Sales leaders do not want to make mistakes when hiring new members of their sales team. In 2018, just 54 percent of all sellers met their sales quotas, according to CSO Insight’s 2018-2019 Sales Performance Study. Furthermore, only 16 percent of sales leaders say they are confident they have the talent needed to succeed into the future, according to CSO Insights’ 2018 Sales Talent Study.

To improve effectiveness at hiring and evaluating sellers, it’s essential to understand what a rigorous, systematic sales talent assessment should look like. Companies that implement this kind of approach reap the benefits: CSO Insights’ 2018 Sales Talent Study showed that organizations that use data-driven tools to select candidates have 13.6 percent higher quota attainment versus those that rely on “gut.” Let’s discuss five techniques that drive the comprehensive, metrics-driven talent strategies that result in greater seller success—and remove guesswork, personal biases and arbitrary judgment from the seller-evaluation process.

    1. Rely on Data-Driven Assessments

Sales leaders know what attributes they need in each member of their sales team. But intuition alone is not a reliable way to evaluate sellers. Instead, implement a formal, data-driven method that appropriately factors in what motivates an individual and what specific, observable skills they possess. Fortunately, sales leaders won’t need to reinvent the wheel when they use these two types of assessment methodologies:

    • Predictive Assessment: Every sales role has required competencies. Predictive assessments provide binary insights into an individual’s sales DNA. This assessment can be used when evaluating new hire sales candidates as well as with current employees.
    • Skills Assessment: This type of assessment identifies the skills sellers have learned throughout their careers to determine the types of training they need to improve their weaknesses. This type of assessment won’t work in their hiring process, but it is an effective way for sales leaders to determine how to further develop a salesperson.
  1. Push Back on Subjectivity

Upper management often approaches sales leaders for on-the-spot evaluations of their sales reps, such as an open-ended question like, “Is this sales rep good?” Not only is the definition of “good” completely subjective, but these types of evaluations are sometimes used to inform key decisions about hiring, promotions and performance reviews. Talent assessments provide a definitive answer about whether someone belongs in a role and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. Anytime a sales leader removes subjectivity, they reduce risk.

  1. Remember that Not Every Seller Can Be a Sales Leader

When assessing sellers, sales leaders instinctively want to give them a big goal to work toward, such as becoming a global account manager, a mentor for new hires, the first one to sell new products or the first to break a record. But don’t make the mistake of dangling a sales leadership position as a carrot for performance—that incentive may not fit an individual seller’s goals or play to their strengths. Being a strong sales leader requires a completely different skill set than an individual seller. The more sales leaders recognize this, the better-positioned they are to set appropriate aspirational goals for sellers. Through a predictive assessment, sales leaders have data to determine if a strong seller will make a good sales leader, eliminating subjectivity from the recommendation.  And besides, most sellers don’t want to be sales leaders.

  1. Make Culture Fit a Part of Your Assessment Process

Some sales leaders assume that because a candidate’s assessment indicates they have the required skills, their success is guaranteed. However, many assessments don’t test for culture fit, which can be a determining factor of sales performance. For example, the same sales position may be open at two companies within an industry. A salesperson with the required skills may succeed at one company but not the other due to the difference in culture. Therefore, if culture fit is not part of a company’s hiring assessments, the organization will only get a partial picture of whether a sales candidate can succeed.

  1. Assess the Brand Ambassador Prowess of Sellers

Talent assessments tend to focus on core selling competencies—often at the expense of other talents salespeople bring to the table. For example, some sellers are exceptional brand ambassadors whose actions go beyond the time they spend selling products or services:

  • they go the extra mile to negotiate client case studies
  • they convince clients to attend company events
  • they work with finance to customize billing to accommodate a high-value customer

These critical extras strengthen relationships with customers and grow the brand’s reputation. Find ways to assess these brand ambassador qualities, no matter how peripheral they may seem.


The current climate of B2B buyer behavior calls for a rigorous approach to assessing salespeople’s potential. Sales leaders should take control of the talent strategy to ensure the right sellers are in the right role. According to the Buyer Preferences Study, only 23 percent of B2B buyers consider salespeople as a resource to solve a business problem. This should be a wakeup call for sales leaders: be more precise when evaluating sellers, whether in hiring mode or evaluating performance. To get the most out of your talent, remember these key techniques:

  • Rely on data-driven tools for assessing employee potential
  • Push back on the temptation to be subjective
  • Don’t assume that leadership is the career path for all successful sellers
  • Acknowledge the importance of culture fit in hiring assessments
  • Consider the brand ambassador prowess of sales candidates

At Miller Heiman Group, we have two proprietary assessments:

  1. Talent Capabilities Quotient (Talent CQ): a predictive assessment used to determine if a candidate will be successful and whether that candidate is a good culture fit, which many other predictive assessments don’t take into account.
  2. SkillMap Capabilities Quotient (SMCQ): a skills assessment that determines what a salesperson has learned throughout their career to determine the best ways to further develop that individual.

We look forward to helping you put the right people in the right roles.

Contact us to learn more about how Miller Heiman Group can help your organization.

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