Dr. Christopher Croner, Principal, Lead Sales Psychologist, and Sales Assessment Developer at SalesDrive shares the formula for success
Sales are the lifeline of any organization, having a direct impact on the bottom line. However, with the average sales turnover rate nearing 35 percent, higher than the average for all other roles at 13 percent, many organizations are searching for the answer to – ‘how do I never hire a bad salesperson again?’ That answer and more were answered in a recent episode of “Bring Out The Talent,” with Dr. Christopher Croner, Sales Psychologist and Sales Assessment Developer at SalesDrive.
In the episode, Dr. Croner uncovers that secret formula for success, and here’s a hint – it all begins with the assessment. Dr. Croner also gives listeners a deep dive into the three elements of drive, how to test a sales candidate’s drive, and interview questions that you can use to assess the three critical elements of drive.
Here are the key takeaways from our conversation.
Q: You have helped over 1,200 companies worldwide to hire and develop top-performing salespeople with your firm, Sales Drive. Tell us about the origin of Sales Drive and what led you to get into this business of sales assessments.
A: I got started back in 2002. I was working at a firm called Witmer and Associates that specialized in executive assessment. When companies are going to hire a new president or new VP, they will bring in a psychologist to sit down with that person for maybe a two-hour interview as well as a job simulation exercise, maybe some intellectual testing to kind of determine how successful the person will be in that role. Because sales are the lifeblood of any company, you don’t need to assess anything else. They wanted to design something as rigorous as that, only for salespeople. My specialty was interviewing candidates and identifying those who would be successful as salespeople.
That’s when I met my co-author, “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again”, Richard Abraham. Mr. Abraham is the author of the book, “Mr. Schmooze: The Art and Science of Selling Through Relationships”, and he had been speaking across the country on this best-selling book about developing salespeople. We began collaborating and created Sales Drive and founded Sales Drive formally in 2005. We’ve worked with over 1,200 companies around the world helping them identify those high potential candidates. We wrote “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again” in 2006. The second edition will be coming out soon.
Q: How long did it take to develop the assessment from start to finish?
A: The most recent version took about six months in total for the development. It was a matter of coming up with the questions for the assessment, and we had a team of psychologists to collaborate with to ensure the questions were going to be effective in terms of reducing faking. That can be a big problem with assessments, and it’s a matter of using a process called validation. We worked with several companies looking at several hundred salespeople looking at their scores on the assessment and comparing that to manager ratings of the characteristics that we’re assessing, as well as their sales performance. That process was about six months from start to finish. We always get strong feedback that the assessment is consistently predicting people who are strong, in terms of sales success because we look for those non-teachable traits.
Q: You mentioned the validity of the sales assessments comes from interviewing companies that have high-performing salespeople, is that where you get all the data from?
A: It’s a matter of asking several hundred salespeople to complete the assessment and going to their managers to get ratings of their competencies in terms of how the manager would score them on those characteristics, as well as the manager rating of the person’s sales performance. Then it’s looking at the correlation between scores, the assessment, and the salesperson’s performance to make sure that those correlations are strong. That’s the validation process.
Q: Let’s talk about your assessment. What are the three elements of drive?
A: Many of the characteristics that most people would consider to be essential for success as a salesperson were very important such as persuasiveness, relationship skills, and even organizational skills. But above and beyond any of those were these three non-teachable characteristics that continued to again lead to success as a hunter salesperson.
The first one is what we call the need for achievement. We’re talking about the person who wants to do well, simply for the sake of doing well. The second piece is competitiveness, and the competitive salesperson really wants to do two things. Number one, they want to be the best among their peers and, they want to win that client or that customer over to their point of view. The third piece is optimism, and that’s the salesperson’s sense of certainty that they will succeed, as well as their resilience to hang in there when they face the inevitable rejection that a salesperson just must deal with. The need for achievement, competitiveness, and optimism psychologically create sort of the perfect storm and we refer to those three characteristics as drive.
Q: Do you think drive can be taught?
A: No, and that’s really the challenge. It’s truly a combination of nature and nurture. On the nature side, there is a psychological characteristic, a personality characteristic that psychologists call conscientiousness. Conscientiousness is something that people are born with. But at the same time, there’s the way the person is raised, the way they are held accountable for their behavior.
Q: Do you think the test results could change over time?
A: That’s a very good question. Another question we’ll often get is what about the person’s mood? What if they’re having a hard time at their job? Essentially, we’re looking at traits as opposed to states. Because we’re looking at traits, those are relatively solidified and relatively stable. You’re not going to see a giant change over time.
Q: What if you are looking for another salesperson for your team and you receive an application from somebody that has an incredible experience. Then you give them the Sales Drive Assessment and they score very low. What do you do?
A: The key distinction is that I want to know about that person’s past and their poor performance in the past. The key distinction is even the person who has performed well in previous roles. My key question as a hiring manager is, “Are they going to continue to bring that same degree of success to bear for me?”
When you do have the person having a successful history and then scoring lower on the assessment, that’s generally what you find is they come from a very large company. They have a great degree of brand recognition, maybe a book of business, or they may have a lot of connections. Those tend to be the types of things that cause someone to have been successful, where now the person is applying for this role, where maybe they don’t necessarily have all those advantages and they’re taking an assessment and they’re scoring lower on drive.
I would simply say, if you had said to me in reviewing the assessment report, you know, “We love this candidate. They’ve had this great track record of success. All the references say they’re fantastic, but they’re scoring lower than we expect in the assessment. What should we do? I would never say you should throw the candidate out.” I would simply say, well, look at the assessment as your consumer report before you make a major buying decision. It’s just sort of buyer beware.
Q: We’d love it if you could tell us a little bit more about the second edition of your book.
A: Since the first edition came out in 2006, we’ve learned so much in terms of our practice and dealing with 1,200 companies around the world that we wanted to share. The best of what we know, not only just in terms of beefing up the interview section, talking about what do look for in a candidate, talking about our research, and adding to that research that’s been done since then in terms of the three elements of drive. What do you do on the interview side? What questions do you ask? Everything that we have learned in terms of our research from 2006 to the present and we’re excited for that to come out.