First a quick definition. An ADC is an event which utilises a range of interventions to identify the degree to which prospective candidates display the competencies and behaviours required for a particular role. Typically an Assessment Centre will include ability testing, case studies, group activities, interviews, presentations, psychometric testing (we use our own proprietary, certified instrument, containing the normative data of over 10,000 salespeople), role play simulation, and written exercises.
A Development Centre assumes the people are fit for current role, but would benefit from further development. Here, the output isn’t a role offer but a personalized development plan. Both require a pool of candidates to make work.
The motivations for running Assessment and Development centers should never be confused. The worse example being of running an Assessment Centre under the guise of Development.
Why are they a proxy for sales excellence? Because the running of ADCs shows the organisation has the following in place:
- A clear set of role definitions with related KPIs
- A supporting set of role competencies
- A candidate profile
- Articulated organisational values
- A clear vision and corporate strategy
- A sales strategy
- Mapped sales processes and related organisation charts
- An exemplar of the role in question.
- An effective Performance Management System ( including Personal Development Plans)
- A proper budget for building people capabilities
These ten points show a sales organisation that knows what it is trying to do, obviously at the output level (results), but as importantly at the input level (the things that drive success).
The biggest obstacle we see in their use is money. The first one is costly to run because of the heavy design requirement. Even then the per person cost to put somebody through one (depending on numbers) will be in 4 figures. But this misses the point. Look at the benefit list of running ADCs:
- Much higher success rates in appointing high(er) quality candidates that ‘stick’ to the organisation for longer. This single point alone can save many sales organisations tens of thousands of pounds per annum.
- Faster speed to competence.
- Improved loyalty because of higher engagement. People like to see organisations taking their recruitment, selection and development seriously.
- A constant deepening of the intellectual capital around what makes a successful salesperson, which feeds into later ADCs, creating an even stronger sense of what constitutes sales best practice.