Opinions can be misleading, particularly when hiring sales talent. It happens all the time: Your first impression of a potential hire was positive, but you realize it’s not a good fit once he or she slides into the role. The résumé looked good, and the interview was great – so what went wrong?
As this situation suggests, sizing up a candidate based on a CV and a conversation doesn’t always yield the best result. We assume that successful salespeople are outgoing go-getters who can talk anyone into anything. While there’s some truth to that stereotype, other sales roles might need less extroversion and more analytical and emotional expertise.
Defaulting to those sales stereotypes can cost teams stellar hires. That said, it’s hard to know how well people will fit into your team until they’re actually doing the job. A data-driven talent management strategy fueled by predictive assessments, however, can bridge some of those gaps in the hiring process by providing objective data to forecast candidate fit more accurately.
Paint a Picture With Data
The average sales manager continues to seek out salesperson archetypes that haven’t been validated for the present or future market. It’s time to change that.
Before talking to a single candidate, you should gather data about the needs of your market and buyers. Over the past decade, customer buying preferences have evolved. As you confront new buying processes that sprout from this evolution, the skills required to succeed in a number of industries — including sales — are also changing. Granular, in-depth market data allows you to comb through the numbers and use targeted metrics to determine what kind of people you need to succeed.
With that data in tow, create a job description and see how it compares to objective data culled about candidates’ natural strengths and talents. Predictive hiring assessments align nicely with this method because of their ability to forecast on-the-job behaviors, outcomes, and other work-related performance criteria. These studies allow you to verify hunches and opinions you develop while reviewing candidate résumés and immediately take action to put the right people in the right positions.
But you shouldn’t stop gathering data once you make a hire. For example, collecting metrics about the performance of hires can help you measure whether your methods attracted the most successful employees. Despite the value of this practice, only one-third of U.S. companies actually measure the success of hires, according to a Harvard Business Review report.
This data is relatively easy to gather, though. It can be as simple as tracking employee retention or asking supervisors whether they’re glad they hired someone. Depending on what the data shows, you may realize the need to change your hiring practices.
Turn Data Into Improved Hiring Decisions
According to the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study, only about 16% of companies feel they have the necessary talent to succeed in the future. As a result, companies are recognizing the value of data in finding the right talent. The same study found that 56% of companies are using predictive assessments to find talent.
Whether you’ve already used data-driven talent management strategies — like predictive assessments — or you want to start, these four steps will help you successfully use data to make better hiring decisions:
1. Reassess your strategy. Sound hiring startbegins understanding the changing sales market and buyer. Once you have that knowledge, think about whether your tried-and-true market strategies, sales processes, or value propositions need to change. If they’re outdated, take the time to update each hiring profile to reflect those shifts. This will ensure you find the sales talent you need to succeed today and in the future.
2. Use a variety of methods. To truly improve the quality of your hiring decisions, don’t just rely on the typical interview process. Instead, use a combination of screening and selection tools such as structured interviews, simulations, and predictive assessments. The combined data provided by these methods will allow you to predict more accurately whether a candidate will be the right fit.
3. Structure your interviews. You can’t replace an interview with assessments, but you can alter the process to provide more objective data about interviewees. Stick to questions that predict good hires, asking about past performance or behavior that’s relevant to the specific duties of the job. Most importantly, make sure you ask the same questions to every candidate so you can compare their responses to find the best hire.
4. Reduce bias with data. One of the greatest benefits of objective data is that it’s unaffected by bias. Interviews tend to be biased because the interviewer decides how to interpret answers — often on the fly. With data, though, hiring managers don’t have to rely on their subjective opinions of candidates to make decisions. Instead, they can use the objective results of assessments to find successful candidates easily and accurately.
It’s time to rethink how we hire salespeople. A good résumé and interview are no longer enough. If you want better sales results, you need to hone your hiring process. Collect and evaluate relevant data, and you’ll soon have a team overflowing with great hires.
Wendy Mack has consulted with leaders for more than 20 years, helping them transform their organizations and drive revenue growth by engaging, aligning, and unleashing their team’s talent. As managing director at GrowthPlay, she leads the teams responsible for research, product development, and delivery.