How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Sales Performance -- Part 2

Another key reason why companies suffer from 80/20 performance is their processes for hiring, training and managing salespeople rely almost entirely upon subjective information. Think about it:

  • What are resumes? They are an individual's subjective portrayal of their capabilities and experiences.
  • What occurs during an interview? Interviewees attempt to package their responses to questions in a manner that will make the best impression. Meanwhile, interviewers are forming personal opinions about candidates' qualifications for the position.
I'm not suggesting that subjective information is useless. Subjective information is a valid and valuable component of any "people decision". However, if decisions based solely upon subjective information produce an undesirable result 80 percent of the time, doesn't it make sense to consider making a change?

One way to introduce objective information into the sales recruiting process is through specialized sales assessment tests. I'm not referring to personality or behavioral tests like Myers-Briggs or DISC. Those types of tools can be useful for learning how to communicate more effectively with someone. However, I have not found them to be useful for predicting whether someone will succeed in sales.

The specialized sales assessment tests that I'm referring to identify an individual's strength or weakness in the following areas:

  • Sales Drive: Does the individual enjoy presenting, persuading, negotiating, and motivating others?
  • Emotional Toughness: How rapidly does the individual rebound from rejection and sales cycle roadblocks?
  • Reasoning Ability: Does the individual ask good questions? Can they dissect answers and pick out the pieces that will help advance the conversation toward a desired end result?
  • Service Drive: How interested is the individual in building relationships and helping others?
  • Assertiveness: How self-assured is the individual? How effective are they at convincing others to take action?
  • Attitude: Does the individual perceive a glass to be half-empty or half-full?
  • Communication Skills: How precisely does the individual communicate, both verbally and in writing?
  • Competitiveness: How competitive is the individual?
  • Energy: Is the individual always "on the go", or do they need to be prodded into action?
  • Independence: How readily does the individual accept direction from others?
  • Learning Rate: How rapidly does the individual learn new information?
  • Tolerance for Administration: How willing is the individual to perform administrative activities?
Specialized sales assessment tests can also help existing salespeople that are struggling. How? First, they can be used to determine whether these individuals should be in sales. If an individual doesn't have the talents required for sales success, there may be other roles in your organization where their talents and interests can be applied to mutual benefit. If no such positions are available, the kindest thing you can do is let them go. Why? Because it is no fun to continue to struggle in a job that is a poor fit!

Second, specialized sales assessment tests can help identify each salesperson's unique training needs. Here is an example:

Two salespeople, Beth and Bill, work for the same company. Beth is weak in Sales Drive, which makes her reluctant to ask for orders. Bill is weak in Emotional Toughness, which makes him sensitive to rejection and limits his prospecting effectiveness. If Beth and Bill go through the same sales skills training course, how much improvement in performance should their employer expect to see?

The answer is little or none. Why? Because Beth and Bill have completely different training needs that will not be addressed by basic sales skills training.

Beth would benefit the most from attending an assertiveness training class. She also needs coaching to help her recognize that failing to ask for orders denies her customers valuable solutions to costly business problems.

Bill needs to learn to not take rejection personally. He could also benefit from training that teaches positive thinking and other motivational techniques.

Unfortunately, unless Beth's and Bill's unique training needs are identified, and targeted training is supplied to address those specific needs, there isn't much reason to expect their performance to improve.

Conclusion

Many "80/20" performance disparities result from an over-reliance on subjective information when making salesperson hiring and management decisions. The proposed solution is to add objective information (gathered via specialized sales assessment tests) to "people decision" processes. This one change can help companies increase the proportion of top performers on their sales teams and improve the performance of existing sales team members.

Copyright 2005 -- Alan Rigg

Sales performance expert Alan Rigg is the author of How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling: Why Most Salespeople Don't Perform and What to Do About It. To learn more about his book and sign up for more FREE sales and sales management tips, visit http://www.8020performance.com.

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