As a sales leader, you already know the cost of a poor hire is high. That cost ranges from wasted budget on onboarding, training, salary, and benefits, to lost revenue and increased stress for everyone. It’s estimated that a bad sales hire costs your organization 30% of the annual salary . . . and that figure doesn’t even take into account problems like excess time spent on ramp-up, cultural problems, and higher turnover.
When we’re hiring, we often make decisions based on gut instinct, and while these instincts may sometimes help us spot great salespeople, neglecting to take the time to hire more systematically can be expensive, and not just financially. We end up investing significant time and effort spent training and coaching someone who’s not a great fit for the job or the organization – and who shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.
Luckily, there is a secret weapon that can help us get a clearer picture of candidate’s likelihood to succeed. The DISC behavioral assessment helps us put together a thoughtful questioning strategy that can not only validate strengths and reveal weaknesses, but also identify a candidate’s level of self-awareness.
What Is DISC?
DISC is a personality assessment system initially developed and refined by the psychologists William Moulton Marston and Walter Clarke. It categorizes individuals based on four distinct communication styles. DISC is an acronym the primary communication styles the system identifies: Dominant (D), Influencer (I), Steady Relator(S), and Compliant(C). (In some individuals, the styles overlap.)
Dominants are often opinionated people who need to take action. They like to be in charge of situations. When they aren’t in control, they are uncomfortable.
Influencers are personable and trusting. They like to talk/interact, and often prefer to leave the action to others. Since they want to be liked, they are eager team players.
Compliants are cautious thinkers. Detail-oriented perfectionists, their high standards follow the book. Since they are usually busy getting one more fact in search of the perfect answer, they may be slow, or even unwilling, to commit to a course of action.
Steady Relators are amiable, patient people who know how to keep the peace and avoid conflict. Since they practice and prefer constancy and consistency, they don’t like changes or surprises. They are deliberate and can appear slow to make decisions.
It makes sense to do a DISC assessment of anyone you are seriously considering hiring as a salesperson, because knowing their profile can help you to create a customized set of interview questions. Compare interviewing prospective sales hires to speed dating: You’re given a relatively brief period to ask questions that will help you to analyze whether or not there is a good fit. A DISC profile helps you to make the most of that time.
DISC Helps You Create Better Interview Questions
When interviewing prospective sales hires, an effective sales leader analyzes the needs of the role. Then, they apply DISC-guided questioning to uncover relevant strengths and weaknesses … and, just as important, they determine whether the candidate possesses the ability to self-assess and adjust their behaviors and communication strategies to maximize the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses.
While anyone can recite a “boilerplate” list of interview questions, thoughtful consideration and questioning with the person’s DISC style in mind can result in a unique, and far more insightful, interview. For instance, you may choose to construct a question designed to uncover how a “high D” candidate handles conflict situations. Here’s an example:
“Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a colleague about something important. What happened?”
If this “high D” candidate cannot provide an example of effective conflict resolution, or denies ever having experienced conflict at work, they are failing to self-assess. That failure is something you want to know about. It means, among other things, that they are unlikely to fit into a sales team where collaboration has been identified as an important cultural value.
On the other hand, suppose the candidate says something like this:
“Well, one thing I know about myself is that I’m very goal oriented. There have definitely been a couple of times when, in order to serve what I thought were the client’s best interests, I made my own case for moving forward, and I tuned out people on the service and delivery side when I thought they were being too conservative about what we could deliver. They said something I wanted was unrealistic and I’m afraid I found ways to ignore them. Once, we lost a big account because of a failure on my side to listen to what the customer support people were saying about our schedule and our capacity. Ever since that happened, I’ve made a point of becoming a better listener. I’ve also been more careful about how I set client expectations … about getting other people in the organization involved in important discussions … and about confirming that delivery dates are realistic before I share them with outsiders.”
This is the kind of answer you receive from someone who understands both the advantages and the limitations of their own personal communication style. Without the DISC assessment, though, you might not have asked the question.
Notice that we’re not just talking about identifying blind spots. Understanding a person’s DISC profile helps us uncover critical strengths, too. In my own business, one of my most successful hires came to my team after 12 years working as a waitress at a mom-and-pop restaurant. By using a DISC assessment and appropriate behavioral based questions, I uncovered that she was an incredibly loyal team member – a Steady Relator – and capable of taking on a large workload. Even though she did not have the direct experience in our industry that I initially thought I was looking for, she had the behavioral profile and the capacity to self-assess that helped me to free up more of my time. She was a perfect fit for the position.
Finding the Right Match
Here is the bottom line: Hiring a candidate whose DISC profile is a complete mystery to you is a risk that may not be worth taking. Hiring a candidate who is unwilling or unable to self-assess means you are hiring someone who is unlikely to succeed. DISC assessments help you create glove-fitting questioning strategies that identify a candidate who fits the position and is both willing and able to compensate for potential behavioral and communication challenges when interacting with others.
While building a hiring process for your team that incorporates DISC assessments and behavioral analysis may seem time-consuming, it actually saves you time. It improves your efficiency as an interviewer, dramatically reduces the odds that you will make a bad hire, minimizes your onboarding and ramp-up headaches, and, last but certainly not least, wins your organization significantly more opportunities to collect sales revenue.
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Every commercial organization should focus an appropriate amount of time on hunting for and securing new clients. Sadly, too few have a clearly defined strategy that maximizes their sales function's valuable selling time and minimizes the related costs of this exercise.
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