Barrett Research invites you to express your opinion about whether ‘Selling’ should be an applied academic degree. Please complete our Graduate Degree for the Sales Profession’ survey and voice your views.
With the profession of Selling becoming increasingly more complex involving many more variables and the shift from product being at the heart of selling to strategic relationships, collaboration, true value, sustainability and transparency now on the agenda we believe it’s time for ‘Selling’ to step out under the shadow of Marketing and MBA’s to have its own degree status. Recently I was invited to speak at the Melbourne Business School’s MBA Entrepreneurs program on the topic of Selling. This was a great opportunity to put the topic of Selling on the agenda. The feedback was phenomenal – the mostly young students had many questions that needed answers to ranging from how to sell effectively, prospecting, what it the right way to sell, and the right sales mindset to name a few.
The emphasis was on the practical as well as the theoretical. Their concerns about having the Sales function and Sales Processes operating effectively in their start-ups and growing businesses were along the same lines as the questions many seasoned business owners and leaders ask every day. They were quite unaware just how much you need to know, learn and apply when it comes to selling, running a sales team and keeping up or ahead of your market on the sales front, especially now that social media is now making such an impact on sales and marketing.
While selling strategies have been around for years the actual function of being a sales person and sales leader have been poorly regarded and understood, however in recent years there has been a growing body shining light on sales as a complex and skilful profession with most of the academic work emanating from overseas. In Australia, there are currently topics or short courses (i.e. up to 7 hours duration) on the topic of selling at some Australian universities, however, they are not very comprehensive and do not cover all the aspects of Selling a skilled professional needs to know. There are certainly no Degrees in Selling in Australia. We understand that knowing how to sell effectively doesn’t happen until you get out in the field and start applying it, however, being well trained in the science of selling and understanding its many variables would help most people and businesses make a much better start. At last count there are 42 universities in the US with graduate and undergraduate sales courses on their curriculum.
At Barrett Research we view Selling as an applied science where it fits perfectly well into a business school framework and so do not see it on the pure end of academic education. I believe we need more accredited courses or at least dedicated business courses where people can properly study the science and art of Selling. Having tertiary trained sales professionals would certainly raise the standards of the profession.
We can take a leaf out of the procurement industry which is the fastest growing business profession. CIPSA has worked tirelessly to professionalise ‘purchasing’ and rightly so, given the enormous complexity facing the profession. There are now tertiary qualifications including degrees and post graduate programs in procurement.
To complete the survey, go to: ‘Graduate Degree for the Sales Profession’ survey
We will publish our survey findings soon.
If you wanted to, you could sit down for at least four weeks and complete 100’s of sales assessments and there would still be more on offer. This over abundance of sales assessments can be confusing because they are not all the same. If you do not know what you want to measure it will make looking for an effective sales assessment tool that much harder. Here are some questions that may help you select your sales assessments with more precision.
As stated before, there is no one sales tool that can answer all these questions. So at risk of offending some test providers and users, as I am bound to leave out some assessments that could have been included in this piece, I thought I would share with you the tools that we and many other businesses have found to be the most useful in helping us predict sales performance especially when it comes to sales recruitment.
Measuring Sales Prospecting Fitness Research shows that only about 20% of sales people are fully effective when prospecting. In use for 30+ years, the SPQ*Gold (Sales Preferences Questionnaire) is a well regarded and widely used assessment designed to specifically detect and measure the emotional response to prospecting – Sales Call Reluctance®. Call Reluctance® is the emotional hesitation to initiate contact with prospective buyers in sufficient numbers to support organisational goals.
40 years of empirical research in prospecting shows the hesitation to initiate first contact with prospective buyers on a consistent daily basis is responsible for the failure of more competent, motivated and capable sales people than any other single factor. The fear of prospecting can cost an average of 15 new units of business per month per sales person. Prospecting is not the most important skill in selling but it is the first thing that has to happen before anything else happens.
Assess the Fear of Prospecting The fear of prospecting, Sales Call Reluctance® and sales hesitation, an individual’s hesitance to prospect and self-promote for new business, can be objectively measured using the SPQ*Gold® questionnaire. The SPQ*Gold® is an attitude and activity based online assessment that identifies how much initiative, energy and drive an individual devotes to proactive sales prospecting and the amount of energy spent on coping with inhibitors such as fear. The SPQ*Gold® is the only tool that measures the prospecting fitness of people in sales, sales management and customer contact careers. It is best suited for anyone responsible for meeting sales and revenue targets whether you call yourself a sales person or not.
SPQ*Gold helps you answer these 3 business questions:
Measuring Sales Performance Characteristics and Style SPI-Q (Sales Performance Insight Questionnaire) is the latest and most comprehensive sales assessment tool in the marketplace. The Sales Performance Insights Questionnaire (SPI-Q) has been developed in Australia by Performance Insights and focuses on the attributes that are uniquely relevant to sales. It is the only product in the market that predicts the multi-dimensional characteristics required by today’s sales professionals, and measures the subtle but critical characteristics that differentiate successful sales people. The questionnaire measures 25 Sales Attributes, clustered into three broad domains:
The questionnaire has been designed to be highly pragmatic and user-friendly (requiring minimal training) with standard interpreted report outputs which are adapted based on the individual’s results. The SPI-Q is a self-report questionnaire and the accuracy of this profile depends on how honest the individual has been when completing the questionnaire as well as their self-awareness. It reflects their preferred style rather than their ability. However, research shows that people’s responses to personality questionnaires can act as a good predictor of how they are likely to behave on the job. There is no one ‘perfect profile’.
These two tools would be my first choice when recruiting sales people. If you want to measure Culture Fit, Motives and Values, Leadership Style and Derailers, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) or Cognitive Abilities (IQ) then we recommend the following tools, which while they are not sales specific, have been widely used in sales and sales leadership.
Measuring Culture Fit and Values: The Hogan Motives, Values and Preferences Inventory (MVPI) measures ten core values found in most cultures throughout history i.e. Aesthetics, Affiliation, Altruistic, Commerce, Hedonism, Power, Recognition, Science, Security and Tradition. It is not sales specific, however, it provides vital information to managers about how to coach and manage their sales people in terms of motivators, values and drivers. The MVPI provides useful data about the kind of work environment the candidate prefers. Measuring organisational fit is critical to staff retention and cultural engagement.
Measuring Leadership Style and Derailing Behaviours: Most business leaders have coping behaviours they draw on when under pressure. The Hogan Development Survey (HDS) measures strategies and behaviours leaders have developed over time (even from childhood) to cope with increased levels of pressure whether due to change, high stress, multi-tasking, work saturation, an unhappy environment or being outside of their comfort zone. The HDS is not purpose built for sales leaders however it has a wide body or research on sales leadership with relevant norm groups to refer to. Research shows that most leaders display at least one coping style. In measuring extremes of personality then, it is very important to remember that these can have highly positive implications. There is, however, always a potential downside to extremes because if they are not managed effectively or appropriately they can become problematic. When business leaders, especially sales leaders, are not managing their interpersonal façade well (perhaps because of stress, pressure, deadlines, etc.) these extremes can emerge unchecked and upset the delicate balance of teamwork and interpersonal relationships.
Measuring Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Emotional Intelligence (EQ) involves a set of skills that define how effectively people perceive, understand, reason with and manage their own and others’ feelings. These skills are cornerstones to successful selling, as emotions are an inherent part of why people buy and why they do not. The Genos Model of workplace Emotional Intelligence comprises seven specific EI skills critical to successful selling i.e. Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Expression, Emotional Awareness of Others, Emotional Reasoning, Emotional Self-Management, Emotional Management of Others and Emotional Self-Control. Each skill can apply to successful selling.
Measuring Cognitive Attributes and Abilities (IQ): There are no sales specific attributes and abilities assessments that we know of, however, good quality Attributes and Abilities assessments have been around for over 50 years. They are often referred to as IQ tests. They are widely available through accredited providers and most organisational psychologists. They are becoming more applicable because more sales and many leadership roles, especially sophisticated or more complex sales markets, require high level thinking abilities such as:
We do not use single assessments. Instead, we combine tools to give us a more complete picture. Different sales roles in different industries require different attributes for success. Thus, profiles should be interpreted with reference to a specific role and its requirements. It is important that the data from any assessment be combined with other sources of information about the individual when making decisions, particularly in selection settings. Most assessments have a shelf life of 18–24 months and should be treated confidentially. If there are major changes in an individual’s life or work, this could change some of the attributes in some assessments. If you wish to use recruitment grade assessments for sales selection, I hope this helps you make a more informed decision.
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