Aaron Wallis Sales Industry News

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Thursday 29 July 2010

Personality Questionnaires, Psychometric and Skills Testing – How they can (and cannot) add value to your sales recruitment process?

Sales recruitment isn't cheap yet and it’s been calculated that a ‘wrong hire’ costs between 1.75 and 2.5 times the cost of the employee’s annual salary. Poorly made selection decisions can result in lost opportunity, further recruitment costs, extended training and redeployment costs, reduced profile, loss of competitive advantage, damage to image reputation and corporate branding and most importantly the impact on your other team players. Often the ‘wrong hire’ is caused by failure in the recruitment process so it is imperative that you use all of the tools at your disposal to get it right first time.

Current State of Play

The number of people qualified to administer psychometric testing continues to grow as more people obtain certification of competence and qualifications such as the British Psychological Society Level ‘A’ and Level ‘B’.

The availability and accessibility of tests on the internet and through software has increased absurdly over the past few decades. People can now easily be tested anywhere in the world – however, there are a series of issues that must be considered:

a) Employers might only consider applicants that have achieved the highest test scores although those with greater modest abilities may be more appropriate for the job;

b) There is a risk of cheating using online testing whereby the candidate selects another to undertake the test, or indeed use iphones, blackberry’s or the Internet to aid their case (though the major test providers having researched this feel that it is as low as 5%);

c) Confidentiality around the test results must be paramount and must not be used for any other purpose and indeed should be held securely to conform to data protection legislation;

d) Psychometrics should be undertaken in the ‘mother tongue’ of the person taking the test.

Fundamental’ Part of Recruitment

Psychometric, numerical and verbal reasoning testing is an exceptionally useful aid for recruitment that is increasingly seen as an advantageous way of getting a good ‘corporate fit’ with new recruits.

Good testing should have standardized methods of administration and scoring so results can be quantified and compared with what others have achieved under the same conditions on the same tests (know as norm groups).

Personality Questionnaires: To Measure or not to Measure, that is the question?

In theory, psychometric questionnaires or personality questionnaires should be used as a pre-interview measure to help you as an employer to be able to highlight focal points that the candidate should be questioned on during the sales interview. They can even help to offer trigger questions to be used in a follow-up interview – for e.g. someone may appear to be a good networker but their attention to detail might appear to be lacking. This then gives you, as the interviewer an area on which to focus your interview questions upon.

In contrast (depending on the nature of the sales vacancy that you are looking to fill) a number of employers have greater preference upon going through the sales interview process initially and then using the psychometric questionnaire to confirm their own impressions, perceptions and to plan and prepare questions before the second interview.

The combination of competency based interview and objective assessment techniques (such as personality or psychometric questionnaires) is often the best way of predicting an individual’s suitability for a job. However, it should never be forgotten that traditional ‘tried and tested’ recruitment tools such as interviewing and probing the candidate, talking to references and intuition and ‘gut feeling’ are still as valid and important as psychometric methods. Some may further argue that testing before interviewing can result in biased judgement by the interviewer and it can be validly argued that taking a personality questionnaire at the end of the process where it influences a hiring decision is not recommended use. Personality questionnaires should be used as part of the recruitment process and not the recruitment process!

European Union Legislation

The influence of European Union Legislation within sales employment could possibly increase the implications and outcomes that are yet unclear. Currently, membership of the European community allows free movement of labour within the Union. If workers from other EU countries with a different mother tongue or educational standard are required to take tests this may be viewed as acting as a barrier to the free movement of labour within the EU.

Proof Of Achievements And Goals, Are These Of Greater Value?

Some individual’s ability to perform well under pressure during testing is significantly reduced where test scores do not hold true or match up to their full capabilities. Naturally we all have personal strengths and weaknesses and these cannot often be measured by testing procedures. However, a greater understanding of the candidate may be determined more competently through analysis and reflection of previous sales achievements and accomplishments made by the candidate.

Testing Means Nothing Without The Personal Touch

Yes, whilst psychometrics do have a valuable role to play they are most effective when used in conjunction with a competency and biographical interview alongside other exercises to give you a greater insight into the characteristics of the candidate – case studies, team exercises, in-box exercises, etc.

Dangers to be Aware of!

Although there are a great amount of potential benefits involved in testing there are eight areas of concern that have been identified:

1) The Design - Online tests must be tested to ensure that it formats to the same design on the majority of system set-ups and common browsers. Often this means using low resolution colours and small screen sizes. The major test providers will have done this for you.

2) Appropriate or not? - Appropriateness of the test content may be regarded as inappropriate, too difficult, or irrelevant. For instance the testing of an individual’s knowledge of JavaScript would probably be irrelevant for a person seeking employment in telesales for an insurance company.

3) Discrimination - The test may be unfair to some candidates due to their sex, disability, race and age. Direct discrimination is always obvious and always illegal however indirect discrimination is not always as clear to see. For instance testing in Imperial Measures could indirectly discriminate against younger candidates and testing in English homonym usage could discriminate against an individual whose ‘mother tongue’ is not English.

4) Compare It To The Rest- Tests may be scored incorrectly or become invalid if compared against the wrong ‘norm group’ for example comparing the results for a graduate entry role on a ‘management norm group’ rather than a ‘graduate norm group’

5) Validation is Everything – A good test provider should be able to prove how the tests offered were designed and validated. A good personality questionnaire should be validated against at least 1,000 plus individuals from the whole range of the working population. This means that they’re not cheap but don’t be tempted by cheap ‘cosmo polls’ that will do little to increase your hiring accuracy.

6) Don’t Stop Listening to Your Gut Feeling – Adding psychometrics to your recruitment process will make you a more effective recruiter of solid sales staff. However psychometrics should form part of the decision making process and not the decision process. You were given your gut instinct for a reason and how many times has it served you well!?? Even if a candidate does brilliantly in all of your testing if your ‘gut’ says ‘no’ then it’s probably right! Adopting science into your sales recruitment process is right but don’t be too blinded by the science!

To conclude: Psychometric testing is now a fundamental part of recruitment and used by over half of employers in the UK. No longer a pseudo-science highly validated psychometrics will provide a valuable insight into the potential of new employees and can lessen your hiring risk. It may add a few hundred pounds to your recruitment process but could save you tens of thousands of pounds together with a negative impact on your brand, ill feeling within your team and just general angst! In the long run, why take the risk of not adopting personality questionnaires, psychometric and skills testing into your sales recruitment process?

For further information and how Aaron Wallis could help you recruit effective Sales employees please visit http://www.aaronwallis.co.uk/employer_client.php

How to make candidates feel relaxed during a sales interview?

A sales interview is about establishing the candidate’s credentials and identifying if he or she would be a good fit into your organisation taking into account personal characteristics such as presence, aptitude, manner, confidence and ability. It cannot be stressed enough that taking the time before and during an interview to put your potential sales employee at ease will make a considerable different to the outcome of the interview.

Helping the applicant out by preparing them better for the interview will result in them feeling positive and at ease. You as an interviewer will then be able to spend more time on important issues: determining and establishing the candidate’s skill and fit within your culture.

There are numerous methods in which you can help prepare and relax your candidate so here are some simple yet extremely effective methods:

Who We Are and What We Do

Describe the company – give an outline of the nature and history of the company, its products or services, its mission and philosophy and a few unique aspects. You should be able to provide the candidate with an idea of the company’s ‘personality’, culture and what it ‘believes in’. In addition, providing the background and titles of the interviewer(s) will also allow the candidate to feel relaxed.

Ask a ‘Settling Question’

Good candidates will have prepared beforehand and a ‘setting question’ would be something like ‘How much do you know about our business?’ or ‘How much do you know about our Industry?’. This will not only allow you to gauge how much depth you need to go into about your business and industry but will help settle the candidate as they are able to impress by talking fluently about the research on you that they’ve undertaken.

Pardon – What did that mean?

Language used when describing the company or job role should be ‘jargon free’ for easy comprehension, even if you deal within highly specialised work. This will consequently enable the candidate to understand more by not feeling uncomfortable by having to ask what a certain acronym means. Remember that some jargon may only be used by your niche sector or possibly even just your organisation. Also remember that your management speak may not be universally understood. I mentioned to a German candidate once about ‘thinking outside of the box’ and it took him a while to regain his composure as he interpreted it literally and had no idea what I was talking about!

We Are Above Average

Whilst highlighting achievements and company successes, one can cite client successes, awards won and mention employees whom have performed above average. This will demonstrate your commitment and dedication to client satisfaction, your team and its members.

Hand Over Your Brief

Brief candidates on the general outline of the sales interview. Communicate your plan for the flow of the interview, but do explain that this is not rigid. If an interview is based on set questions alone it can sound very boring and dull, particularly if you have both been “practising” ahead of the interview. Plan and have an agenda to ensure that you capture of the required information to interview and benchmark effectively but don’t be afraid to jump around the sections of the agenda for the meeting to be more natural.

However (as I am sure you are already aware) there are some people who have greater experience at being interviewed and it will be down to you to judge how much time to give the interviewee to prepare beforehand – you don’t want to waste their time if they are ready to launch straight into it.

Allow The Candidate To Shine By Getting Them Excited!!!

Throughout the duration of the job interview, help the candidate demonstrate his or her best knowledge, skills and hunger for the job. Start with “small talk” and factoring in a little “getting to know you” time by asking several easier questions until the candidate seems relaxed. This will provide endless benefits for you throughout the interview process.

You can initially look for and question an additional attribute to help the candidate relax: their passion. Find either a project that the candidate recently worked on, or their hobby or interests. The interviewee will probably get very excited – they will talk more quickly, be more animated and hopefully even forget for a moment that they are in an interview. This will highly benefit the candidates who feel very nervous and uncomfortable being in an interview situation. Talking about a passion of theirs will enable them to lose all signs of nervousness.

Admittedly, in an interview situation, the prospective employer and candidate are not equal parties. There is therefore a risk that the candidate will be afraid to be them self, relax or argue with you because you are in a position of power. However, if candidates are given the opportunity to discuss a passion of theirs that you have little knowledge on, they will be given a greater opportunity to demonstrate their selling skills by trying to convince or inform you on a particular subject.

Make Them Feel Comfortable

There is a chance that you may have a candidate who is inexperienced at being in interviewing situations or a person who may suffer from bad nerves. You will be able to make the best of your candidate during the interview (especially those who do suffer from terrible nerves) by creating an aura of relaxation - even if you are feeling the nerves too!

If you are to use any type of recording equipment then make sure the candidate is comfortable with it - explain what you are doing, why you are doing it and exactly how exactly the interview will be recorded and used post-interview. Do not under any circumstance undertake any recording of interviews without obtaining permission from the interviewee.

It Takes Two To Tango

Preparation prior to the interview (for example reviewing and highlighting essential points on the sales interviewee’s CV) will also help you feel at ease. Having two relaxed people talking together will make for a more natural interview. If you are uptight and nervous prior to or during the interview, it is likely to make the candidate nervous too.

Make sure you give yourself 10 minutes prior to the interview so you can gather all the materials necessary for the interview, this will help to reduce your stress state. If you are stressed you have a greater risk of creating havoc for the interview – being prepared and calm will help ensure things go smoothly. Also switch off your own mobile phone, blackberry, etc. and ensure that your team shouldn’t disturb you unless its critical. I had a client once that was checking his emails whilst interviewing and surprise, surprise the candidates wasn’t interested in joining his business!

Don’t Follow Your ABC’s

If you are holding an assessment centre or if a large number of candidates are to be interviewed over a specific period of time (for example over an afternoon), candidates may expect to be interviewed alphabetically by surname. Candidates with surnames that fall at the latter end of the alphabet will expect to be interviewed last. It could be good practice to list interview candidates in random order rather than alphabetically to provide variety to the interview process, manage potential employees interviewing order expectations and help Mr. Zaidi manage his nerves when he is expecting to be the last interviewed.

How Many Is Too Many?

Don’t overwhelm your candidate with a large panel of interviewers. This will only overpower the candidate thus making them more nervous, distressed, intimidated and further unable to perform to their full capability. Certainly at first interview, keep to a limited amount of interviewers during the initial stages of interviewing, preferably no more than 2 or 3 to allow the candidate to show you their true colours.

To conclude: Keeping the atmosphere relaxed will make for a better interview. Why? Because a relaxed applicant will be more honest, open and talk more. The more they talk, the more you will learn about them. This therefore makes for a better judgement and hire that will help you develop a strong, healthy, productive competitive organisation.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Rewarding your top sales people – Ten Great Tips to Help Motivate Your Sales Team

As you already know, your firm's sales employees work hard (well, the majority of them!) and in the current economic climate it could seem near to impossible to reward and reinforce recognition of superb work without going over budget.

But the good news is that you don’t have to. It has been found that sales people are not as ’materialistic’ as some colleagues may wish to believe. In fact only 10% of sales employees surveyed value material wealth and money as their biggest indicator of success (according to a sales survey conducted by the leading sales recruitment agency, Aaron Wallis in 2009).

Nevertheless rewards don’t always have to be tangible - frequent recognition of accomplishments and regular communication top the non-monetary compensation methods (Survey by staffing firmAccountemps, January 2007).

So here are some effective methods to reward your employees that aren’t going to break the bank:

1) Flexibility Offers The Most Gain With The Least Pain

A costless yet compelling reward that rises above the rest is simply flexible work schedules. Extra efforts to understand work-life balance can provide simple rewards that employees constantly strive to achieve. Such methods can range from allowing employees to work from home one day a week or attending meetings from home using webinars to allowing the flexibility for employees to start and leave earlier. The committed, productive employees will take the trust and flourish and the slackers will abuse the trust and ultimately falter.

2) Give Employee’s Greater Opportunities

Opportunities can often be the most meaningful form of recognition simply demonstrating that an employee is valued by an organisation. These can vary from being asked to stand in on a manager’s behalf during a meeting or being invited to attend industry conferences.

3) Training Goals

These could vary from offering a comprehensive range of training and qualification opportunities ranging from nationally recognised certifications to First Aid at Work courses. Training and Development schemes help employees to not only achieve organisational goals but also accomplish individual goals and further attain personal growth. Furthermore, Training and Development helps in establishing and strengthening leadership skills, motivation, loyalty, better attitudes, and other aspects that successful workers and managers usually display. Two forms of training can be adopted; on-the-job training and off-the-job training. Training provides a series of planned learning experiences for individuals and builds their technical skills and competencies (F. John Reh, Employee Training - Is It Worth The Investment 2009).

4) Challenge Your Employee’s

Being trusted with a greater and more challenging work load can often be viewed as the most sincere form of flattery and commendation. A new responsibility, challenge or additional job function is a downplayed basic technique that underpins recognition and reward.

5) Moving Up That Ladder

Some 60% of people in professional roles have confessed that they would consider moving jobs for career progression. Career progression can mean different things to different people where an understanding of what opportunities exist for personal development and career advancement is a high priority for many employees (Badenoch & Clark Guide, career planning essential for employers 2010).

Creating a career planning profile enabling employees to focus on their next target role helps employees to develop their career paths both horizontally and vertically to support this ambition.

6) Personal Performance Reviews

Use PPRs as a medium to focus on employees’ motivation, personal ability and praise and use it as a tool to get rewards accordingly.

By reviewing the PPR processes and making them consistent across the company, employees will have the opportunity to have sessions with their managers to discuss their performance, get praise as well as constructive feedback. This will make the employee feel more valued and therefore more motivated to give his/her best.

This change should be implemented through consistent and accountable PPR objectives, that will eventually integrate relationship fostering as part of the day-to-day workload.

No monetary impact, but time should be invested by both Line Managers and employees for quarterly sessions as minimum.

7) The Two Secret Words and Applaud their efforts with a Personal Touch – Yes, literally

“Thank you”. The two most underused words that not only deliver the highest return on investment but help build trusting and respectful relationships between employees and managers. Whilst this may seem all a little too obvious, telling your employees what specifically you liked about a great job they’ve done not only makes them feel appreciated and valued but they are highly likely to do a great job again (Micheal Guld, Guild Resource Group).

Applaud their efforts: A standing ovation by the entire team at the next meeting could be really worthwhile for that employee that has performed outstandingly. Something also just as powerful yet as simple (and totally inexpensive) as an applaud is a hand written thank-you note. Personal “thank-you’s” in this way illustrate courtesy, admiration and gratitude and can make your employee feel a million dollars.

8) Wall of Fame

Announcements on a bulletin board, “wall of fame” or newsletter detailing those who’ve accomplished something truly-special can be immeasurable. Your top sales staff will be desperately attempting to earn their place on the wall of fame or within a publicised announcement.

9) Money, Money, Money

In reality, despite Hertzberg’s views that monetary methods of motivation have little value - firm’s still use money as a major incentive. There are a variety of payment schemes that business’s can use to motivate their employees, these can vary from performance related pay, sales commissions, bonuses, share ownership, profit sharing and fringe benefits.

10) Reward effort as well as success

Even if their ideas or efforts sometimes fail, you want employees to keep producing them. Creating an annual award for ‘the best ideas that didn’t work’ can help stimulate innovation and positive behavior (Alan Weiss, president of the Summit Consulting Group Inc.)

To Conclude

Success of rewarding employees can be measured by increased productivity, satisfied customers, improved profitability and importantly employee morale!

Whatever method is adopted, it must be remembered that recognising employees is not only a nice thing to do it is an illimitable tool to reward your most momentous asset – your employees.