How Apprento is using AbilityMap to increase domestic and international business productivity

Company Overview

Auckland, New Zealand
Industry: Staffing & Recruiting
Founded: 2020
0 - 10 Employees

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Alex McNaughten
Co-Founder & Chief Growth Officer

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Scott Freeman
Co-Founder & CEO

The Success

AbilityMap's capacity to gauge, vet and identify high-impact development needs for recruits with potential.
Vodafone New Zealand, 92% of successfully placed candidates are still in their roles after 6 months.
Canon New Zealand reported that they had never had an intake of candidates so good.

Apprento used AbilityMap to identify people with inherent sales talent who didn’t know it; uplift capability; super-charge sales growth and drive retention.

The Challenge

The ChallengeApprento’s mission is ambitious and traditional sales recruitment wasn’t good enough.

Recruiters can be a cynical bunch. “Dropping bodies” has been the mantra of too many intent on earning a commission for another role filled (but usually not filled well). This has been especially true in sales recruitment where meeting an immediate need has overshadowed a deeper, more effective response.

While some, more forward-looking, recruiters have sought tools to gauge a “right fit,” many of these tools have struggled to rise above a kind of “corporate astrology”, inexact stabs in the dark at human empowerment, and quickly get to objective human insights.

Apprento aims to change all that. Apprento is New Zealand’s first sales acceleration platform specialising in switching on sales potential. Their approach is to grow New Zealand sales productivity by identifying previously ‘unknown’ high potential salespeople, build their technical sales skills and place them in companies where their inherent human capabilities match what a companies unique culture requires. Their vision is ‘every sales person, professionally educated and performing!’

Apprento’s mission is to grow the capability and professionalism of B2B salespeople, create inclusive career pathways into the profession and in doing so help business productivity and sustainably grow.

To deliver on this mission, Apprento’s founders Scott Freeman and Alex McNaughten, set about building a comprehensive methodology informed by their belief that for the companies seeking sales talent and the sales talent itself, a lasting match will always outweigh a hurried placement. After all, globally only two-thirds of sales people hit their targets. And 73% report “falling” into —not choosing— their sales careers. These are ridiculously dismal numbers, responsible for more dud sales careers and disappointed organisations than can be counted.

“Often the wrong people go into sales, we’re trying to change that.”

Scott Freeman, co-founder Apprento

For both Scott and Alex, their pasts informed Apprento’s evolution. Scott had “fallen” into sales himself as a teenager and then moved into recruitment for tech companies in the US and New Zealand, including setting up his own recruitment firm. He understood from the inside what it feels like not to be a fit, and how easy it can be to overlook human/role mis-match. Alex had a background in business to business sales in the tech industry and then moved into advisory and coaching – helping over 120+ high growth tech companies scale fast.

Apprento had early success. They could feel the momentum building, but the challenge facing Scott and Alex was how would they meet their global vision of ‘every sales person, professionally educated and performing!’

They needed to add another ingredient to the mix. They needed to be able to Define, Compare and Act in a powerful, cost-effective, objective and scalable way. Enter AbilityMap.

The Solution: AbilityMap Plugs-into Humans and Powers Up Business

Apprento works in three ways:

  1. enabling clients to understand their unique sales “DNA” – filling a key gap in company recruitment processes; 
  2. accelerating sales performance through Apprento’s tailored coaching program that takes an individual’s inherent preferences into account to maximise impact, and
  3. comparing candidate’s inherent preferences to a range of companies and role types to identify a strong fit.

Apprento had the training component nailed down because it focused on “professionalising” sales. As Scott explains: ”If you’ve got a young lawyer, or young accountant or someone aspiring to be a lawyer or an accountant, they’ve got a hell of a path to go through before they can become a practising lawyer or practising accountant. Whereas in sales, you just need an internet connection and a phone, and suddenly you’re a sales professional. Therein lies the problem.”

Both Alex and Scott were dissatisfied with the stereotype of “talkers” as likely salespeople, or following standard heuristics for identifying salespeople. They were more interested in discovering the under-water part of the iceberg than its tip – that is, ascertaining a person’s true potential in a way that worked seamlessly with a role. As Scott observed, the industry hasn’t really dug down into questions like: “What technical sales skills does a good BDM have versus a Customer Success role and what human capabilities does my company require to bring those skills forward effectively in my company?”

“As good as our methods are,” Alex said. “The beauty of AbilityMap is that it gives us a totally objective part of our process that allows us to remove any bias and emotions from our assessment. It is like an x-ray for a human’s true sales potential.”

Alex McNaughten, co-founder Apprento

But when it came to defining the actual capabilities driving sales performance and comparing potential candidates to that, they realised they needed something more. “We wanted more depth.  Depth in accurately defining the requirements and  objectively comparing candidates to it so we could act on the insights to develop and place candidates better. What we didn’t have was the science or data to do the former or time for 1-3 days of assessment or a consultant’s interpretation of the results to do the latter.” Alex said. 

“AbilityMap gave us depth of insight across both rapidly —15 minutes to define our and many companies’ unique requirements and 45 minutes for candidates to trigger the comparisons.”

They realised that plugging in AbilityMap could prove critical as a core vetting mechanism to challenge their assumptions and counter unconscious bias about a candidate’s fit for an organisation and role type. Alex had experienced the technology a few years earlier and knew it provided the missing link and the Apprento adopted at pace and scale without hesitation.

On one occasion, Alex was surprised when an AbilityMap assessment indicated that a particular candidate who had appeared well-suited for a sales role scored more highly for a consulting fit. When asked, the candidate admitted that was the direction she really wanted, and the wrong match was averted. Alex also said it helps uncover the need for upskilling.

Scott said that AbilityMap gave visibility on valuable characteristics like a candidate’s goal-setting approach which could then determine whether there was a fit within a larger, more structured company or a smaller, more loosely structured company. It also made both founders realise the extent to which candidates “act” and how this acting, innocently done, can conceal traits that make them ill-equipped for certain career configurations.

AbilityMap’s capacity to gauge, vet and identify high-impact development needs for recruits with potential impressed the Apprento team. Even with diverse interview panels and considered selection criteria, a job’s circumstances, not to mention interviewer biases and subjectivity, the right role fit could be missed —but AbilityMap soon became an indispensable final step in the Apprento process.

“People get too married to the personality and when something comes up they try to excuse it. AbilityMap counters this tendency with reliable evidence, allowing us to be confident that our definition and comparison can support genuinely effective action,” Scott said.

The Outcome: Unprecedented Performance Fit, Satisfied Clients and increased Retention

Unsuitable or problematic hires cost more than the bottom line hit companies take when a person leaves or is made redundant. Dud recruits impact on staff morale and productivity, with sometimes more than a few resignations. It’s a waste of money, resources and people’s true aptitude.

With escalating tech advances and a growing prevalence of remote working arrangements, companies must still hit and overachieve their business targets, thereby placing even more premium on sourcing the right people. Apprento recognises that times are more uncertain than ever and that companies want practical ways to source and retain high performers.

As for results, the Apprento/AbilityMap killer combo is 18 months in and results are very promising, underscoring that the “Act” component of AbilityMap’s effect is delivering measurable impact to Apprento and its customers.

Canon New Zealand reported that they had never had an intake of candidates so good. Vodafone, ezyVet, Actionstep, Parkable, Tradify and Parallo have all benefited from Apprento with the AbilityMap touch – across the board, 92% of successfully placed candidates are still in their roles after 6 months.

No longer are Alec Baldwin characters needed to menacingly “amp up” the sales team. Steak knives won’t be needed for the runners-up. Coffee isn’t for closers – it opens discussion and leads. When humans and organisations are brought together based on an objective, evidenced-based match, real conversations can be had. Sales can become what it’s meant to be – the empathetic understanding of a buyer’s challenges and the matching of their problems to a solution – this is when growth happens.

Or as the Apprento team has said: “The AbilityMap check has to be there for us to move forward with a candidate. It de-risks the process and gives us more confidence in our placements as well as uncovering capability gaps to ensure impactful coaching of sales professionals in our learning cohorts. We are all about switching on potential —AbilityMap helps us do this through data!

Watch the video of Scott Freeman and Alex McNaughten as they share how using AbilityMap has brought them closer to achieving their mission to drive business productivity by defining salespeople’s inherent human capabilities.

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