Half of the people in the world cannot sell anything. Even fewer can sell solutions. Some that can sell, lose the sale with loose follow up. Some that can sell, do so at low margins and give away other stuff.
You can spend money on sales training. It won’t work. You can coach them. You can offer incentives. That won’t work either.
Most sales forces have about 25% of their salespeople that can’t really sell what they are supposed to be selling.
They have wonderful strengths and abilities for doing many other things...but not selling. They want to sell, just as much as you want them to. They are just not wired for a sales job like yours.
Today, it is easy to see who can and who can’t sell...with your current team. You can also see this before you hire them. Would this help?
A common question is “How does BestWork DATA compare with this other assessment?” This is a reasonable question, but the answer is a bit more complicated. The difficulty is best seen with a few comparisons to similar situations:
How does a smart phone compare with an older flip phone? It does not. It is a completely different type of device with infinitely greater features that were unimaginable in the world of flip phones.
How does Spotify compare with CD’s? It does not. It is a completely different type of music media with infinitely greater features, unimaginable in a world of CD’s.
Each of these examples was a disruptive innovation in their industry. Clayton Christensen explained it this way:
Disruptive technologies change the value proposition in the market. They are typically cheaper, simpler and more convenient to use. A disruptive innovation cannot be understood through comparison with what it displaces. It creates a completely new context of value.
BestWork DATA is a Disruptive Innovation in the assessment industry.
BestWork DATA starts with top level psychometric instruments, designed specifically for the purpose of correlating hard-wired traits and abilities with job behaviors. Based on the latest cognitive science and the Big 5 personality model, there are few instruments in the world that can match the accuracy and reliability of the ones within BestWork DATA. This is basic, not a feature. It is the usability and direct impact on profitability that are most disruptively innovative.
BestWork DATA connects with any business process that depends upon how people think, learn and behave. This includes, hiring, onboarding, solving performance problems, developing high potential employees, training and any elment of human capital management.
BestWork DATA typically costs only a few dollars per use. Quality assessments cost $50 - $300 or more. The unlimited license of BestWork DATA allows businesses to extend their use throughout the enterprise.
BestWork DATA reports do not require expert interpretation or special training. They are easily understood by anyone. Customized job terminology can easily be added.
DATA does not depend on profiles of top performers. Today’s business environment is far too dynamic for static performance models. DATA Job Reports are specifically descriptive of any position in any company.
DATA is more than a hiring event. BestWork DATA has a full suite of talent management tools that extend the value of the DATA through the life cycle of each employee, from onboarding and training to career planning and management.
DATA offers macro-analysis of work group capabilities. Operational strengths can be compared to operational strategies.
Teams can be engineered with DATA for specific purposes. Individual capabilities can be combined with team leadership information to optimize teamwork among disparate specialities.
DATA outputs can be customized with client terminology and for any type of job. The BestWork DATA system allows for ready customization that simplifies the use for clients without the need for learning new terminology.
DATA can be integrated into any ATS or LMS, enhancing the performance of those systems. BestWork DATA was designed to work easily with other systems. It is a simple process to upgrade from old assessments to DATA.
BestWork DATA clients have sites branded with their logos and with a customized menu of reports. Special applications are available for high volume hiring situations.
The relationship between hard-wired personality traits and job behaviors has long been established. Even before that, it was clear that cognitive abilities were absolutely tied to job performance in any kind of job. The challenge has been applying these facts to the serious employment issues in the world. When reasonably good data was available, it required special training or expert help to apply it. When it was applied, it was almost always limited to hiring decisions. The intrinsic power of the data was never realized.
Business depends upon the behavior of people. When a company hires employees, they are actually renting their behavior. In a coffee shop, they rent smiles and a friendly manner that welcomes customers. They rent consistency with the process of making cappuccino, so that every time it is ordered, the quality is the same. They rent an attention to details, so that the customers’ orders are charged correctly. If a job candidate cannot deliver any one of these job behaviors, they cannot perform that job successfully.
The importance of knowing what causes job behaviors reaches far beyond hiring decisions. Without that knowledge:
Good news in the assessment world! Expensive certifications, accreditations and days of training to be able to use complex assessment products are no longer necessary. Certain assessment companies have long promoted the need for “special training” to use their products. This is more of a cash cow for them than a benefit to their clients. One major company offered three and four days of offsite training to “train” clients to use an elementary tool that was hardly worthy of three hours. Another company explained their business model, as training each client at a price of one thousand dollars each. It is difficult to see if the complexity of some assessments is a function of poor design or building in the need for such training.
In the rest of the business world, things have become easier. Skype calls connect with clients in other countries. Websites can be built by anyone. Checks are deposited into the bank by photographs using a mobile phone. Top end assessments are that easy now. BestWork DATA measures hard-wired personality traits and cognitive abilities using the state of the art psychometrics in only 25 minutes. The reports describe specific job behaviors in plain language that anyone can understand. It is usable throughout an organization the moment it appears on the screen or comes out of the printer. A variety of job reports, charts, management tools and more are readily available, all immediately understandable. Team engineering replaces old team building events. Imagine... more applications with better DATA and easier to use. Oh...the price is also dramatically less.
It is shocking how many smart companies are sold old assessment products that haven’t been current in their industry for decades. Assessments are not like fine wine. They don’t get better with age. What they do is keep those companies from using better and more accurate information.
Assessments are “blind products,” meaning that few people have the technical knowledge about psychometrics to recognize outdated item formats when they see them. They don’t know the limitations of older products or the improvements that are available today. To make it worse, the older and outdated products are often more expensive than the newer generations.
The most common of these are well known simply because they have been around since the 1940’s and earlier. Psychometrics and psychology are sciences that have advanced just as other sciences. Imagine using a telephone from just twenty years ago, or a television, computer or even golf clubs. Those differences are obvious.
The way to recognize an outdated assessment instrument is to look at the the way the questions are asked and answered. Two of the oldest formats are:
• Adjective checklists - The participant is asked to check the words that best describe them.
• Most - Least - The participant is presented with sets of three or four words or phrases. They are asked to select the word or phrase that Most describes them and the word or phrase that Least describes them.
Both of these formats have serious flaws in terms of producing accurate and reliable information. While they are interesting for individuals, the information is woefully inadequate for business applications. Despite this fact, such things are promoted and marketed vigorously to unsuspecting business owners and HR professionals.
For decades, sales managers and sales recruiters used a simple model of hunters & farmers to sort out potential salespeople. The general concept was that hunters could go out and find sales prospects, and then the hunters could close the sales. Once that was done, the hunters would go out after another one. Farmers did not do that. Instead, they worked with existing customers, the ones that the hunters had brought in. The farmers built a relationship with the customer. The concept was that the farmers would develop additional sales through the relationship. This led to some assumptions:
• If the person was not a hunter, then they could be a farmer.
• Hunting & farming required quite different strengths and abilities.
A similar model could be used in baseball with infielders & outfielders...or could it? In baseball, there are clear similarities with infielders & outfielders, but there are important differences with each position. Even the equipment used is different. Only the game is the same.
Today, BestWork DATA enables sales managers to take a deeper look at the specific job behaviors that are necessary for hunters & farmers within the classic model. Hunters must engage and qualify prospects. Then they must present their solution, handle any stalls or objections, and persuade the prospect to make a buying decision. Farmers must identify and engage prospects for additiional products or services within an existing customer. Then they must present their solution, handle any stalls or objections, and persuade the prospect to make a buying decision. The two roles are essentially the same, with the primary difference being the accessibility of the internal prospects within the existing customers and the inherent credibility that comes with being an established vendor. Both of these roles require the same set of hard-wired strengths and abilities with the primary difference being a slightly less intense level for some farmer situations.
There are many factors that may impact these roles, such as the product and solutions offered, the competitive environment, sales strategies and more. Regardless of those variances, the basic foundational behavioral traits are the first place to look when applying the hunter & farmer model.
Episode 10 - Adjective Checklist…Really??
Should We Keep the Blackberries
Last week I had two experiences that exemplify how the assessment market is both blind and hopelessly out of date when compared to most other industries. A leading accounting firm recently moved into larger offices, leaving the one they had occupied for years. Of course, they purchased new servers with the latest technology, leaving the old ones behind in the old offices. My son was tasked with removing them, and among the many things left behind, he discovered a drawer full of the original Blackberries. Imagine for a second…these were the state of the art in cell phones just a few years ago. Now they were junk in a drawer.
The same day he found the Blackberries, I received a call from the vice president of human resources in a large company. She had talked to someone with BestWork DATA at a trade show, and she now had some doubts about her current assessment program. She described the product as being really easy to use (a prime buying point). It was an adjective checklist, which the candidates used to check the words that “best described” them. They then repeated the exercise, checking the words that “friends would use to describe them.” This is a First Generation format in a world of 7 Generations, being one of the earliest attempts at assessing individuals. It was originally intended for use in personal counseling, but it “became” a hiring tool and was then sold as such to thousands of companies. In the psychometric world, it has long been outdated for almost any use, as it soon became apparent that the participants often chose the description they wanted to have rather than the ones that were accurate. This presents a challenge in the counseling world; it can be disastrous in the hiring world.
Blackberries are discarded but outmoded tests live on. The purpose of this series and of www.aboutassessments.com is to inform and educate people on how to take advantage of the extraordinary potential offered by new generations of assessment technology and how to avoid the many dinosaur assessments that continue to lumber around in the marketplace. This is the concluding episode of this series. Next week, I will begin a new one on the specific applications of assessments with sales teams
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO
Episode 9 - Who Needs the Experts
Once upon a time, after many years of trial and error, scientists found a way to accurately measure how human beings thought, learned and behaved. These scientists were psychometricians, a very tiny and specialized branch (many would even say a twig) of psychology. This information was invaluable in understanding why people behaved a certain way in different circumstances. It could even predict how they would behave in a particular job. The catch was that only an expert could really understand the data from those assessments, and only an expert could relate the data to real life business situations. This made for a complicated and expensive process, often costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Then the age of computers began, bringing two extraordinary changes to the world of psychometrics. First, the calculating power of computers enabled the scientists to factor analyze the data from assessments faster and in more depth than ever before. The data got better and better.
The second feature of the changes has not been promoted very much. Newt Gingrich once observed that the greatest impact of technology was to disintermediate the experts. His example was a machine on a factory floor that automatically diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome for the workers without the need for a doctor or nurse. In the world of assessments, this meant that the marvelous information on job behavior was readily available and easily understood by anyone. Many companies are not happy about that. Their revenue depends upon consulting fees. Other companies stick with old style profiling systems which tend to reduce the data to simplistic percentages. That was an early way of eliminating experts.
Today, job candidates can complete an assessment in less than 30 minutes, and the company immediately has access to a world of information job performance, management needs, training options, career development and much more. No experts are needed for even the deepest levels of business applications. Instead of hundreds of dollars, the cost is often measured in cents.
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO
Episode 8 - Are Thinking & Learning Really Important?
Once after playing tennis at a ritzy country club, I noticed a sleek, jazzy red sportscar parked near my car. I commented to my friend that it really looked like a Shelby Cobra, one of the fastest cars of its day, and I imagined what it would be like to take it out for a spin. My friend took a closer look and destroyed my fantasy, saying it was a fiberglass kit car with a 4-cylinder Volkswagen engine…all show with no go.
I don’t believe many people would buy a car without first knowing what kind of engine it has. It is amazing how many companies hire employees without knowing how they think and learn. The interviewers may guess at it…just as I did with the red sportscar, but they cannot determine it with any certainty. The vast majority of assessments do not include a measurement of cognitive abilities. In today’s rapidly changing business world, knowledgework is the cornerstone of many companies operations. That is work that is dependent upon acquiring, understanding and applying knowledge, as opposed to manual labor requiring only the simple training of the work processes.
Cognitive ability has long been established as a principal determining component of job performance. It is important to understand that today’s understanding of cognitive ability shatters old concepts of “smart” and “not smart.” All people are “smart” but in different ways. Knowing the way that a person is “smart” enables a company to put them into roles in which they are most likely to succeed.
Hundreds of real world studies of such jobs have shown over and over again that speed of learning is a key factor in employee retention. Fast learners leave routine jobs, often after blazing through the training program. Slower learners stay and perform those jobs quite well. Conversely, when slower learners are faced with increasing complexity in their jobs, they do not leave, but continue to struggle, not realizing what has changed. For example, complex or solution sales demand higher speeds of learning than product sales. This creates huge challenges when a company attempts to transition from one to the other. Vast sums of money are usually spent on sales training with only marginal results. In these situations, it is not a skills issue but a speed of processing issue.
One of the first things to consider when analyzing a performance problem or when planning strategic initiatives is to inventory the cognitive strengths of the work group involved. This information will reveal the how well the strengths can support the strategies, and it will show the most effective training options.
For more information on how to select and use assessment technology, visit www.aboutassessments.com.
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO
Episode 7 - Assessments Aren’t Cookies or Homemade Is Not Good
This past week, I was asked to review an assessment currently in use by a relatively large company. One of their senior people, who had some experience with quality assessments, had some doubts about the effectiveness of the one in use by their HR department. It had five separate parts delivered in a slick online presentation. There were drag-and-drop tiles that automatically rearranged themselves. There were cool sliding scales of various types and a few ordinary radio button choices. The terminology used the industry’s key issues and buzzwords. The reports had lovely colored graphs and charts, seven different ones, complete with special names for certain combinations of characteristics. On the surface, it was a most impressive presentation. The only problem was that it was terribly inaccurate to the point of being misleading. It was like a beautifully colored parachute with the only problem being that it just wouldn’t open.
There are thousands of such products in the marketplace. The Internet has made it easy to create pseudo-assessments. The fact is that developing serious psychometric instruments is extremely difficult. It requires specialized knowledge and experience that is far beyond the scope of the average psychology professor or industrial psychologist. It is a unique speciality within a specialized world.
Tests look deceptively simple. It’s just a set of questions and answers, isn’t it. Well, it is easy to make a test that looks like a test…to the untrained eye. Here’s the catch, and it’s a nasty one. The quality of a test, its accuracy and reliability, is determined by its psychometric and scaling properties, not what the test questions look like. It is not the same as homemade cookies, where any can still be eaten. Homemade tests lead companies to hire the wrong people. They encourage companies to spend large sums of money on training programs that return less than expected. They lead individuals into jobs in which they cannot excel. They affect the lives of real people. They are often just good enough to be dangerously wrong.
Certain tasks are best left to professionals. Gathering wild mushrooms, parachute packing and assessment development are all examples of this because the possible consequences of amateur efforts can be disastrous.
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO