8 Scientific Steps For Hiring The Best Salesperson
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.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.