Issues, Problems, and Opportunities: Which one is it for you?

Hire the Best - Use for Web applications, emails, etc“We hired some salespeople and not everyone worked out,” the conversation started.  Where have I heard this before I thought to myself?  Oh I know… almost every conversation I’m in starts out this way.  “Not unusual,” I stated, “How can I help?”  “We need a pre-hire screening assessment and I heard you can help us out with that.”

If you find yourself in a similar conversation, there are a couple questions you need to answer before you engage in this conversation.

I have been using assessments since 1982 when someone convinced me to buy an assessment for myself.  Since then, I have assessed myself almost every year, purchased them for my sales force, and now, offer them as a product.  The one thing I know about buying and using assessments over the years is that I never wanted to buy the assessment; I wanted the net affect it would bring. So, one of the questions I would ask you if you are thinking about purchasing assessments, is what net affect do you want?  Is it to gain insight on the applicant’s ability to sell?  Are you looking for the skill gaps in your current salespeople so you can implement a skill-training program? Is it to enable you to have better interviews? What net affect will using assessments do for you?

However, even before you get to that question, you need to ask yourself the Results Question, which is:  What problem are we trying to solve, what issue are we trying to address, or what opportunity are we trying to take advantage of?  It has to be one of these three.  Which one is it?

resultsStart with this question first because it helps clarify what you wants the result to be.

  1. If it is a problem you are trying to solve, should you not know the cost of the problem?
  2. If it is an issue you are trying to address, should you not know what problems the issue is causing?
  3. If it is an opportunity you are trying to take advantage of, should you know what that opportunity is worth?

The first part gives us the monetary amount; the second identifies feelings, inefficiencies, and future problems; and the third one provides the incentive to go after the opportunity if the reward is large enough.

We have a client that told us the issue they were trying to address was, according to the recent employee feedback survey, the sales force was feeling under-appreciated and undervalued.  The issues caused the sales force to not be fully engaged, to not be willing to go above and beyond expectations, and to have low morale.  By addressing the issue, they were hoping to avoid the problem of employee turnover.  They knew that employee turnover in the sales department was a minimum of $475,000 per salesperson (figuring the average salesperson made $125K a year plus benefits, and the three-year ramp-up time it takes to get them fully proficient).  If the employee left after 5 years, the cost was astronomical because they typically have a 20-25 year career path for each salesperson.

Since they knew the issue to address and the cost of the problem, they were willing to invest a reasonable amount of money to address the issue and prevent the problem.

When you are tasked to go out and find a solution, you or someone working on this project needs to stop and ask the Results Question.  When you don’t, you will be prone to jump to a solution, like my caller, and ask for assessments thinking they are the solution without knowing the result you are really trying to create.

I was literally in an identical conversation with a VP of Sales this week but he wanted to know how our assessments could help in sales skill development.  I stopped and asked him what problem or issue was he was trying to solve or what opportunity was he trying to take advantage of?  He sated; “Good questions.”  We discussed which one it was and what result he was really trying to get to.  I found out that he had already invested heavily in assessing their sales force of 150 but the assessment produced no actionable information, just data that his sales managers were not buying into.  What the VP Sales discovered, by answering this question, is that he really did not need assessments.  What he really needed was a comprehensive onboarding program.  Once we had that figured out, he saw that assessments could come into play but only after the onboarding program was up and running successfully.

What about you?  What problem, issue or opportunity are you trying to solve?