Recently I've been called on to do a number of interviews for sales candidates for my clients around the country. Actually, I cannot remember a time when I've done more interviews in the same time period....so either more people are moving jobs, or more agencies are poised for growth and looking to add to their sales teams.
My interviewing is solely based on the candidates behavior....not their experience. Don't get me wrong...their experience is vitally important, but I leave that to the hiring manager to assess. We use a tool call the Extended DISC Behavioral Assessment in order to measure the sales candidates behavior, and to guide us during the interview process. I have been certified to administer and interpret the results, and have overseen thousands of these assessments over the years. The resulting behavioral profile is very accurate and is helpful not only in the interview, but also in determining what kind of support this candidate will need if hired.
In two recent situations, my clients hired against my recommendations, that is....they hired candidates I felt they should have passed on. In both situations the candidates themselves were nice people, with relevant industry experience....yet their behavior showed the high potential for them to struggle to meet goals in this industry. I wasn't aware of either of these hires at the time....after submitting my report and consulting with the hiring manager, I left it to them to decide. You can easily see the cost of behaviorally vetting a sales candidate here.
Months later, I was made aware that these candidates had been hired and were now struggling to achieve success. Both agencies decided to engage me to personally coach these reps for a 3 month period (the minimum necessary to achieve sales growth and set the rep up for long term success). While I recommended neither candidate, it is still my responsibility to provide the best coaching and support possible for any candidate I'm entrusted to work with. The key point to understand the cost differential between vetting and coaching. You can see the cost of a 3 month coaching contract here.
The spend is 10x higher for coaching than it is for vetting. I can tell you that in one of these agencies, the rep is showing progress and will likely make it....although I suspect that continued coaching will be necessary for a period of time to "cement" the current results. 3 months is a fair amount of time to show progress, but someone with a behavioral profile that shows lack of focus and closing ability is going to need more time and attention (from us or the agency sales manager) to make sure the results achieved the first 90 days are not fleeting. The jury is still out for agency #2 but the current results don't hold the same promise as agency #1.
What is the moral of the story?
Behavior is a reliable indicator of sales performance in any industry. Understanding it inside of the interview process can assist you in making better sales hires, as well as avoid those that will likely drain your resources and never achieve "sales payback". While we are happy to take up and coach any rep assigned to us, your coaching and training dollars are better spent having a good rep turned into a top performer with some fine tuning, rather than attempting to save a rep who probably should have been passed on in the first place.
If you're going to make 10x the spend on a sales rep, it's wise to invest it in someone ideally suited for the role, rather than someone we are trying to make fit into a role they may never truly embrace.