Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Use Formal Assessments for Top Performers

As highlighted in our 2018 Sales Talent Study, sales organizations have a talent problem – several of them, in fact. For one, the market is changing so rapidly that fewer than 20% of sales leaders believe they have the talent to succeed in the future. Second, positive economic conditions are driving high voluntary attrition, leaving sales organizations with costly gaps to fill.  And finally, sales organizations are over-dependent on a small portion of their sellers.

A full 54% of a sales organization’s revenues are generated by the top 20% of sellers. (Click to tweet)

Despite these issues, few sales organizations (24%) assess their top performers to find out what makes them so successful. This is, however, a much more common practice (86%) among those identified in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study as being “World Class.”

World-Class Organizations run in a systematic fashion and take advantage of data and predictive analytics to make key decisions and drive effectiveness. The talent arena is no different. World-Class Organizations use data collected from predictive and observed/behavioral talent assessments for a range of applications:

  • Hiring. Using data science, predictive assessments can identify the inherent attributes than differentiate your best sellers. With an ideal seller profile identified, organizations can hire sellers who have the propensity to be successful in a specific selling environment.
  • Onboarding. Once the inbound hiring profile is identified, it is easier to create an onboarding approach that optimizes the talent input and allows for individual tailoring. The most effective onboarding programs get sellers up to speed two months faster than less-successful programs. With an average $2MM USD quota for complex sales, a full two months can be highly impactful.
  • Ongoing Development & Coaching. As noted in one of the other World-Class practices, ongoing development is necessary to feed the learning agility and career growth demands of modern sellers. Behavioral assessments can be used to assess what sellers actually say and do effectively. With 180-degree (or more) feedback, this can help enablement drive tailored development and help managers focus their coaching efforts. Given an average span of control of 8-10 sellers in a large organization, this can provide important leverage for leaders to scale their efforts.
  • Career Progression In/Out. Finally, talent data can be used to help sellers evolve along their careers. Some will want to move into management, and predictive data can help identify those who may be a better fit. Most, however, will not desire a management career and choose to stay in frontline sales roles. It is important to keep those sellers engaged by providing them with ancillary opportunities (e.g., mentoring others, serving on advisory boards, representing new products). Of course, no matter the talent approach, attrition at some level remains a fact of selling. Be sure to take advantage of that data, too, in order to calibrate your hiring assessments and ideal candidate profiles.

Select sales talent assessments based on how you will use the data. Not all of them serve the same purpose. (Click to tweet)

When utilizing formal assessments, consider what kind of data you want to collect and what instruments are best suited for the desired application. Predictive assessments can be used to identify the inherent talents and attributes of an individual or how they are wired to work. Such assessments can be useful in situations where you want to assess individuals not currently in role. For example  job applicants or those serving in one sales role (small business inside sales) who may be considered for a different role (outside enterprise sales). If you want to make any part of a hiring or transition decision based on such a tool, make sure that it is legally defensible according to the labor laws in your geography.

Observed/behavioral assessments can be effective in determining what sellers are actually saying and doing on the job. Of course, there may be a natural bias toward over-rating in a self-assessment. Such tools work best when conducted as a multi-rater and take into account the points of view of the manager or even peers and customers. Where a predictive assessment does not change over time, the results of a behavioral assessment may change because of enablement efforts. Therefore, you can use behavioral or observed assessments to establish baselines and measure progress against key skills or competencies.

The key is to collect and treat such data as you would any other sales data. Collect it with intention, protect it, keep it maintained, and use it in combination with other data sources.


Questions for you:

  • What kind of talent data do you have access to?
  • What assessment instruments could you use to supplement your talent data?
  • How do you leverage talent data in order to drive decisions?
  • How have your approaches to hiring, development, etc. changed over the past two years?

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