Using Core Competencies Instead of Personality Tests to Find the A Players


GUEST: JB Bush and Liz Roche, Associates, ValueSelling Associates

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You can’t choose your sales team like you choose dinner.

“Smells good, looks great on the menu… “Wait, that’s what I ordered?”

So many leaders hire based on non-quantifiable measurements.

They use personality tests or behavior assessments, or worst of all a gut feeling.

When that person leaves 9-12 months later, it’s painful and expensive.

I sat down with experts Liz Roche and JB Bush, who are both Associates at ValueSelling Associates, and in this episode, they share their expertise on the importance and the how-to of quantifiable salesperson assessment.

4 Strategic Questions that Uncover the Need for Sales Team Assessment

In pointing out how important is is to quantitatively assess where your team is today, Liz starts with 4 questions that every good leader is asking:

  1. Can your team be more effective?
  2. How much more effective can they be?
  3. If so, what would it take to accomplish?
  4. How long will it take to accomplish them?

The real starting point for answering these questions is performing a quantitative assessment; you need the information to be based on actual selling competencies.

This goes beyond personality assessments which are prone to make assumptions about the person. Aptitude tests are also not trustworthy because what you know isn’t always what you execute.

“Knowing quantitatively is key, you need that information to be based on actual selling competencies.”

Liz roche,

associate, valueselling associates, inc.

The First Thing Hiring Leaders Get Wrong

JB is very familiar with the critical role of the sales leader, which makes it easy for him to point out fatal flaws. Sales leaders often times rely too much on their own judgment, too quickly.

He jokes that sales leaders hire like they order dinner.

“We go, ‘looks great on the menu,’ and then it comes later; you find out that’s not what you thought you were ordering.”

JB Bush,

Associate, valueselling associates, inc.

Sales leaders need to look for data points to help them make better decisions. As it turns out there is some very predictive data points to help them make better decisions. As it turns out there is some very predictive data that shows whether someone will be a good fit and where their likely weakness will be.

What Else Besides Behavior and Past Sales Performance Do Your Look For?

There are two traits most people look for that Liz points out by sorting the sales competencies into four buckets:

  1. Their specific selling skills
    • These are things like hunting, qualifying, prospecting, etc.
  2. Their desire or commitment to do whatever it takes
    • Do they have ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ and the drive to do whatever is within the bounds of legality and ethics?
  3. Selling-limiting beliefs or ‘neutralizers’
    • Neutralizers are thoughts like “I suck at prospecting.” Liz admits that this is one of her ‘neutralizers’.
  4. Other Unique Factors
    • These are less than tangible skills like a person’s figure-it-out factor, their coach-ability, how they posture themselves when they walk in a room, etc.

How Do We Measure These and Ensure the Measurements are Accurate?

In JB’s experience, there’s so much more than only soft skills that go into the role. It is crucial to have a comprehensive set of findings.

You need to know who the ideal salesperson is (that doesn’t actually exist) to compare against it.

“We’ve all got gaps, and the best of the best are continually trying to improve. Well, improve against what? What’s the benchmark?”



The biggest takeaway from this episode is the assessment Liz shares.

It’s an assessment from an organization called, ‘Objective Management Group’, which is comprised of:

  • 26,000 companies
  • 1.8 million salespeople
  • Across 200 industries
  • In 43 countries

This has created a super rich repository from which they’ve gotten 21 core competencies for the ideal salesperson that you can compare against.

Two interesting examples Liz gives from the list are:

  1. The ability to build relationships in economic troughs.
  2. How the salesperson makes purchases himself/herself?
    • Do they think things over? Comparison price shop? Think something is expensive when it is not?
    • Whatever that is, it means they’ll accept those behaviors from their prospects.

Some execs say, “I just hire ‘A-players’, that’s enough for me.” “I don’t have the budget to put money into assessment.”

JB’s answer to that is simple and poignant:

“Compared to what?”

Of course, we all want ‘A-players’, but an ‘A-player’ is someone who will succeed in your environment.

“You need to know your sales environment to be able to match the skills needed in those players.”



Otherwise, it’ll be expensive and painful 9-12 months later when that player leaves.

Liz’s answer to execs who say they don’t have the budget for assessment is that it’s like putting a bunch of money into sales training without knowing the problem you’re trying to solve. The cart is going before the horse.

To know your problems you need to quantitatively know:

  • Your salespeople
  • Your managers
  • Your executives
  • Your systems and processes

JB’s insight here is one point: ‘If you don’t have the right managers, you still have a broken machine.’

Often it is the managers, not only the salespeople, who are not executing on the core competencies relevant to management like coaching, motivation, encouragement, accountability, and the ability to carry the flag of the process.

So many managers get the promotion because they did a great job as a salesperson, but these are two different skill sets.

“Yeah you want ‘A-players’, but let’s at least profile what that looks like so that individual has the competencies to succeed in your environment.”



2 Insight Questions I Always Ask My Guests

I always like to pick my guest’s brain on two insight questions:

  1. As a revenue exec, how does someone who has no ‘in’ with you, get your time?
    • Liz said, “Do a little freaking research. Spend 5 minutes figuring out what I’m struggling with, what my problems are, and then offer to help. Otherwise, I might turn the tables on you and try to help you out with your sales skills.”
    • JB said, “Authenticity is key; having an authentic conversation. Too many people come on hard, but selling is just a natural outcome of good conversation, and my ‘BS’ meter is strong. I know in the first 5 minutes from your tone, if you’re here to sell and I’m looking for a way out.”
  2. What’s one piece of advice that if sales and marketing people listened, they would crush their targets?
    • Liz said, “Be really fearless about vetting your skills against the ideal salesperson.”
    • JB said, “Trust, but verify. Demonstrate trust, while not going forward blindly.”

This post is based on an interview with JB Bush and Liz Roche, Associates of ValueSelling Associates, Inc. To hear this episode, and many more like it, subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience Podcast.

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