Hiring entry-level sales people is something we’ve been working hard on lately for many of our clients. Our goal is to teach them a process to improve their sales talent acquisition effectiveness through use of the #1 rated Objective Management Group Sales Assessments.

While doing this, we’ve noticed that far more candidates are not recommended for entry level positions than the number not recommended for more experienced sales positions. So, I decided to do some analysis and see if I could find any insights into why this was occurring.

Drilling down the data

The OMG Assessments uses a variety of components to provide an accurate prediction (95% confidence level) of a candidate’s potential success in a particular sales position. These include evaluating Selling Competencies as well as Sales DNA Competencies.

There are a million plus salespeople who have taken the OMG Assessments and we have access to data on over 380,000 of them. I began my data-mining by narrowing down the results to just North American salespeople (280,812 individuals); then, reduced further to just those individuals with one year or less of sales experience. I was left with a substantial pool of 34,882 people for my analysis.

Categorizing the data

OMG places individuals in four different buckets based on a roll up of their Selling Competencies, Sales DNA Competencies, Will to Sell, their collection of strengths that support selling and weaknesses that hinder success. The four categories are Elite, Strong, Serviceable and Weak, and a breakdown of the buckets where entry-level individuals fell is shown in the infographic on the right.

The few number of Elite entry-level salespeople, of course, jumps out first. They are not easily found. However, there are a huge number of Weak salespeople, so I decided to dig a little deeper into this category to determine why they were rated weak.

Surprising results

It seemed logical that the big differentiator would be little selling experience and education. And don’t get me wrong, the Weak entry-level salespeople on average are lacking in these areas. But I found what really differentiated the Weak group (the worst of the worst) from others was primarily two factors.

  • Lack of Commitment – Commitment in our world means the individual is willing to do what is necessary to be successful at selling. There was very little difference between the Weak group and other groups in one’s desire to be successful selling: desire was strong across the board. However, on average, the Weak group lacked the commitment to fight through and do the uncomfortable things necessary to be successful. They lacked the ability to easily change, grow and adapt: The critically important elements in today’s fast changing environment for your salespeople to have. Not only do individuals falling into the Weak category lack selling competencies, but they also likely won’t easily change. Not a winning combination!

TIP: Never hire a candidate who lacks this commitment. See the CEO of the Objective Management Group discuss why here.

  • Missing Sales DNA Competencies – Sales DNA refers to the elements that, when present, support the ability to sell, but when lacking may hinder sales success, even if the person is taught exactly what to do and say. While Selling Competencies are tactical skills that are easily taught, Sales DNA Competencies indicate whether an individual will actually execute well when in the moment.
  • I like to say, “Selling Competencies are the ‘can do’ and Sales DNA Competencies are the ‘will do’ elements.”
  • While also teachable, Sales DNA Competencies are sometimes not obvious to the individual salesperson or their manager/coach and therefore are not typically addressed or identified within most sales organizations. Candidates lacking adequate Sales DNA tend to struggle with actual selling and it’s often the reason these salespeople just don’t work out.

What you should do

Yes, there are significantly more “weak” entry-level salespeople out there (just like there are significantly more weak salespeople, in general), but that shouldn’t put you off. About 25% of the remaining entry-level salespeople, while not Elite, aren’t horribly weak either. Instead of hoping to hire the perfect “needle-in-a-haystack” superstar candidate or settling for weak candidates without the necessary skills,* target salespeople in the Strong and Serviceable buckets. Then develop a precise and comprehensive onboarding program to help these non-Elite salespeople grow. The time and energy spent helping new hires from these middle categories grow both their selling skills and their sales DNA, will likely pay better dividends than funneling assets into hiring only the Elite.

  • *Not all salespeople who fall into the “weak” category should be passed over. Those that have adequate commitment, an acceptable level of Sales DNA and certain key selling competencies can be molded and grown into fine salespeople.

Stop searching in the hay stack

Finding Elite entry-level salespeople is much like playing the lottery. Somebody wins, it’s just not likely to be you. But you don’t have to settle for weak entry-level candidates either. Focus on salespeople who possess the elements required to be successful, then train them up in the areas they are lacking.

Here’s a sample Sales Candidate Assessment so you can see first-hand the different elements we evaluate in salespeople. Be sure to click on the video camera icons next to each finding for further explanation of the element.

For a comprehensive guide to effective sales hiring click here for our eBook Sales Hiring:  Get It Right from the Start.