Sports and sports figures often can’t be trusted but there was one sports story that changed the landscape of sports and in particular major league baseball and is a must know for every business person.
It’s calledMoneyball”--a best-selling book—and hit movie. It explains how the Oakland A’s 2001-2002 baseball team, with a comparatively miniscule budget of $41 million, out-performed teams like the the New York Yankees with their staggering budget of $125 million.
Prior to 2001, the Oakland A’s were trying to do the impossible: apply traditional thinking on team management without the resources necessary to accomplish their goals. They could not begin to compete with other teams, and so, between 1980 and 2000, they finished above .500 only seven times.But something changed in 2001 and 2002. The explanation for “David finally beating Goliath”, derives from Oakland’s refusalto follow the traditional way baseball owners and managers constructed and managed their teams.
Oakland adopted a scientific/statistical metric-driven system that focused not on buying players with big resumes and enormous salaries, but rather focused on applying their budget to buy wins. While most teams used traditional standards to measure the abilities of big leaguers,the A’s used a new metric called Sabermetrics. This innovative and insightful solutionreplaced old-fashioned, unworkable “intuition” and “gut-feeling” with reality-based understanding and prediction. It gave Okland the ability to hire hire optimal performers whom few othersrecognized.It was the word objective that was key inSabermetrics. Before the Okland A’s, baseball teams were using largely subjective methods—gut feel, intuition, simplistic assumptions to inform managerial decisions.
Resembling baseball, most managers believe they can intuitively determine the character of salespersons and predict top performers. From the moment they walk through the door for an interview, managers trust their gut-feel and intuitive responses to make hiring decisions. In one scene from “Moneyball,” the movie, the general manager and his talent-scouts discuss which minor-leaguer to call up to the bigs. One scout says “I like Perez.” Another scout retorts, in all seriousness, “Perez has an ugly girlfriend and an ugly an girlfriend means no confidence.” and thus Perez is a poor prospect.
We laugh at examples like that but how often, when discussing applicants, have company managers and their hiring team based their views on gut-feelings, intuitions or ridiculous criteria based upon a theory closer to magic than science? How many players refuse to wash their socks, eat at the exact same restaurant on game day, use the same bat,all so as to improve performance? Managers and Scouts are similar in this respect. Both use intuition and even superstition to manage their teams
Whether in baseball or in business, here is a maxim about which you can be completely certain: data trumps intuition, and data really trumps superstition. Facts trump gut-feelings, reliable predictive statistics trump the attractiveness of a candidate’s main squeeze.
So what is the equivalent of Sabermetrics in business hiring. Does it exist? Can you hire a sales person based on objective data rather than a well written resume and your own intuition?
Let’s look at an example from baseball. Billy Beane, the current general manager of the Okland A’s and the main character in the movie Money Ball, was the prototypical high school athlete. He was 6’4’’ and just under 200 pounds. He was the highest scorer on his basketball team, the quarterback of the football team, and the best hitter on his baseball team. Scout’s loved him but he never made it as a big league star. Lenny Dykstra, a teammate of Billy Beane’s in the minor leagues, was measly 5’10’’ and 160 lbs. Scouts didn’t think much of him but he became a big league star playing for both the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. How could this happen?How did Billy Bean the prototypical Major Leaguer fail while Lenny Dkystra succeeded? Think about your sales department. How does a kid with no resume going part time to a state college become one of the best salespeople your company has ever seen while the individual with the right resume, right experience and right background fail?
Consider for a moment, the best sales-person you’ve ever known. What made/makes him or her exceptional? Was it the degree from an Ivy League school? The 10 years’ of experience? Their employment at a Fortune 500 company? I have posed this very question to thousands of sales managers and leaders and if you responded as most of them have, then you probably didn’t identify one of the criteria on the left but rather the criteria on the right.
It’s intuitive. Everybody knows innate chacteristics are what makes the best salesperson yet the entire system on which our hiring decisions are made is based on GPA & Test Scores and they are not predictive!
The crucial difference between the first list and the second list and the main difference between Lenny Dkystra and Billy Bean is the difference in experience, skill, and talent. Yeah Billy Bean had the resume and the test scores or batting average but he lacked the resilience to overcome defeat and the challenges that awaited him.
What is talent? To us at InsideSales.com, talent is defined as configurations and inclinations of human character that can be effectively applied. The words “effectively applied” are indispensable because natural inclinations of the human psyche can also be ineffectively applied.
Can Talent be measured?According to Gallup, talent is not only measureable, but just as Oakland used Sabermetrics to predict player performance, so talent can be used to predict top performance in a role.Gallup is not alone in this belief. Google as you saw has thrown out traditional metrics and is now asking applicants to complete an online survey that explores their attitudes, behavior, personality which they believe is more predictive of performance.Still, not every company is following Google in their detailed analytics of applicants. A study by Deloitte Consulting indicated that among companies with 25,000 or more employees, only about 5% are using predictive analytics in human resources.
If these talents are so important then what are they?It is very difficult to objectify the hiring process andpredicts performance but it can be done. It helps to have a team of researchers that have extensive experience andadvanced degrees in psychology, statistics, econometrics, computer-science, and philosophy. At InsideSales, Dr. James Siebach leads just such as team researching behavioral prediction. His team has been studying factors that uncover the top performers. Not surprisingly when it comes to differentiating top performers, the data shows that the longest resume and the best education do not reliably correlate with sales success. A company which aspires consistently to hire top performers must concentrate on that element called talent. Dr. Siebach and team have identified four key talent themes using a tool they call the Salesfinder . . .Let me review each theme with your brieflyA. Empathy: Empathy is the ability to comprehend precisely the emotional and psychological state of customers. Top performers seem to have a sixth sense about the mental and emotional state of their prospective client.Average sales reps, resembling old-fashioned talent scouts, confine themselves to old approaches from which they rarely deviate. Average sellers think it best always to employ a ‘don’t take no for an answer’ attitude, or “always stick to the trusted five-step sales process.” Top reps know when to push harder, be more aggressive, and when to relaxbecause it’s their natural instinct to recognize the emotional state of customers. B. Resilience:Resilience is the ability to cope with difficulty, to negotiate obstacles, to optimize performance in the face of adverse reality. More simply, it is the ability to work through disappointments and so-called “performance failures.Most companies believe top sales representatives never experience fear. There are those unique individuals who are fearless in all their sales activities. The data says otherwise. The truth is that the greatest sales people do experience fear just as the rest of us, but unlike the average sales person top sellers’ talent in resilience allows them to push through those fearful situations, to overcome obstacles turning challenges into strengths. C. Ambition:Ambition is the drive to be successful, the broadest sense of successful. Ambition is not simply the drive to be number one: it’s the life-long pursuit of prosperity or success.Top business sales representatives have ambition is this broad sense; they seek to flourish in every area of life. D. Open-ness:Open-ness refers to curiosity about the world in which we find ourselves. Top sellers are intellectually curious, not only about their customers, but their customers’ businesses, their customers’ problems,
If talent is so important, where does it fit into the hiring process?As the use of Moneyball grew within the Oakland organization and in other big league baseball clubs, the job of traditional scouts changed. Sabermetrics did not eliminate the need for scouts, but clubs needed fewer and used them in different ways. Today most companies review resumes and then subject candidates to as many manager-interviews as possible. As talent becomes better understood and utilized to select sales stars, the traditional hiring process will have to change. 1: Match Optimal Talent to Role/PositionIt may sound harsh but as Red Auerbach said, “You can’t teach height” so you might as well begin with height when recruiting basketball centers. Likewise, because it’s tough to teach talent, it’s best when hiring sellers to begin with talent. 2: Find the Optimal Experience for the Position. For years the Navy Seals have had a problem, recruiting and retaining top talent. Traditional recruiting channels were not working so the Navy commissioned a study to determine what background and experiences their top performers have. The results were surprising, if a candidate has spent countless hours swimming in a pool during water polo matches or if he’s an avid rock climber or mountain biker he’s more likely to be a top performing Seal. This information completely revolutionized the way the Navy Seals hired. Capt. Adam Curtis, compared the study results to a “dog whistle.” Candidates with the right experience were successfully recruited almost as if they were tuned to the right frequency so they alone could hear itWhat are your ‘dog whistle’ experiences? Can you score them? 3: Match Optimal Skills for the Position. Most organizations have kept their HR teams in the dark ages by requiring them to create endless paper trails and “play nice” under all circumstances. They say, “It’s not nice to score and rank people.” The problem is the game has changed and the competitive search for talent is intense. If an employer intends to play the game, let alone win, HR must “keep score”.Research has revealed that assessment centers top the list for hiring importance. An assessment center is a fancy way of saying “you shouldn’t hire a sales person until you’ve seen them sell.” Managers must observe this interaction and use use a common scale to rate or grade each applicant in order that scores be reliable. 4: Aligning Player Profile with Team CultureMost everyone knows Phil Jackson - 13-time N.B.A. championship coach, winningest coach in basketball history. Few people know how Coach Jackson achieved this record. Jackson lays out the methods and secrets of his coaching success in a new book titled, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success. He reveals one of his tools in the following experience. My goal in my first year as head coach was to transform the Bulls from a stage 3 team of lone warriors pursuing their own individual success ("I'm great and you're not”) to a stage 4 team in which the dedication to “We” overtakes the emphases on “Me” ("We're great and you're not”). In other words he assessed his “team culture.” and he did it using five stages.Companies expend tremendous energy, defining their values and measuring employees against them. This energy may not be well-spent. For this reason I recommend interviewing candidates in an informal interview using the five stages of culture listed by Jackson. Managers should ask, “Is this candidate a team player who is going to give their all or is he or she a lone wolf, pursuing his own interests exclusively?”
Once a year scouts and managers gather for the official draft day; the day they analyze, discuss, debate, and decide which future player will or will not join a pro-team. In order to optimize their success on draft day, teams need qualitative and quantitative tools to ensure they evaluate candidates reliably. 1: Draft BoardFrom an analytical point of view, the hiring process should be no different from draft day. Managers should meet to analyze, discuss, debate, and decide which candidate is optimal. That’s where a draft board comes in.The draft board is a digital panel which displays the sum of all candidates’ qualitative metrics. The daft board visually compares candidates to one another and to current “members of the team.” The board’s y-axis is titled “candidate performance.” It’s the experience, skills, and cultural scores that each candidate earned.The x-axis score represents the candidate’s potential, measured by using the talent assessment Each candidate is plotted to determine his or her position relative to other candidates and/or current members of the team. With this visual, managers can discuss each candidate using meaningful numbers. If a management team would like to study a candidate in greater depth, the team can utilize the “player’s baseball card.”
The individual baseball card includes all the candidate’s relevant data. It allows managers to better analyze and understand candidates, as well as see their specific scores; e.g., experience, skills, talent. Managers should use the baseball card as a common and reliable data-base for each candidate.
In 2002, the Oakland Athletics took an enormous risk. They abandoned traditional and outdated management techniques by introducing a revolutionary analytical tool for assembling their player-roster: Moneyball and its analytical component, Sabermetrics. Sabermetrics replaced intuition and superstition with an objective system employing scientific data. Using Sabermetrics not only to evaluate player performance but to predict future player performance, they went from a sub-500 team to Division champions. What can we learn from their experience?
Gabe larsen sas
Gabe Larsen Inside Sales Coach & Consultant | Dr. James Siebach Senior Research Fellow
Nobody in football should be
called a genius. A genius is a
guy like Norman Einstein.
Moneyball: Sabermetrics in Baseball
Using objective data to predict future performance of baseball stars
Moneyball: The search for Sabermetrics in hiring
Using objective data to predict future performance of stars
6’4’’ 200 lbs
23rd Pick 1st Round
5’10’’ 160 lbs
314th Pick 13th Round
World Series Champion
Silver Slugger Award
• Ivy League school
• 10+ years experience
• 3.0 GPA
• Fortune 500
• Endlessly resilient
• Hunger to learn
• Understands people
• Desire to be the best
GPA & test scores are
worthless when predicting
• Ivy League school
• 10+ years experience
• 3.0 GPA
• Fortune 500
• Endlessly resilient
• Hunger to earn
• Understands people
• Desire to be the best
Configurations and inclinations of human character
that can be applied
Talent is not only measureable, but talent can
be used to predict success in a role.
Potential applicants fill out out elaborate
surveys that include ‘talent’ questions to predict
how well people will perform at Google