In Leigh Buchanan's column, "A Skimmer's Guide to the Latest Business Books," she reviews Topgrading's salesy sequel.
The book:Topgrading for Sales: World-class Methods to Interview, Hire, and Coach Top Sales Representatives; Portfolio; June.
The big idea: Companies can dramatically reduce the Sturm und Drang of recruitment and hiring and build a crackerjack sales force (minus the nuts), according to authors Bradford D. Smart and Greg Alexander.
Get with the program: From the moment it was introduced in 1999's Topgrading, Smart's methodology has attracted fanatical followers. The basic theory is that one can transform hiring from an art guided by intuition and chemistry into a science that helps employers identify exactly what they want in a job candidate and then nail it. But some people complain it is condescending toward applicants and that companies have been overly enthusiastic about striking nonstars from their constellations as a result of the book.
Stop me if you've heard this: For readers of the first book, Sales is a short trip down memory lane, with stops at such familiar haunts as the job scorecard (which describes with clarity the expectations for a top performer) and the virtual bench (make a list of 20 names -- 10 great people who would probably take a job at your company and 10 great people who would turn you down but who might refer top candidates).
Life's a pitch: Sales sells itself hard, hard, hard! All the exclamation points and infomercial-style verbiage ("How can we be so sure this interview method is valuable? Hundreds of people have asked for the 'secret.'…") add a touch of unseemliness to the proceedings.
If you read nothing else: You don't have to buy into the whole program to get value from the Interview Guide for Sales Representatives (Appendix C). The guide breaks down competencies into 36 areas, including self-awareness, assertiveness, and -- mission critical for sales -- resourcefulness, and suggests nearly 100 smart interview questions.
Rigor rating: 9 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Smart says he and his team have conducted more than 6,500 interviews and case studies to validate the whole Topgrading model. Academic reviews of Smart's research are due later this year.
Theory/practice ratio: 1 to 1. The book is packed with forms, guidelines, and work sheets. Readers may never again have to have an original thought about sales hiring.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan