Final Exams

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Fri, Jan 08, 2010

In addition to the work we do with our customers, I’m a professor at Tufts, where I teach Sales & Marketing within the Tufts entrepreneurship program. Great students, great faculty, hard work and very rewarding in the fact that it tests my skills, energy and the small amount of intellect that I sometimes think I have. Nothing is more real than addressing 20 students at 8:30 for three hours every week for 13 weeks.

Last Friday, I hit the “send” button to post the final grades in a very intensive course where the final semester-long project counts for 50% of the overall grade. As usual, I’m not too sure who is more anxious about this process: me or the students? I am sure that it is me.

From my Tufts experience over the past three years and my ten years plus of teaching business planning and marketing at MIT, I’ve adapted this concept of final exams and brought it into the world of interviewing sales managers, and this morning is a great example of putting this into practice.
It’s my experience that too often we make decisions on hiring what is often the most critical position in the company on the basis of our traditional, old and tired interviewing processes. Hire a recruiter or not; shuffle through the resumes; do numbers of telephone interviews; invite a few finalists in and round-robin them among the senior team; do a series of follow up interviews and check references. An ok process, but it really never gets to the heart of whether this person can lead, can think, can manage or stand up to the performance pressures of the job.

There are nuances to this of course, and maybe today we source through our LinkedIn communities and perhaps I interject a personality profile assessment, but the basics of making decisions on interviewing and hiring sales managers are typically the same as the (unfortunate) results show in mediocre performance and relolving door tenure.

Think about continuing to do all of the basics, including an entirely new set of better open-ended questions that get the candidate to really think and reveal their process for problem solving, but add to the process a final exam.

This morning is a great example. The final candidates who are coming in to meet all of the senior management team and me have been reviewed, telephone screened and have met with the hiring VP. This morning they are coming in to provide 75 minute presentation on their first 100 days, their primary objectives for themselves and for the business at the end of 2010 and what their strategic achievements will be at the end of 2011.

In preparation for this morning, they’ve signed NDAs, have been given access to data files and schedules to query members of the senior team.

And, this morning is the final exam which will definitively demonstrate their presentation and communication skills, their level of strategic and tactical planning, their use of analytical data and their overall ability to sell and market their most important product-themselves.

There’s another added benefit to this process in that it enables everyone on the senior management team to participate in the hiring process which is a big win for team building in what is typically the most important decision that any company makes. The overall results, since we’ve been promoting this process have been excellent, and we have now extended it to all senior management hiring from CEO to all VPs.

If you want to share your own ideas on this process, just comment here or send me an email.

Good Selling !


Tags: sales, sales management, sales management effectiveness, selling, selling skills