Brett Morris: Using Data To Predict High Performers

By: Michael Cirillo   |   05 Aug 2022
Brett Morris

Today's conversation with Brett Morris, Chairman at PerceptionPredict, stemmed from one of Michael's LinkedIn posts about the important need for amazing car sales professionals. Brett commented on the post with a compelling chart visualizing how high-performing employees can be predicted with data. 


Is It Possible To Predict High Performing Employees?

00:58 - Michael sets the conversation stage by explaining a LinkedIn post in which he discussed the importance and need for great car sales professionals in the retail auto industry. Brett Morris left a very thought-provoking comment about how it's possible to predict high-performers, which led to today's conversation. 

02:53 - Brett explains that when you look at dealer group operations, they've all got pretty good systems for managing inventory; they've got data and clarity. In the service department, they have systems and a workflow for technicians. There are financial systems in place for the business office. With all that said, how does a dealership fish in a broader pond of people to predict and know if they are the right candidate for the job or if perhaps you have the right individual but in the wrong job role?

10:20 - Brett and his team have created a unique way to predict job suitability by utilizing an intricate system of character trait mapping that can provide dealers much more clarity about what attributes create an employee's performance. The process includes a quick 15-minute assessment contributing to scoring over 70 data points. Each data point is combined into an overarching view of attributes that helps predict who will perform what job better.

19:36 - Gratitude is listed as an attribute on the list that typically doesn't show up on assessments often. It makes sense when contrasted against the highest-performing car sales professionals like Frank Crinite or Ali Reda (Guinness World Record Holder). They operate differently than the average car sales pro. Gratitude for their lives, customers, and opportunities is a common thread in their daily lives.

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[00:00:00] Michael: The car business is rapidly changing and modern car dealers are meeting the demand. I'm Michael Cirilo and together we're going to explore what it takes to create a thriving dealership and life in the retail automotive industry. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with subject matter experts that are designed to help you grow.

[00:00:22] Is the dealer playbook.

[00:00:36] Brett Morris: All

[00:00:36] Michael: right, gang. Welcome to this episode of the dealer playbook podcast. Delighted to sit down with someone who I just met on LinkedIn, not too long ago. Brett Morris is the co-founder and chairman of perception. Uh, perception is the unparalleled leader in accurately predicting how any individual would perform in any sales role.

[00:00:58] And so I, I posted on LinkedIn not too long ago, um, a, a post about how we don't need to get rid of sales people. We actually need more of the right type of sales people. And this is where I met our guests today. He commented with, with something I'd never. Thought of before. And, and, and so with that premise, Brett Morris, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.

[00:01:24] Brett Morris: It's a pleasure, Michael, glad to be here. I

[00:01:26] Michael: wanna dig into this a little bit. So this is the post I'm referencing. I wrote unpopular opinion, alert car sales. People will be needed more in the future. Not less. We keep talking about replacing them. The way of the future is a full online dot last night.

[00:01:44] This was three weeks ago. That that last night I heard Brian Benstock and David Long in a clubhouse room, they were sharing their opinion about how needed true car sales people are not these weak quote unquote, wait for the laydown kind of behaviors we've seen over the last two years. And I mentioned that I, that I agreed.

[00:02:03] Now, this is where you came in into the comments. As a recap, you said totally. Michael research shows this graphic below, which will link to in the show notes. Is the right combination of DNA that studs like Jose who sold me, my truck and his high performing, um, uh, kin share in common across the USA retail automotive landscape.

[00:02:26] Now you share this chart, which basically outlines personality traits, character traits of the, the top performing people. And I said, holy smokes. We need to talk about this on the show. Can you break down for me? Can you gimme a synopsis of what it is that you do and how you came up with what, what appears to be an algorithm on human personality traits?

[00:02:53] Yeah,

[00:02:53] Brett Morris: I'd love to. So when you look at dealer group operations and, and it's not just in north America, I'm located in, in, in the us. Uh, and, and so very close to the, to the us market Canadian market, north America. But, but we work with, um, dealer groups, uh, globally, and it's true for all of them. They've all got pretty good systems when it comes to managing inventory, they've got data and clarity around that.

[00:03:18] If they in the workshop, they've got systems that allow a technician, a diagnostician to plug a vehicle in and, and, and analyze, you know, why it's working or not working and, and where some of the issues are. They've got financial systems that allow them to get a very good handle on assets and liabilities and cash.

[00:03:38] Imagine doing that, using your in. Uh, and, and, and, and so, and marketing systems, lead generation systems, uh, used car pricing and inventory systems. There's a system for pretty much everything in dealer groups. Yes. There could be some improvement of them, but when it comes to people there isn't a, a true people intelligence system.

[00:03:58] Now you do have systems like ology good system, but it's a system of records, an applicant tracking system. It helps. With improve the efficiency of sourcing and, and, and, and managing their hiring process. So I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about having true intelligence about who do I hire, uh, into this particular job role and not just sales roles, but all job roles.

[00:04:22] And how do I find, um, you know, how do I fish in a broader pond of people to find the right technicians that I need going forward? And how do I find better service advisors and how do I make decisions about them that aren't. You know, the biases and myself and my team. Cause if you human, you bias especi the territory.

[00:04:40] Right? So this, we, we started working with dealers sometime back and, and this was an issue that you can't afford. I mean, globally, but front end of the house, 65, 70, 80%, whatever turnover of sales people kind of says, and, and it keeps going. And how come, you know, we've got a lot of smart technology, a lot of people, a lot of good looking product, lot of great, great stores, um, great customers who can't seem to, to fix this issue.

[00:05:07] And we thought we had a way of fixing that issue. And, and, and, and we believe that the answer lay in the dealer's own data dealer hires people, some work out some don't, those that perform, sell a certain amount of, uh, vehicles in a certain way, in a certain. Um, and, and, and if you study that data, it tells you a lot about why.

[00:05:30] And that's the really the simple proposition that became the foundation for what we do at perception, which is creating really custom performance intelligence systems for dealers allows them to tap into their own data in a way that they do whatever other part of the business that they run, understand what it is about the people and their sales roles, service writer, roles, technician, roles, and other roles.

[00:05:52] That cause them to be good at what they do, but also identifies those people that are liabilities for those hires. Cause one of the things that really drives high turnover in all job roles, but particularly in sales roles is we end up being seduced by people who are absolutely wrong for the job, great people, right.

[00:06:11] They're not suited for that particular job role. And sometimes they're not suited for the, for our particular dealership group and, and store, uh, culture. So that was a little bit of a backdrop to. And, uh, as a result of that, we, we decided we could really get at fixing this problem for dealer groups by developing a, a, a, a repeatable.

[00:06:35] Process and a tool set that it will allow a dealer group to dig into its own data and be able to repeatedly identify who's the best person I could be putting into this role and, or who's the best person I should be promoting from the sales floor into a sales manager role, rather than maybe just, you know, taking my top producer and potentially turning him or her into my worst manager.

[00:06:59] This is,

[00:06:59] Michael: um, really interesting to me because I know in my journey of entrepreneurship and building my company, there have been so many junctures where in my mind I've said, I obviously don't have what it takes to build a team. because, you know, you get to a point where you're like, man, I keep hiring and it keeps not working out.

[00:07:26] I must be a fool. There must be some, some sort of an issue here. So let me ask you this. I'm looking at the, the screenshot that you shared with me in conjunction with a statement you made here in your comment on my LinkedIn post that says, um, you can identify how many vehicles. The sales professional or anyone else regardless of, of experience can sell before they're hired.

[00:07:57] So talk to me a little bit about that. Is this, is this a glorified, uh, personality assessment? Like what does it look like to actually be able to retrieve that data and vet people a properly for the right role so that you're setting people up to succeed, not fail. Yeah.

[00:08:15] Brett Morris: And this, this clearly, but. When you're doing this, there's clearly a bit of complexity around what we do.

[00:08:22] We, we hide from the, from, from the store because the dealerships are time poor. They all know that the, the statement, the obvious. Right. And, and, and so, um, when we help them, we've gotta do it in a most quick, efficient way that gives them guidance, intelligence in a heartbeat. And the way in which we get at that though is by, we study a group of sales people.

[00:08:44] Uh, for instance, we took 400 people, uh, on the showroom floor of Mercedes-Benz steel, 30 Mercedes-Benz dealerships. We, we ran, we, we studied the, the job roles we do with all job roles, even though we might have looked at it 10, 20 times previously, we, we continue to analyze the job. Because doing this globally, you find that a, a salesperson selling, uh, you know, Highline vehicles on the east coast of the, of the USA is actually different to Singapore of different, to Malaysia, different to Australia, different to Canada, different in London.

[00:09:14] And, and that's because the job roles have a little bit of difference and sometimes a great deal of difference with them. You got a BMW in Singapore, six story building with 65 sales consultants in the one building. Um, they are not fed leads. They have to. Go find their own, own, own leads. And current subsequently they're expected quota per month in terms of vehicles is six, six per month.

[00:09:38] Whereas in a Highline store it might be 10 or 12 or, you know, vehicles per month. So my, my point I'm getting to hopefully is, is that in any job role, but in an automotive dealership, um, sales role. That role places, certain cognitive and emotional demands on a human in order to perform, uh, at it, what we do in our work is we use talent science and data science at scale, to understand what is it about Brett, Michael, or Mary or Sue and their DNA, their makeup, their psychological makeup that makes them good at what they do or makes them potentially a liability.

[00:10:20] And therefore they're better off in another job. What we've been doing for probably about seven years now, we have a science team led by my partner. Co-founder also my wife. Um, who's an IO psych, and we've developed an inventory over 450 discrete research, validated measures of things like patients and curiosity and, and grit and emotional intelligence and resilience and, and, and so on just literally hundred of them.

[00:10:49] What we don't know for any job role, including an automotive salesperson, which although we know a lot now is what's the unique combination of those attributes that creates performance. And that's why will often you'll often see me, right? Or hear, say that 50 per 50 to 70% of, um, of performance in a particular job role, such as automotive sales, um, is not being measured by dealers today.

[00:11:13] And that's the piece that we're getting at. So we, we, we put together a process. Um, where we measure 60 to 80 different traits in a, in a, in a sales team or automotive sales team or automotive dealer, uh, sales group. We hear that, um, measure of that. And by the way, it takes a, a salesperson about 30 minutes to complete that process to actually capture 70, um, for example, 70 data points.

[00:11:38] And then we pair those 70 data points with the number of vehicles they've sold for the last 12 or 18 or 24 months. Mm-hmm. Using math. This is not new science. This is math, and we're using a tech called then I'll get too technical here, but it's multi, very regression and, and, and it's, and it's a technique that's been around since an 1,805.

[00:12:02] Um, I think it's the same year in which, uh, you know, uh, Thomas Jefferson was, uh, elected to his second term as the third president of the USA. So this has been around this, technique's been around a long. So we take math and we take the breakdown of the DNA of a salesperson. We put 'em together and we figure out which unique combination of those attributes is CR is, is creating performance in a salesperson, put it together into a performance fingerprint, put it into a system.

[00:12:29] And then dealerships like the Jackie Cooper group in, in, in Tulsa can get any sales consultant to take the candidate process. And it takes them 15 minutes, less than 15 minutes to. And when they complete it, based on all the analysis that's been done, it predicts how many vehicles they can sell. And because we've been at this for some time, we now know that the Delta, the difference between the actual performance that you get from a salesperson where they get on the job and the number of vehicles that we predict running roughly about 15 to 20% between actual and predicted.

[00:13:06] So. We're not looking to replace the instinct and experience. And that comes with dealer management and making decisions about people. What we wanna supplement it is with better intelligence that, that it results in better decision making. Right.

[00:13:24] Michael: And that's, this is, uh, that's the name of this is blowing

[00:13:29] me away because it's, it's not. Seeking to replace, it's seeking to enhance. Yes. And so much of, I feel like the conversation in automotive right now is all about replace, replace, replace something better, replace, replace, fully online means no more sales people get rid of these, these individuals who would, you're saying no, let's enhance our ability to, to set people up.

[00:13:59] Now I'm looking at this chart and there's, there's things outta the gates here that are interesting. I'm guessing this is the prediction based on what's listed in this chart vehicles 183 for the year, or an average of 15 vehicles per month sold by a sales professional with these qualities, or what would you call these?

[00:14:19] They're not, I mean, some are kind of personality traits. Some are character

[00:14:24] Brett Morris: traits and you can, and you can without getting too technical, you can, you can use interchangeable words. You can call 'em characteristics or traits or, uh, And some of them are personalities and some of them are intelligence and some of them are kind of, yeah, there there's, there's what the, the snapshot you are looking at actually is a summary.

[00:14:41] Um, there's actually several more that sit below that, um, that are facets of those traits. And, and so you, you got about 70 traits in all. We measure that, but really we form that into a, a smaller number. Um, but yeah, there's some very interesting and all of them are research validated. If you asked me about any of them, not on this call necessarily, uh, uh, in, in any, any detail, but there's literally oodles of research on every single one of them that have been done somewhere around the world, right on, on each of them.

[00:15:13] And then we've taken that. Research cause it's pretty dense stuff. You know, you start reading this at nine o'clock in the, at night, you'd be in a Homer, in a heartbeat. Right. This is pretty dense. Um, but, but, but it's great, but it's very valuable. Um, right. Like if we were in high school and we talk more kids about psychology and humans and people, um, we might have, I think it'd be valuable, um, right.

[00:15:37] Probably gonna happen, but it could be valuable. Uh, and, and we are, we are taking. Research and converting it into something practical and, and, and then tapping into a dealer group's data and saying, well, Hey, based on your data and the team that you've got today and what they're producing, here's a model that you'll be able to predict.

[00:15:58] How many of your, how many vehicles you, each of your candidates is gonna sell? Right. It's kind of simple, but it's also a lot, there's some complexity there, but we keep that away from the store because they got a day job. Right.

[00:16:10] Michael: Yeah. Correct. It's your job to, to nerd out over this stuff? I do think it's interesting.

[00:16:15] I'm looking at certain things here that without this data, we, we might think, oh, they need a lot of this in order to be successful. For example, I see on this particular chart, cognitive agility at 46%, without this data, one might assume. You need more than 46% of this in order to be able to be successful?

[00:16:40] No, the data is showing us in, in at least this, uh, specimen, cognitive agility, 46% alternately. On the other side of this, I see narcissism listed at 51%. Talk to me a little bit about this. These are typically things that were like, ah, probably need more cognitive agility, probably need a little less narcissism.

[00:17:01] This is saying, Hey, no, there's a balance here and it's gonna be.

[00:17:05] Brett Morris: Yes, there is no such thing as a, a, a trait that is a pure virtue. They all have their good sides and dark side. Compassion has a good side and a dark side. Um, uh, at sincerity has a, um, a good side and a dark side. The key we believe is finding what is the right level for a person in a particular job role.

[00:17:27] So cognitive intelligence having studied the level of intelligence in automotive sales people around the world. What guess what we. That more of it is not better. IQ is overrated. I mean, there's an old sort of saying about, Hey, this business of selling vehicles is not rocket science and that's not meant to be, um, uh, Thery of, of, of the role.

[00:17:49] It's really meant to say, if you give people the right tools and knowledge and give them a, a, a process that they can follow and they can. You don't have to have high levels of intellectual energy to be, to connect with people and customers and understand their needs and et cetera, and be able to help them.

[00:18:07] And, and that's what PE, and, and, and, and that doesn't come from ha being a super bright, you know, intellectual, it comes from a combination of other traits and that's what we, so, yeah, it's a, it's a really important point. You don't have to have high intelligence now, as you get into other job roles, more of it can help.

[00:18:27] But on the, on the other hand, narcissism is definitely a negative inhibitor to performing well, because this is the sense of entitlement and grandiosity. And, you know, I think I'm great. Cause I of who I am, that's what really that narcissism is. And our research shows very clearly that as narcissism increases, sales performance goes down.

[00:18:49] Mm. I yeah, go ahead. And, and by the way, one of the, one of the interesting things about narcissism. This is incredibly seductive and it is, um, one of the things that narcissists are good at is seducing recruiters and hiring managers because they layer on the charm and then they exploit our biases. And we think I love this person.

[00:19:12] I've gotta hire them and we do. And then we find out later, well, that was a poor decision.

[00:19:17] Michael: uh, I'm looking at this and I'm seeing, okay. Uh, I see narcissism 51% psychopath, 47%. I'm think my brain immediately says between the two of these, we might have a Ted Bundy on our hands, but contrasting it against all of these other things.

[00:19:36] I see gratitude of 86%. Very interesting. Uh, this really resonates with me. That gratitude makes its way onto this list. Right. Um, but you know what, what comes to my mind, Brett? I I'm so intrigued by what you've accomplished here. I want to dissect now, somehow I want to get this, this assessment, or what have you in front of individuals, such as Ali Rita, who made the Guinness book of world records selling over 1500 vehicles in a single year.

[00:20:11] I would love to see what I, I would love to dissect. Hi, his. Data and look at it and say, ah, interesting, but then contrast it against other individuals like Frank CRO and, and some other top performers that we tend to look to at an industry to finally say, aha, look at what they have in common. Let's take this group of the, the 10, most.

[00:20:35] Highest performing sales professionals, highest selling car sales professionals in the industry. And aha let's, let's see these, these parallels between each of them, tho those common pieces though. I'm having a hard time then reconciling that against your point about DNA. Would we see DNA similarities in that?

[00:20:55] Yeah. They all tend to lean in this direction or is it possible? That they could be a complete contrast of one another and still achieve a high level of, of success that they're, that they're experiencing.

[00:21:08] Brett Morris: Yes. And of course, when I taught use the word DNA, I'm talking about psychological DNA, it's that deep, um, psychological makeup that you had a friend in high school, and there are a certain type of person and they introverted extroverted or whatever they had.

[00:21:21] They had a certain personality makeup, and you knew them. And if I asked you to describe them, you could, and you still know them at 26 36 40. They're still the same person might have lost a bit of this or gained a bit of this or gotten a little wiser, all that stuff. Right. But they're essentially the same person.

[00:21:36] It's those deep seated things that may, that remain stable in people through time. And so if we talk the people that, you know, the top performing people that you talk about, maybe not 10, but even 50 or a hundred, and if they wanted to put their hands up through your, um, um, you know, podcast and say, I'd love to be part of that experiment.

[00:21:55] Our tool set is about measuring. Exactly. And what we'd find each of those 100 people are absolutely unique individuals. They have characteristics in their behavior style. Some are more extroverted, some are more introverted. Um, some of them are gregarious. Although interestingly being gregarious does not correlate strongly with good automotive sales performance.

[00:22:16] In fact, the less Greg. The less gregarious you are, the better your perform performance is. Cause you end up doing all the talking and guess what? , um, doesn't work. Um, two, two ears, one mouth use 'em in those proportions, right. Um, right old saying. So, um, that would be a great idea. Love to, that would be a really interesting experiment.

[00:22:36] Here's what we would expose what we would find in those top producers as a commonality. Is that, is that psychological? That unique and complex combination of attributes at scale that are contributing to helping each of them unique individuals, but there's common commonality in those traits and attributes and characteristics.

[00:22:59] And that's essentially what we look for when we do that for a dealer group or a store, we are looking for those attributes, that power success, but simultaneously just as important is helping dealers eliminate liabilities from consider. They're the ones that churn out in 3, 6, 9 months cost us money, frustrated, you know, ruin customers experience and cost us gross.

[00:23:23] I love

[00:23:23] Michael: this. Now, let me ask you this. Do you have, is, is part of this tool set, um, and analysis on, what am I trying to ask here? There's a lot of emphasis on culture. Yes. Is there an impact? I, I mean, are, are each of these things natural in. Character traits or can they be developed? And is there any element of that that is predicated upon the environment by which that individual is planted

[00:23:56] Brett Morris: behavior and therefore performance is always contextual.

[00:23:59] So you put a person in a particular situation with a particular context, a particular type of leadership, particular types of values. They're gonna behave differently in that environment versus another one. So, um, that's just the way we way, way, way we're built. Um, and so when you, when you, when you, the way we work, when we look at trying to predict the number of vehicles, someone sell, we create what we call is a performance fingerprint, and that's a role fingerprint.

[00:24:29] It's a for, for this service writer for a technician or for a salesperson, it's a job specific fingerprint. So then we also take that to the dealership. A group level, because that, that these groups have, have a culture, you know, the way we do things around here, they have a set of values and behaviors and things that they tolerate and things that they don't tolerate.

[00:24:48] And the best col cultures are clear about that, you know? Um, and, and, and again, um, just re referencing what Chris Martin has that Jackie Cooper shared with me, you know, we've got a winning culture around here. We've gotta find people who can come in and work in the culture that we've got. Cuz if they don't, they're not gonna.

[00:25:04] And if they can't cut it, we're not, they're not, it's not good for them, not good for us. So, um, so we have, uh, in parallel a, a, another way of creating what we call as a team culture fingerprint, or a team performance fingerprint. So we look at the entire dealership and say, what is, what are those attributes, those values.

[00:25:23] And we measure them that drive, uh, performance across the whole of the Dean dealership in every job role. And then we correlate that with dealership perform. And create our, what we call as a dealership, uh, team performance, fingerprint. So that's a different approach, but using technically the same technology.

[00:25:41] Michael: Mm. I love everything about this. I'm I'm intrigued and both frightened by the thought of what mine might look like. But I think maybe a little bit more intrigued that that might be something I have to circle back with you on. And, and we might just have to publish that on the show notes of this and see if we can't, give a, give an overview of what it might look like for, for yours truly, but I would love to get more individuals, um, to be aware of this and, and hopefully those listening, my beloved DB gang you're paying attention.

[00:26:11] Hey, forget the money ball. We can actually see visualize the data. Help position individual. Where they are most likely to succeed. And I think this is so fascinating, Brett. I am, uh, so grateful for your time today. How can those listening get in touch with you and learn more?

[00:26:31] Brett Morris: Thank you, Michael. Uh, probably the easiest thing to go is to perception predict AI slash automotive.

[00:26:37] And, uh, you you'll, you'll see some background on us and indeed this is Moneyball for sales, for automotive, and actually for all job roles in, in retail automotive. Thank you for, uh, inviting me

[00:26:50] Michael: on. Thanks so much for joining me on the dealer playbook podcast.

[00:27:05] I'm Michael SLO and you've been listening to the dealer playbook podcast. If you haven't yet. Please click the subscribe button wherever you're listening. Right now, leave a rating or review and share it with a colleague. Thanks for listening.