknesses, and motivating influences helps to quickly structure strong and effective coaching, training and management. Great reps will quickly find their stride with strong management and will value helpful guidance rather than resent inane, ill-suited proforma plans.
The Right Process and the Right Sales Assessment Tools
You may find additional reasons why assessing every candidate benefits your company. And you may use additional assessment tools in your process. Behavioral, personality and other assessments can be important tools to help in assignments once a hiring decision has been made. For instance, based on style, a candidate may fit better with one manager than another.
But here's the bottom line.
An efficient structured process for consistently recruiting, efficiently interviewing, and effectively onboarding improves results and allows you to perform this business-critical function consistently.
A purpose-built sales-specific assessment with independently validated predictive accuracy is an important step that supports great outcomes at numerous points in the process.
1. Most Americans Think That They Have Above Average Intelligence
2. Author's unvalidated point for emphasis
3. Andy Miller, The Science of Hiring Quota Busting Sales Teams