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Sales Candidates and Their Decision-Making Abilities

by | 4 minute read

Wouldn’t it be nice to know ahead of time about sales candidates and their decision-making abilities? Good sales assessments can give you an idea of how a candidate will react in specific situations before you bring them in for an interview. During the hiring process, you should evaluate the decision-making ability of your top candidates carefully. And after you onboard your candidate, you should also know how to coach them to develop this important skill.

The Challenge

An employee’s decision-making capabilities in a health care services environment can result in a life or death outcome for a patient. In a typical sales environment, poor decision-making may not be as urgent. The rep's decisions can lead to either a poor or an optimal outcome for the organization. How? During a customer service interaction, a rep who blows up at an angry client risks losing business for the organization. A sales rep who feels pressure to close a sale may impulsively decide to offer a prospect an unauthorized discount to close the deal. On the other hand, you may have a superstar applying for your open position — the kind with enough savvy to listen to a prospect and suggest the right solution at the right time. You need to use sales skills assessments that measure these qualities.

Defining Decision-Making

The candidate who’s come to you through an internal reference looks great on paper. You know they can close deals. But, how exactly do they go about that process? Are they cutting corners? And what happens when there’s a deadline looming to submit a proposal and they don’t have the data they need? Will they fudge the numbers, or will they turn in an incomplete document? To understand how a candidate will react in specific situations, you must know more about their critical thinking skills. Deb Calvert, at People First Productivity Solutions, explains that critical thinking describes a thought process “where you don’t accept information at face value. Instead, you are discerning about sources, question underlying arguments, challenge assumptions, and work to more fully understand conclusions.” Some people are better at this process than others.

Candidates and Their Decision-Making Abilities

Good sales assessment tests, such as SalesFuel HIRE, will help you understand a person’s practical thinking abilities. For example, most managers look for a candidate who can get results. If a sales meeting doesn’t go as planned, you want your new hire to be able to think on their feet. During unexpected encounters, you don’t want your sales rep to freeze. Reps with good decision-making skills and practical thinking ability should be able to change the focus of what they’re saying to match what the prospect needs to hear.

Sales skills assessments should also measure an individual’s strategic thinking ability. Are they able to envision a process from beginning to end? And can they plan out the steps they need to take to get there? As a sales manager, you don’t want to have to hold their hand from beginning to end.

In the Voice of the Sales Manager survey from SalesFuel, nearly 59% of managers indicated they use sales skills assessments to measure what a candidate knows about the profession. On the other hand, only about 27% of managers test a candidate’s critical thinking and empathy levels. This finding is a clear disconnect from what managers believe makes a great salesperson. The same survey reveals that 57% of managers want to hire a person who possess good critical thinking skills.

This disconnect may be happening partly because sales managers don’t have the tools they need to measure candidates and their decision-making abilities. Fortunately, comprehensive sales skills assessment platforms like SalesFuel HIRE can help you figure out if the candidate you really like has the chops to get the job done. With this kind of assessment, you’ll quickly know if the candidate is perceptive enough to come up with unusual solutions for a prospect’s problems. And you’ll also know if they can prioritize their time and the projects that need completion. If you want to dig deeper into exactly how they think, an assessment platform like SalesFuel HIRE will also generate a list of interview questions to ask based on how the candidate scored on their assessment.

After You Hire

A new sales rep may not score perfectly on the assessments you give them, but the information you uncover about them will start your working relationship on the right foot. If your new hire needs to work on the decision-making abilities, you can coach them. With the quick-coaching tips available from SalesFuel COACH, you can help them develop the open-ended questions that can be critical in a discovery session. A question like “Why isn’t your current solution working for you?” which comes from Kevin Smith’s HubSpot post, encourages the prospect to reveal information. Coach your rep to listen closely after asking that question.

The pros at AA-ISP report that top sales reps pose between 11 and 14 questions during a discovery call. These questions can’t be canned. You may believe there is little difference between what you’re selling and what the competition offers. But there’s a big difference in how your clients will use your solution to solve their problems. If a prospect complains that their current solution doesn’t interface with another system they are using, your rep should be making a connection. Instead of relying on prepared questions, your rep should follow a specific thread to uncover the prospect's pain.

When you’re hiring, use sales skill assessments to check out candidates and their decision-making abilities.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.