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Superior Sales Performance

The MD of a family company with a direct sales force of 64 sales people asked us to review their selection process. They used a battery of psychometric tests in which they had great faith.

Recently, a non-executive director pointed out that there was a considerable difference in the sales performance within the sales force and therefore, he believed that the selection procedure was not discriminating well enough between those who could do a reasonable selling job and those who were the superior performers.

The company had tried several different incentive and motivational packages over several years with no noticeable effect on sales.

We were asked to research these issues. We reviewed the psychometric battery, the interview process and induction programme. All were used professionally, so the selection process was deemed to be sound. The only potential problem we could see was that the tests were not actually assessing the right factors. They could identify moderate performers, but did not appear to identify the high flyers.

We assessed the whole sales force using our own Sales Culture Orientation Questionnaire and discovered some startling results:

Superior performers all scored well above the average in:

Achievement Orientation. This is the extent to which a person will set high targets for himself or herself. Then pursues the achievement of those targets with energy and single-minded determination. This person will work around obstacles, disappointments and hardship seeing the end-goal as a prize worth working hard for.

Organisation Commitment. Here an individual is totally committed to the company, its management and products and services. S/he acts as an ambassador for the company, cares about the company's reputation and promotes brand loyalty.

Action. Here an individual has a real sense of urgency. S/he is quick to do everything that is necessary to complete tasks, including: working extremely hard and working long hours without complaint until necessary tasks are completed.

Conversely the moderate group scored significantly higher on:

Team Work. This includes enjoying working in a group, being helpful and supportive of those in the group. Such people need others around them to feel good.

Giving Service. This includes enjoying being of service to others, willingly helping anyone who needs or asks for it. Such people have high standards of service and readily put themselves out for others.

Adaptability. People high on adaptability are very responsive and receptive to change. They enjoy novelty and let go of old ways of working and look for new challenges.

This brief comparison of the moderate and superior performing groups illustrates several things:

  1. To be valid, research into superior performance requires objective assessment methods that include a range of relevant assessment factors for the role in question. Any old psychometric test will not do.
  2. Incentive and motivational packages can have some short-term effects, but over the medium term enduring factors such as suitable attitudes and beliefs about the nature of sales work are what matter.
  3. The top sales performers were highly focussed on the achievement of their targets. They drove themselves to do what is necessary, including working hard without complaint, and always believing in the company and what it stood for.
  4. It is important to stress, there is nothing wrong per se with qualities of team work, adaptability and giving service. What this case study illustrates is that in this sales role, in this organisation, these qualities did not contribute to superior sales performance.

As a result of this research the company used the SCOQ to recruit 10 new sales people using a new selection template placing an emphasis on achievement, company commitment and action.

The business impact of this change were:
- Average sales for moderate performers was £150,000.
- Average sales for new recruits (using superior performer template) £200,000.
- Total incremental benefit £500,000.

A great result for a small investment.

For an initial discussion on how we can make this service work for you call 01608 644144 and ask for David Stone.

Alternatively send us an email and we will call you.



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