Bring Out the Talent: A Learning and Development Podcast

Assess For Success: Never Hire A Bad Salesperson Again

December 06, 2021 Maria Melfa & Jocelyn Allen Season 1 Episode 14
Bring Out the Talent: A Learning and Development Podcast
Assess For Success: Never Hire A Bad Salesperson Again
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of “Bring Out The Talent,” we speak with Dr. Christopher Croner, Principal, Lead Sales Psychologist, and Sales Assessment Developer at SalesDrive. With sales positions having such a high turnover rate, many organizations are looking for the secret to hiring and keeping exceptional salespeople. 

In this episode, Dr. Croner uncovers that secret formula for success, and here’s a hint – it all begins with the assessment. Dr. Croner gives listeners a deep dive into the three elements of drive, how to test a sales candidate's drive, and interview questions that you can use to assess the three critical elements of drive. 

With the average sales turnover at 35%, tune in and learn from an expert how you can never hire a bad salesperson again!

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Maria Melfa: [00:00:06] Welcome everyone to Bring Out The Talent. My name is Maria Melfa, and I am the CEO and President of The Training Associates, otherwise known as TTA.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:00:15] And I'm Jocelyn Allen, a Talent Recruitment Manager here at TTA. And we're so excited to have you back with us.


Maria Melfa: [00:00:21] We are very excited today to have Dr. Christopher Croner join us. Dr. Croner is the founder of Sales Drive, a firm that specializes in the selection and deployment of high performing salespeople. As a training company, we work with companies of all sizes on their sales training and onboarding programs. With sales positions having such a high turnover rate, many organizations are looking for the secret to hiring and keeping exceptional salespeople. Today, we will uncover the secret formula for success, and here's a hint. It's all about the assessment. Many companies fail to use sales assessments and higher based on interviews, and as we know, salespeople can be so good at interviewing. This hiring process contributes to the high turnover rate for sales roles. To help, we thought it would be important to address this topic in more detail with none other than sales assessment expert, Dr. Croner. Dr. Croner is a co-author of the book, “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again”, detailing his research in practice and identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. Dr. Croner developed the proprietary drive test diagnostic system, including the drive interview for salesperson selection. Using the system, he has helped over 1200 companies worldwide to hire and develop top performing salespeople. Dr. Croner served as an adjunct faculty member at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, teaching personnel selection in the Industrial Psychology Masters of Arts Program. Dr. Croner is a member of the consulting section of the Illinois Psychological Association and former co-program chair of the Chicago Industrial Organizational Psychologist. Dr. Croner received a B.A. in Psychology from DePaul University, and his master’s and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Southern Illinois University of Carbondale. Wow. Welcome, Dr. Croner.


Christopher Croner: [00:02:34] Maria and Jocelyn, it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me, and I very much look forward to being of service to you and your audience today.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:02:41] We're really excited. These kinds of things are what get Maria and I really amped up because there are so many different directions and avenues that you can use this information for. So, we're just as thrilled to have you with us today, Dr. Croner. So, thank you. We cannot thank you enough for spending time with us.


Christopher Croner: [00:03:02] My pleasure.


Maria Melfa: [00:03:03] You have helped over twelve hundred companies worldwide to hire and develop top performing salespeople with your firm, Sales Drive. Tell us about the origin of Sales Drive and what led you to get into this business of sales assessments.


Christopher Croner: [00:03:17] Very good question. I got started again back in gosh, 2002. I was working at a firm called Witmer and Associates in the Chicago suburb of Oakbrook. Whitmer and Associates specialized in executive assessment. So, companies, sometimes when they're going to hire a new president or new VP, they will bring in a psychologist to sit down with that person to maybe a two-hour interview as well as a job simulation exercise, maybe some intellectual testing to kind of determine how successful the person will be in that role. Well, of course, because sales is really the lifeblood of any company, you don't need to assess anything else. If you're not selling anything, they wanted to design something as rigorous as that, only for salespeople. So, they brought me on board to do that back in 2002. And that's when I began to do the research that led to eventually our book, “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again”. My specialty was identifying, you know, interviewing candidates, identifying those who would be successful as salespeople, and in doing so, you know, started really looking at everything that had been published academically in terms of that topic of what is it that makes a successful salesperson as well as kind of combining that with the work that I was doing, you know, circling back with managers after those interviews, finding out who really does become successful over time, and then developing a model, if you will, of interviewing and assessing candidates for those characteristics.


Christopher Croner: [00:04:30] And that's when I met my co-author, “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again”, Richard Abraham. Mr. Abraham is author of the book, “Mr. Schmooze: The Art and Science of Selling Through Relationships”, and he had been speaking across the country on this best-selling book about developing salespeople, and he would frequently get the question, “Well, what about our team? Do you make them like this character in your book? This top performing salesperson, Mr. Schmooze”, and he would meet with that group and he, you know, in those discussions, he would conclude a meeting with the manager thereafter. “Well, you know, you've got a large team here. Many of them just aren't going to make it. They just don't have the potential.” And the company would often get very upset thinking, “Wait a minute, you know, that's a, you know, I hired that person as my brother-in-law. Can you back this up with data?” And that's when he began to look around for something that he could use to quantify what is that leads to success as a salesperson. And that's when he found me and the work that I was doing and asked me, “You know, is there something out there that measures success, measures these characteristics that you're identifying as being important”, and there really wasn't.


Christopher Croner: [00:05:31] And that's when we began collaborating. We created Sales Drive, and founded Sales Drive formally in 2005, and we began, gosh, at that point from then to now, as you mentioned, we've worked with over twelve hundred companies around the world helping them identify those high potential candidates. We wrote “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again” in 2006. The second edition of which will be coming out in December of this year, one month from now. So, we're obviously very proud of that. It's very rewarding. It's very gratifying to work with companies again, frequently who will come to us with a lot of frustration, as you can imagine, thinking that there's no consistent way of finding high performance salespeople. They think it's a crapshoot, or they think that, you know. They're kind of have this model of kind of churn and burn. And that's really not necessary. You know, there's a consistent process that you can use, and I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy the opportunity to share our assessment with our clients to help them develop a consistent process of identifying those candidates with those non teachable characteristics essential for success. So yeah, this this topic is all I have. Eat, breathe, and slept since October of 2002. So, it's been a fantastic journey. I've truly enjoyed it.


Maria Melfa: [00:06:30] How long did it take you to develop this assessment from start to finish?


Christopher Croner: [00:06:34] You know, the most recent version of the assessment took about six months in total for the development. It was a matter of coming up with the questions for the assessment, and we had a team of psychologists work to collaborate on making sure the questions were going to be effective in terms of reducing faking. As you can imagine, they can be a big problem with assessments, and then it's a matter of putting it through the paces, if you will, on the development side using a process called validation. You also want to make sure that the test is measuring what you say it's going to measure, so you take time. We worked with several companies looking at several hundred salespeople looking at their scores on the assessment and comparing that to manager ratings of the characteristics that we're assessing, as well as their sales performance. Is it predicting their performance? And when we found those strong correlations, we were confident that we had something. Of course, that's effective and predictive of success. That process was about six months from start to finish, but we're always perfecting even for any company that we work with. You know, we want to make sure that we identify with them up front, keeping in mind that the proof is in the pudding. Let's test one or two of your high performing salespeople and see how they match to the assessment. We're very confident. We always get strong feedback that the assessment is consistently predicting people who are who are strong, in terms of sales success because we look for those non teachable traits.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:07:42] So to me, six months seems like a very fast amount of time to develop something like this, but I guess that's not necessarily start to finish. So how long did it take, start to finish, for you to develop this assessment, and realize that it was giving you the results that you were looking for?


Christopher Croner: [00:07:58] The first version of the assessment, we actually had an established assessment we were using online to which we applied our own proprietary algorithms. We have been using that for, gosh, over 10 years, testing tens of thousands of people with that model. And that reassured us that again, the characteristics that we're assessing, were going to be effective. You know, we're going after the right things and then we use that to, of course, design our own proprietary version or most recent version of it. But it takes about again, about that much time. As you can imagine, if you have a team kind of writing the questions, doing the validation, you get everybody ready to take the assessment. All of the current salespeople take the assessment. Then you look at the ratings of performance. So, it's a very coordinated effort, as you can imagine, but through not only the experience of doing the research. Yes, over a decade, and then combining that with knowledge of constructing an assessment, how to do that effectively and then taking the time to assess a group of salespeople comparing that to the performance, you can do that last part relatively efficiently. But of course, for the foundation of the house, yeah, that took well over a decade of kind of experience in and research in terms of developing the model, doing the background research, using our initial version of the assessment, and then perfecting that or getting that ready to the next level with our current version, if you will.


Maria Melfa: [00:09:05] So, Dr. Croner, you mentioned that a lot of the validity of the sales assessments has come from interviewing a lot of companies that have had high performing salespeople. Is that where you get all the data from?


Christopher Croner: [00:09:23] Really, it was a matter of asking several hundred salespeople to complete the assessment, and then going to their managers and getting ratings of their competencies in terms of how the manager would score them on those characteristics, as well as the manager rating of the person's sales performance, their financial performance, if you will. And then it's looking at the correlation between scores and the assessment and the salesperson’s performance and making sure that those correlations are strong. That's really the validation process. And then, of course, making sure that the assessment is reliable, et cetera. So that's that's that process that goes into constructing any assessment. And of course, we also have case studies on our website, in terms of companies who have used the assessment in the past. But for any given company, you can, you know, case studies are fine. You know, the validation is important, but the proof is always in the pudding, as I mentioned. So, we always invite any company to reach out to us to request a complimentary assessment of one of their salespeople, and look for themselves at how the relationship between the score and the assessment and the sales person's performance is strong in terms of the connection between the two, because again, we're going after those non teachable characteristics essential for hunters.


Maria Melfa: [00:10:26] The average sales turnover is 35 percent higher than the average for all other roles at 13 percent. Why do you think that is? And what are hiring managers missing in their hiring process of a salesperson?


Christopher Croner: [00:10:42] Very good question. You know, in terms of the turnover on the sales side, quite frankly, much of it is down to companies’ perception that sales is sort of a “churn and burn” type of a position, or they don't understand the characteristics that they're looking for. If you ask anyone what leads to someone being successful on the sales side, they're going to think of things like, “Well, the person needs to have the gift of gab, some people might say, or the person needs to be persuasive, or they need to like people”. So oftentimes when someone is interviewing a sales candidate, they're looking for those things they want to see whether or not the person again comes across as a positive individual and whether or not they really kind of get a good gut feel of whether the person is going to be successful in that role. But that doesn't tell you anything about whether they really have those non-teachable characteristics that are essential. You can teach someone persuasiveness. You can teach them relationship skills. But if you're only looking for those sorts of things in the interview and beyond that, if you're only doing that in such a way that you're just asking the person to have a conversation with you and trying to make a conclusion, just based upon that conversation, you're going to be in trouble down the road, particularly if you want the person to be a successful hunter. So, sometimes they don't put in the time, or to necessarily vet that person effectively and that person comes on board. They may have a model of wealth. Sales is a crapshoot. You never know what you're going to get. So, when that person comes on board, they may not perform well. The company goes out, they engage in the same process hiring.


Christopher Croner: [00:11:51] Of course, you continue to do the same things the same way on the hiring side, you’re going to get the same result, and that's what continues happening, so unfortunately, it's kind of baked in the model for several companies, many, many companies that that hiring process really just is a crapshoot. They don't necessarily know exactly what to look for, and therefore sales becomes that high turnover position. If you think about it and no other job requires, in many ways, the psychological rigor that a sales job does. So, you really do need to invest the time up front to find somebody who has those three non-teachable characteristics essential for success as a hunter salesperson. And then, of course, you have to make sure that you're on boarding in that you're not just throwing them to the wolves. The temptation, of course, when you hire someone who's high in those three characteristics can be, “OK, great. The person has strong drive. Now let's throw them out there and install them to the wolves and see how they do, how you drive. What else do we need to do?” Well, there's much more that we need to do, of course, because we need to onboard the person effectively and there are many best practices there as well. But when we hire someone effectively, we onboard them effectively, and then we manage them effectively. Those things together lead to that lack of attrition that the best companies experience when they don't necessarily have people who are churning, when they keep people on board and they're retaining them. It's again designing the process such that we're hiring the right person and we're giving them the training and development necessary. No different than a great sports team would do with the highest performing athletes, if you will.


Maria Melfa: [00:13:09] So let's talk about your assessment. What are the three elements of drive?


Christopher Croner: [00:13:15] Again, as I mentioned in terms of developing those, you know, over a decade of research really went into that. Starting out looking at our own work, as I mentioned doing behavioral interviews with sales candidates, circling back with their managers thereafter to find out who really does become successful, and then at the same time, looking at everything that had been published on that topic academically over the last 85, almost 90 years now in terms of what is it that leads someone to be successful as a salesperson? Of course, when we combine all of that data, we found that again, many of the characteristics, of course, that most people would consider to be essential for success as a salesperson were very important. Again, the expected ones. Things like, of course, persuasiveness and relationship skills, even organizational skills as well, but again, above and beyond any of those by far were these three non-teachable characteristics that continued to again lead to success as a hunter salesperson. The first one is what we call the need for achievement, and when we talk about the need for achievement in a salesperson, Maria and Jocelyn, we're talking about the person who wants to do well, simply for the sake of doing well. So, the salesperson who is high in need for achievement, they just naturally want to set the bar high, if you will. They want to jump over that. Then, they want to set it even higher again the next time. So, they're constantly focused on producing excellence just for the sake of excellence.


Christopher Croner: [00:14:33] And it's interesting because the research shows that characteristic need for achievement is important only for salespeople, but also, incidentally for entrepreneurs. People have to kind of get up every morning and make it happen, and there's nobody standing over them watching them. So of course, as you can imagine, as companies are now having to hire in many cases a bit more remotely, we're finding that characteristic just continues to become more and more important. So that's the first piece need for achievement. The second piece is competitiveness, and the competitive salesperson we find really wants to do two things. Number one, they want to be the best among their peers. They're always comparing their performance to their colleagues. They want to kind of see how they're doing relative to the team. But number two, they want to win that client or that customer over to their point of view. Because to them, psychologically, that sale is kind of like a contest of wills. The third piece is optimism, and that's the salesperson sense of certainty that they will succeed, as well as their resilience to hang in there when they face the inevitable rejection that a salesperson just has to deal with. So, we find it's those three characteristics all together. Need for achievement, competitiveness and optimism that psychologically create sort of the perfect storm, if you will. And collectively, we refer to those three characteristics yes, as drive.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:15:41] Well, that explains why I'm not in sales because I am like the biggest curmudgeon ever. Optimism is so not one of my strong suits.


Maria Melfa: [00:15:50] She's joking. 


Jocelyn Allen: [00:15:51] I'm just kidding. 


Maria Melfa: [00:15:55] But actually, that leads me to my next question. How can you apply this same assessment, or can you apply the same assessment to recruiters, which are very much salespeople?


Christopher Croner: [00:16:06] Good question. Yes, we actually do have several companies who use the assessment for recruiters because you're right. In many ways, the recruiting position is a sales position to the extent that the person who's a recruiter needs to be a hunter. You can certainly use an assessment like this to determine, “Does the person have that drive?” It drives the syndrome for that role. Do they have those three non-teachable characteristics that are going to be important in that sales portion of their job, if you will? Sometimes companies will also ask us, “What about a sales leader?” Really, in terms of a leadership role, though only to the extent that the person needs to be, say, a player coach? Is the assessment important? And then in that case, only to the extent to which they need to be a player. It doesn't tell us about their ability to be a coach, but if they do need to be a player, how effective will they be in that sales portion of their role, if you will? So certainly, you can use it for a variety of roles, just important that the person is in some way a hunter, if you will. 


Maria Melfa: [00:16:51] So you wouldn't want your sales manager to be competing with their people.


Christopher Croner: [00:16:55] Correct. You always want to make sure that that position is not designed, such that they have a there is going to be getting into too much of a competition with their colleagues and friends too. That brings up a problem that many companies often have is promoting somebody who's been successful as a salesperson into a sales management role. Because of course, when a company does, the challenge they often run into is, you know, heretofore this person who's been very successful has gotten results through their own efforts. But now, if they're being promoted into a management role now, they have to get results through others. That's a very different proposition that we're talking about. So oftentimes, again, things that lead someone to be very successful as a salesperson can kind of get in their way in that management role.


Maria Melfa: [00:17:32] So what is happened? Dr. Croner to me and I know it's happened to thousands and thousands of other companies; is you have the infamous interview with a sales candidate, and they always come across very smooth and capable. What interview questions can you use to assess these three elements of drive?


Christopher Croner: [00:17:54] Good question. Again, you always want to keep in mind the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior. So, you mentioned the sales candidate coming across very effectively. Oftentimes, the candidate, quite frankly, is doing a little bit of homework in terms of reading books on how to interview effectively. Many of those will tell them to, if at all possible, take over the interview. And so that's what will happen. You know, the candidate will sit down, particularly if the interviewer is not prepared, and they will take over ideally trying to sell themselves. And if they can filibuster, if you will, and run out the clock, oftentimes they'll extend their hand at the end, say, do I get the job? And in that situation, of course, the interviewer has no idea whether the person is going to be a good match for the role. Instead, we always keep in mind that we want to control the interview. And in doing so, keep in mind the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior. So, we want to ask the candidate about behaviors they've engaged in at work in the past that reflect the characteristics that we would like for them to show for us going forward. So, for example, when it comes to need for achievement, one of my favorite questions to ask is, “Tell me about what kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?” What does that person consider to be a sacrifice? Was it maybe they have to work a couple of weekends last year? Or was it something more substantial?


Christopher Croner: [00:18:55] Now compare that to the kinds of sacrifices that you've seen your top performers have to make over time. Or tell me what the greatest goal you've ever accomplished professionally really. Have the person describe that to you and flesh it out, then you can reflect back to them. You've got to be proud of that. How do you intend to top it again? The person higher need for achievement has a plan to top it, and they're excited about the opportunity to tell you about it. For competitiveness, tell me about the last time you were competitive at work. What did that look like for you? Again, we want to look for the person that just relishes competitions where even if they're not in a formal competition, they don't want to make a competition with their peers because they just have to know how they stack up, if you will. And then for optimism, tell me about a time when you remain persistent, even though everyone else around you gave up. Now, tell me about another time getting those consistent examples. So, and again, in our book, “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again”, we have all of our favorite questions. We also include an interview guide in there to kind of help companies walk through all of the questions and only when it comes to drive, but also those other teachable skills things like relationship skills and persuasion and organization in a system they can use to score those types of questions as well.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:19:57] I love this stuff because I can see how everything those interview questions, those sample questions I think help people who may be listening that don't. I don't want to say that don't understand but need more information as to how this is valuable and why it's important. And seeing an assessment as separate from an interview is not really what we're doing here. We're kind of like integrating the two by saying, here's what you're looking for. Here are call outs, and here is what we have discovered to be the best ways to vet out your talent like I just love the different directions that this can go in. Now based on that information, sometimes we're at the mercy of what something is telling us on paper about a person before we even get to this point, because time is just as much of an investment to, you know, the candidate as it is to the organization looking for the candidate, right? So, what about indicators on a resume that would show us that that would lead us to those questions of drive in an interview?


Christopher Croner: [00:20:58] It's a question we often get. Is there anything we can look at say in terms of a resume or a LinkedIn profile, for example, that might indicate a person is going to have high drive? And we have had several companies where almost every single person they put through the assessments are strong and drive. And so, we've asked them, “What do you look for, you know, in terms of a resume review?” And they said, well, they tend to look for three different things. Number one, of course, they look for the passive candidates as opposed to the active candidates. And when I say passive candidate, I'm speaking, of course, of someone who is not necessarily actively out there looking for a position, maybe they're currently employed now. The reason for that, of course, is because, oftentimes if someone has been looking for a while in the world of sales, that could be a good reason for it. So, they tend to prefer the passive candidates as opposed to the active candidates. Number two, you look for the person, of course, that's not a job hopper, so they have some longevity in the positions that they held. Number three, they look for the person that's able to provide some sort of metrics to show that they have been successful previously. They find those three things altogether. Although it's not a perfect correlation, they do tend to predict a higher overall drive score, if you will.


Maria Melfa: [00:21:54] Do you think drive can be taught?


Christopher Croner: [00:21:56] Past the age of twenty-one, twenty-two? There's not much we can do to change it. No, and that's really the challenge. Oftentimes, I'll get that question if I give a speech. “What about my kids? What lead somebody to having high drive?” And truly a combination of nature and nurture. The nature side, there is a psychological characteristic, a personality characteristic that psychologists call conscientiousness, a facet of which is achievement striving. Conscientiousness is something that people are relatively born with, if you will, at a certain level. But at the same time, there's the way the person is raised, the way they are held accountable for their behavior, for example. So, we find that people that end up with a high need for achievement tend to be the sorts of individuals that are kind of hard wired with that conscientiousness. At the same time, they're held accountable in some way for their behavior as they are growing up. So, it could be they're held accountable for their performance in school, or they are held accountable for maybe something extracurricular, like performance in a band or athletic performance, or maybe just watching their siblings, if you will. Those two things go together. The nature side and the nurture side. But the person is in their kind of late teens, early 20s, if you will. That characteristic is relatively solidify. And that's the challenge because although it is solidified, we find that that drive characteristic is the easiest thing, of course, for a candidate, the easiest characteristic for a candidate to fake in the interview, and the most difficult characteristic to accurately rate


Christopher Croner: [00:23:08] because of course, candidates can be very skilled at presenting themselves well, and sometimes they're even using sales techniques. A new in the interview, you can feel, particularly when you have a position that's been open for a while. And finally, you know, the cavalry's here. Within six months or a year down the road. Unfortunately, that ends up being the best sale that you ever really see out of them. And you're asking, wait a minute. Where did that person who I interviewed, where did they go? Well, that's why, of course, we always advocate the use of the assessment prior to the one-on-one interviews that again, our clients can identify the higher potential candidates and what spending too much more time with the individuals whom they might describe as the good actors or the professional interviewers. And then they take it to the next level with those questions that we talked about. You're exactly right. It's about coming up with that series of steps, step by step, to make sure that as we're hiring resume review there may be a phone screen, then the assessment, then deciding who moves into the one-on-one interview, then using those behavioral questions. That's what I meant by putting a series of steps in place to make sure you are consistently hiring individuals that have those characteristics, consistently bringing them on board and then consistently over time raising your average, if you will, in terms of your performance.


Maria Melfa: [00:24:08] Do you think the test results could change over time? So, if you are testing a twenty-one-year-old just out of college and then you test the same person at 40, do you think that at that time at 21, that they will have pretty much the same results as they would at 40?


Christopher Croner: [00:24:26] That's a very good question as well. A related one. An additional question we'll often get is what about the person's mood? What if they're having a hard time at their job? Does that affect their scoring and broadly in terms of both of the questions? Essentially, we're looking at traits as opposed to states. So, because we're looking at traits, those are relatively solidified and relatively stable. So, you're not going to see a giant job or a giant change over time. As long as the person we're assessing a salesperson, we're assessing them in that sales role, if you will. You're not going to see those characteristics move that much between the time the person's 20 and 40. You may see a little bit, but it won't necessarily go from, say, a five on drive to a one on drive. You may see a point or two here or there. Other times, sometimes, as you can imagine, if the person is later in their career, they may start focusing on giving back to others, if you will. So that can impact in some ways, say their need for achievements. So certainly, there can be a little bit of change here in there, but you're not going to see a drastic personality transformation typically between the person being in their 20s and their 40s. Just a little bit. But it won't be extreme, if you will, if


Jocelyn Allen: [00:25:20] A salesperson candidate for a job interview can schmooze a job interview. Is there a way or have you guys made it so that it cannot be done that a candidate can schmooze the assessment as well?


Christopher Croner: [00:25:36] Thank you. Yeah, that's an important point. That's one of the challenges that an assessment of often face. You know, an assessment of a current salesperson or current person doesn't necessarily have to be as strong on the thinking side because the stakes are not necessarily as high. But when you have that high stake hiring situation, you really need to be careful to make sure that the assessment is going to be rigorous, if you will, and not prone to faking. So, for example, if the question says, I consider myself persuasive, true or false, and the person wants this position and it's a sales position, they're probably going to say true. So, we use a question format with the drive test that's again designed to eliminate faking. It's called forced choice. So, for each question on the drive test, the person gets a series of three statements. All of which are worded very positively. So, a question, for example, may say something like I consider myself a leader. I have great relationship skills. I'm very organized. Ok, now which of these is most like you and which one is least like you? So obviously, that then forces the candidate to make some very difficult distinctions. But then it gives us a much better sense of their real priorities. And as they're working their way through the assessment, of course, we're constantly monitoring their consistency as they respond to those questions because, as you can imagine, if they do try to fake the test, it's going to be very difficult for them to remember consistently what they ranked most and least across the entire assessment. So again, it's designed to be very robust and resistant to faking in that regard.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:27:04] Does that include duration of time taken to answer questions? Because I also think that maybe that could come into play where somebody is taking a little extra long to be careful about a question and then the next time around, they've answered it so quickly that there's a gap in that regard, too. Maybe I'm diving deep here, but I get 


Christopher Croner: [00:27:23] That's OK. 


Jocelyn Allen: [00:27:23] You know, you get my wheels turning. I'm thinking about the possibility of the schmoozers out there.


Christopher Croner: [00:27:30] Yeah, yeah, sure. Even if the person takes a lot of time with the assessment, we find that again, if they're trying to manipulate their responses with all three statements. That's why all three of those statements we actually had a team of psychologists look at each statement in each question, each of the three and make sure they were all equal on what psychologists call social desirability to make it especially difficult or especially challenging on the candidate side. So again, the benefit to that is even if the candidates try to take their time and gain one particular question. By the time they come to the next question, they're going to see three more statements, all of which are going to sound very, very positive as well. So, it's going to be very challenging for them to present themselves in a consistent way, in a positive way. So, they're going to be able to again consistently, not only have a high drive score, but then get a consistency score that's strong. So that's why we always give a consistency rating at the bottom of the assessment. We want to make sure that the person is not doing that. So generally, again, it's all about how you introduce the assessment. Make sure that the assessment is introduced in a positive way to candidates so that they know that again, we're really just looking at their behavioral preferences at work. No right or wrong answers. Take your time, but don't spend too much time. Don't overthink the questions. Just move through at a reasonable clip. And generally, we find it takes about 20 minutes for a candidate to complete the assessment. So, it's very candidate friendly in terms of timing in that regard.


Maria Melfa: [00:28:40] What if you are looking for another salesperson for your team, and you receive an application from somebody that has incredible experience? You perhaps might know some of the references, you call and the references, and they have a verifiable, successful career. Then you give them the Sales Drive Assessment, and they score very low. What do you do?


Christopher Croner: [00:29:09] Very good question. Yeah, the key distinction is that I want to know about that person's past and their poor performance in the past. The key distinction even the person who has performed well in previous roles. My key question, of course, as a hiring manager is, “Are they going to continue to bring that same degree of success to bear for me?” So, the phenomenon that you bring up the situation in which the person may be has great references. They perform in a stellar way in the past, but for some reason, they're scoring lower than you expect when it comes to the overall drive score, you know, their drive score in the assessment. The most common reason why that would occur, as you can probably imagine, is you may have an individual who heretofore has been successful, for example, at a very large company. So, they've done quite well at that company. Maybe they even built up a book of business that they were focused a little bit more now on shepherding. And oftentimes, the thing that makes that person attractive as a candidate is, “Wow, they've had success in this very large company.” “They've got this great contact list through doing so.” “Surely they've had world class sales training?” “Surely they will bring that same degree of success to bear for us.” But then the key question is what really led to their success? Was it all purely their own effort? Or is it really the fact that in some situations it was that brand recognition and collateral material that we're consistently closing or opening the doors for them, if you will? Oftentimes, we want to find the individual who maybe has had a previous track record at a company of a different size, or they haven't necessarily relied on, say, a book of business that they're focused on shepherding.


Christopher Croner: [00:30:27] But when you do have that phenomenon, the person having a successful history and then scoring lower on the assessment, that's generally what you find is oftentimes they come from, say, a very large company. You can imagine where they have a great degree of brand recognition that helps them out. They may list a book of business, or they may have a lot of connections that are helping them out. They may put up a great network that helps them. So those tend to be the types of things that cause someone to have been heretofore successful, where now the person is applying for this role, where maybe they don't necessarily have all those advantages and they're taking an assessment and they're scoring lower on drive. That's generally what that leads to. But again, even in that situation, I never say that any assessment is the be all end all.


Christopher Croner: [00:31:00] I would simply say, if you had said to me in reviewing the assessment report, you know, “We love this candidate. They've had this great track record of success. All the references say they're fantastic, but they're scoring lower than we expect in the assessment. What should we do? I would never say you should throw the candidate out.” I would simply say, well, look at the assessment as a bit like having, say, your consumer report before you make a major buying decision. It just sort of says, hey, buyer beware. Just make sure you're covering any areas that are being flagged here in the assessment when it comes to the three elements of drive, as well as, of course, all of the other core skills that we measure: confidence, persuasion, relationship, and organization just to make sure that you are comfortable moving the person into that role for you. Again, of course, that makes you much more powerful now, as you can imagine as an interviewer, because now you're not necessarily relying on all the hype that you've seen in the past. Now you're uncovering dynamics instead going on underneath the surface that you might not otherwise have seen it all before. And no matter what you're going into that new hire with your eyes wide open.

Maria Melfa: [00:31:53] How do you bring in IQ to this equation? Because I know we are using your Sales Drive Assessment Test, and we find those very valuable. We also have used Wunderlich for a long time, which is now called One Score. And we have found a strong correlation on someone who might not score that well on the IQ portion. And how well they do here. I mean, obviously, I mean we've had people that have scored extremely high, have been extremely intelligent and they have not done well, but we typically haven't seen it the other way around when somebody scores very low in that area. That they've done very well here, and I think, you know, we are our business is not very cookie cutter and there's a lot of things for a sales representative to learn, and sometimes we feel that they could have too long of a learning curve. So, what do you think about that?


Christopher Croner: [00:33:02] Of course, looking at the predictors of success. Really in a variety of industries, as the research indicates, there's again, achievement striving and then there's cognitive ability know those two tend to be two of the biggest, if not the biggest, indicators just broadly. Now in using our assessment, the drive test. Of course, the drive test doesn't have any cognitive element to it in terms of an intelligence test, but combining it with a Wunderlich, particularly, for example, if you're looking at a sale that needs to be a little bit more complex where it involves a problem solving analytical ability, conceptual skill, then yes, of course, combining an assessment of personality, particularly drive, the person needs to be a hunter along with an intellectual assessment to determine does the person kind of have that horsepower, if you will, to kind of indicate that they're going to be successful in that role? That could certainly be a very kind of powerful combination, if you will. Again, if they do need to be an effective problem solver. So certainly, kind of combining those two. Now, of course, in some situations, the person can be a little bit more cookie cutter. Maybe there are some scenarios where they're not selling something as complex, where it's a more simple sale. In those cases, you don't necessarily need to use a cognitive assessment. But if you are selling a more complex solution sale, the more complex it is certainly the more helpful that an intellectual assessment can be to determine whether the person, particularly if they don't have experience in that particular role, how fast will they be able to kind of pick up on that, if you will? So certainly, those can be a very effective combination.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:34:18] First of all, congratulations on the second edition of your book, “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again”. This one selecting candidates who are absolutely driven to succeed. So, as we're wrapping up here, we'd love if you could tell us a little bit more about the second edition of your book. And I know you mentioned it earlier the release date, but all of those juicy details please, Dr. Croner.


Christopher Croner: [00:34:39] It'll be in early December. The book will be coming out in terms of the second edition of the book. We wanted too really. Since the first edition came out in 2006, we've learned so much in terms of our practice, again, dealing with what the twelve hundred companies around the world wanted to share. The best of what we know, not only just in terms of beefing up in terms of the interview section, talking about what do you look for in a candidate, talking about our research, detailing that and adding to that research that's been done since then in terms of the three elements of drive and then talking about the consistent process companies can use, then only how to select an assessment, but then the interview process. What do you do on the interview side? What questions do you ask? And that's why now we have a downloadable interview guide with all of our favorite questions. We went through a few before, but all of our favorite questions when it comes to the three elements of drive, all of the other core skills that we look at with the assessment as well a scoring system you can use for that behavioral interview and then as well techniques for bringing the person on board. How do you onboard somebody who's high drive? What do you do in terms of establishing what we call a mission meeting? How do you meet with them and really kind of bond in terms of your goals for the company, as well as the person's own personal hopes and dreams, and show them how those to align and do everything that you can to make sure there's strong alignment between two and keep that alignment alive over time, if you will. So that's what the book is all about. How do you identify candidates who have those characteristics? How do you onboard them and how do you do that consistently over time? Everything that we have learned in terms of our research from 2006 to the present, if you will, and we're excited for that to come out in the next couple of months.


Maria Melfa: [00:36:03] Oh, I can't wait to read it.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:36:05] I know I was just going to say we'll definitely be picking up our copy. So, thank you so much, Dr. Croner. This has been a wonderful discussion and episode. As I said earlier, we love the psychology piece of these assessments and finding the right fit and talent for organization. So, I think it's been a lot of useful information for our listeners out there. Thank you.


Maria Melfa: [00:36:26] It was a true pleasure.


Christopher Croner: [00:36:27] Thank you for the opportunity to be a service. We truly appreciate it.


Maria Melfa: [00:36:29] Thank you so much.


Jocelyn Allen: [00:36:32] For more information on today's podcast guests and how they can help your organization, please visit


Maria Melfa: [00:36:41] Bring Out The Talent is a MuddHouse Media Production.