Authored by Scott Runkle, SPI Sales Consultant
SPI attended the Sales Management Association’s fourth annual Sales Force Productivity Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Held each fall, the conference serves as the centerpiece of the Sales Management Association’s event calendar, with topics ranging from sales strategy, alignment and operations effectiveness to motivation, incentives and organic growth priorities.
SPI executives, Dave Christofaro, Director of Sales Talent Optimization, and Dr. Shane Douthitt, Director of Sales Talent Analytics, gave the keynote presentation at the conference. They focused on how sales leaders could overcome the odds, meet or exceed goals and increase ROI, providing the audience with a clear understanding of how to objectively assess sales talent and measure the ROI of sales training and enablement. Mr. Christofaro and Dr. Douthitt also led an interactive workshop and presented a concurrent session titled “Increase the Quality of Sales Hires by up to 67 percent.”
Mr. Christofaro identified two themes that arose for him during his time at the conference: (1) the overuse of the word “analytics” and (2) weak foundations.
“It seems that the biggest struggle for a sales executive seeking a solution best aligned with their company’s strategic initiatives would be the huge amount of vendors marketing their platform as analytics-based,” states Mr. Christofaro. “The overuse creates confusion on what analytics really are.” There are four levels of analytics - gap analysis, correlation, regression and structural equations modeling; only structural equations modeling shows causation. As can be seen in the figure below, the other approaches are based on guesses and assumptions but not truly driven by data nor analytics.
Next, Mr. Christofaro recalls a conversation he had at the conference with a head of sales in which the gentleman fully admitted that the criteria/model by which his company had to develop or hire people was weak. “Unless you start with a sales competency model, then you have a weak foundation,” says Mr. Christofaro. “If you’re using an off-the-shelf personality assessment for sales hiring, you have a weak foundation. If you’re trying to develop people and you haven’t defined what good looks like, you have a weak foundation. We urge companies to put in place a role-based sales competency model (strong foundation). That’s the starting point for everything related to sales talent.”
With regards to the sales competency model portion of the presentation, Mr. Christofaro noted that many attendees were seeking the silver bullet; several asked which competencies were most important. “A one-size-fits-all competency model is flawed. It’s important to keep in mind that each company is unique, and its competency model should be as well,” affirms Mr. Christofaro.
When working with its clients, SPI assesses and analyzes a team to statistically identify critical competencies for that particular team. During the conference discussion, it was apparent that the majority of attendees conducted personality assessments, a few tested on knowledge and even fewer used behavioral assessments (and these were never tailored for the business). “In essence, it’s as if these individuals are saying that they’re going to take whatever shoes you give them and wear those even though they aren’t individualized to the company or the role,” says Mr. Christofaro. “So you’re starting with a flawed, generic model rather than defining what size shoes you should wear and using that as the basis moving forward. Sales initiatives based off of a weak foundation won’t be effective.”
When SPI discussed hiring new sales talent, it was evident that most of the attendees conducted unstructured interviews, utilizing either random questions or a generic personality assessment. SPI warned of the ineffectiveness of unstructured interviews. According to Mr. Christofaro, “You might as well take a coin out of your pocket and flip it because the likelihood that you’ll find the right person is as statistically good. This analogy really resonated with the audience and we saw many heads nod in agreement.”
The solution to weak foundations and flawed models? A truly analytics-driven, one-size-fits-ONE approach (based on structural equations modeling). SPI’s approach uniquely identifies the specific causal drivers of sales performance for each organization. Through advanced analytics, sales leaders can statistically prove, based on analytics, which sales and leadership competencies drive business results. With this powerful insight, sales leaders can provide targeted development plans for each individual to accelerate and optimize business results and ROI. Isn’t that what everyone is truly seeking?
To learn more, visit: global.spisales.com/TalentOptimization