How marketers can use behavioral matching to build successful sales teams
Marketers know they need great people and great tech to achieve goals, yet there is little connection between hiring and technology. While martech has infiltrated just about every marketing nook, hiring processes remain unchanged from decades ago. Interviews are rarely systematic, a problem exacerbated by virtual conversations. The same goes for performance tracking. Not surprisingly, a number of Silicon Valley-based companies are looking to change all this.
One such company is Aptology, whose chief marketing officer, Caroline Tien-Spalding, says tech must come to the rescue. Companies have data about prospects and about pipeline, but not about their employees. What behaviors lead to performance? Which don’t? How is that different from role to role? Knowledge in these areas means companies can increase the odds that hires will succeed in their roles and be good cultural fits. For CMOs, this means they can finally be as tech-forward when building and leading their staffs as they are when building their finely tuned demand-generating engine.
Where are businesses lacking when it comes to hiring?
It was so surprising to see that the tools available in martech for prospects were not available to CMOs for understanding their own teams. As marketers, we’ve had a front-row seat for how behavior is a key performance indicator of success. Certainly, we see it in b-to-c, and in the most private and critical areas of our lives, such as Match.com and similar dating services. They use behavioral matching in order to pair you up in what’s probably one of the most important decisions in your life. In the consumer world, behavioral targeting is front and center. It's not about what you look like or what your age group is or where you live—it's about what you do. Based on that, you can get a more relevant fit in finding new products that you love. It’s puzzling that as a marketer, you don’t have access to these insights to guide your teams to be successful.
How does behavioral matching support the hiring process?
We’ve been living in a pretty one-sided view of the world: It’s all about sourcing candidates, fast. But how do you know you’re not setting these candidates up for failure? The analogy I use is a fish in the water versus out of the water. If it doesn't work out of the water, it might not be the fish, it might be the environment. We’ve relied on keywords in resumes, and keywords in job descriptions. But these formats are limiting. Keywords themselves are very limiting. How you describe something is not a direct reflection of how you behave in that situation. What if we could get past the keywords and see the behaviors? What if you could find happiness at work and know that you're going into an environment that is favorable to you? Don’t we deserve a better way to get to success at work?
One thing that we've seen pretty consistently is that you go from one company to the next and what is required to be successful in the role may be really different. One of my favorite case studies was this company that used to hire the outspoken person for enterprise sales roles. Super talkative. Knows everybody by first name. You have this person in your head. They’re at the cocktail party and shaking everyone’s hand. The only problem is that’s not who was successful in the role. For their enterprise sales motion, the most successful people were balancing listening and talking—and not just a little: They produced 30% more revenue.
The company had people in different groups—inside sales, field sales, SMB and enterprise. Typically, you’d progress from SDRs to account executives. The problem is what is required to be successful in one role might actually be your undoing in the other. It's the "what got you here will not get you there" problem. That’s what was happening—top inside sales performers got promoted to account executives, and a portion would be struggling. How do you find these pathways without the ability to see what behavior helps you perform? And when you know, how to do it consistently, do it at scale, and understand what success looks like for any role in your company?
How can marketers optimize hiring and coaching?
Help team members understand themselves. Create a way to have better dialogue about work and what your strengths and weaknesses are. It used to be a very famous question that became an exercise in gymnastics: “What are your strengths?” But ... the role was never addressed. What was never answered is: “What kind of environment will make this a strength or a weakness?” How do you communicate, what are your communication style preferences in a team environment? How do you make decisions? How do you react to stress? What does it take to be successful in this role, in this company, right now? And how does it change over time? That’s what top-performing organizations have figured out and homed in on. Now we can do it consistently.
What is one of the primary challenges?
“You hire for experience, but you fire for behavior” is an old adage. What if you could hire for both? It starts with investing in finding people not just based on the usual keywords. Keywords are really difficult because it's how we find things, but they are insufficient in job descriptions and resumes. The way you describe what is needed in a role is not going to match the way different candidates phrase their achievements or their methodology. It doesn't mean they haven't gotten those achievements, but if we are limited to the way the managers describe it, or the way I describe it, there's an entire pool of people missing.
That means that there's a world of untapped potential. And the result is that people hire who they know. Why keep doing that? It's because they're de-risked. So, we have to do better at answering the question: How do you de-risk someone you don't know so that you can open the floodgates of possibilities? Become a student of behavior at work if you can. We can't all be psychologists, but we can try to educate ourselves the way we did in martech.
What’s a good North Star for hiring?
The cornerstone is understanding what it means to be successful in this role in this company. You'll have leaders who have had people in the role before and can tell you what doesn't work, but hopefully you can get to a place where you can more specifically discuss the behaviors that make someone successful. I would just keep it as your North Star to always think about what it takes to be successful, and then match (candidates) based on that instead of asking, "Have you done this before?" What you did yesterday is not necessarily what will make you successful tomorrow, but the method by which you do it, that's something that can last. How do you define what it takes to be successful and how do you adjust that and how do you verify that and how do you close the feedback loop? That's the big piece.
How can marketers apply this thinking to their teams?
A common leadership trait is the ability to really understand what causes certain behaviors to flare or not. A great example—if you end up with a lot of people who say “yes” around you, you start asking yourself what happened the last time someone disagreed. What happened the last time that someone spoke up? And every time you start and ask a question this way, you'll get a better understanding of your actual culture versus your ideal culture. If you open the gates to diverse feedback, you will then see blind spots that you weren't aware of, or new possibilities or opportunities for business.