However, according to experts at Sales Performance International (SPI), many sales leaders are making hiring decisions based solely on gut instinct. As Dave Christofaro points out in his blog post about aligning sales talent with business goals, sales leaders go astray when they
- Use the subjective feedback from interviewers to inform hiring decisions, and
- Use a previous track record of success to predict success at your company.
Neither of these metrics account for the unique way your company operates. As Christofaro says, there are “many cause-and-effect elements that impact success in your company, in your markets, for your products, and for your customers.” When you base your decisions on your best guess for who will perform best at your company, you leave performance improvement to chance and open yourself up to slow ramp up periods and potentially high turnover rates.
What’s the alternative? SPI CEO Keith Eades, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SPI, who will be speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 27, says a useful question is, “What do your salespeople actually need to be good at?”
“Until you’re able to answer this question with a valid response, most of the investments in performance improvement are largely educated guesswork,” Eades writes in his session description.
To improve your hiring and professional development decisions, take the following three steps.
- Define your sales competencies.
Examine the traits of the salespeople who consistently meet or exceed quota each month in your organization. What are the characteristics your salespeople need to generate leads, prospect, and close deals? What does “good” look like in your organization?
- Apply advanced analytics to customize those competencies.
Today, sales leaders can leverage data to match competencies to organizational goals. For example, SPI’s Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) approach identifies the cause-effect relationships between certain skill sets and a company’s quantitative business objectives. As Dave Christofaro writes, this approach “can statistically identify the knowledge and behavior that set top-performers apart from the rest of their team.”
- Focus learning and development on critical sales competencies.
This overall approach has significant benefits beyond the hiring process. Organizations can also use the same data-driven model (on an ongoing basis) to align sales training much more precisely with goals of the business. The result is more focused training and development with much faster ROI.
The results are often extremely effective. According to Aberdeen Group, best-in-class sales teams that leverage data and analytics were able to increase team quota attainment by 12.3 percent year-over-year (compared to one percent for an average company) and increase average deal size by eight percent year-over-year (compared to 0.8 percent).
To learn more, join SPI at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 27-28. Keith Eades’ session will take place at 10:50 a.m. on Monday, April 27.