How Much Emphasis Should be Placed on the Results of a Sales Assessment Test?
By David Pearce, President, SalesTestOnline.com
When you are using a Sales Assessment Test in your hiring decisions, how much of your decision should be based on the results of the test? Most prospects and new clients wonder about the degree of emphasis they should place on the test when they are hiring. Some are looking for quite definitive answers to the question-30%, 50% etc. Like a lot of the answers to questions related to testing, the answer begins with "it depends". It depends on how suitable the person is in the other areas that the sales assessment does not measure.
When you use a Sales Assessment Test in your hiring I believe you have to be prepared to be flexible in the emphasis you place on the results. Our test is "blind" to the impact of the person's experience, training, knowledge and education. Our test is giving you insight into a very important, but still narrow aspect of the person. Other tools such as interviews and reference checks, plus your evaluation of the information on the person's resume, are all going to be factored into the equation. Sometimes you should be prepared to downplay the importance you place on the sales assessment results and at other times you may have to increase their relative importance.
Let us look at some examples. Suppose you are hiring trainees right out of college. Obviously they do not have any sort of track record to measure. You intend to teach them about your business, systems, products etc. In this scenario you would likely place a great deal of emphasis on the results of the sales assessment because really, you are hiring the "raw material" that you wish to work with. A good fit based on the results of the sales assessment test will be telling you that all of your time, effort and money to train and develop the person is more likely to pay off.
Suppose you are hiring a Business Development person-a "hunter" type and you are down to the last two applicants. Applicant number one has the perfect "hunter" personality but is lacking in industry knowledge or experience. Applicant number two is lacking the "hunter" personality but has many years of experience in the industry and has many established contacts such that he does not really need to "hunt". In this scenario I would suggest that the emphasis on the sales assessment should be dramatically down-played as you may want to opt for the experienced "non-hunter". His experience and contacts are such that his inability to "hunt" does not matter.
What if you are hiring for a sales position that is very difficult to fill because you are in a tight job market and you have very few applicants. Or what about if you are hiring for a sales job that is not appealing to many people such as a straight commission role. Putting it bluntly you may have to hire just about anybody in order to fill the role. In scenarios of this type you would still use the sales assessment, but not so much as a go/no go tool. Since you would be hiring the person anyway, you would use the sales assessment results to identify how best to motivate, manage and train the person to have the best chance of making them succeed.
In the real world of hiring sales people there are lots of examples like the ones above. In the first example you need to be relatively inflexible and place quite a large amount of weight on the results. In the second example you have your standards and you are placing importance on the results but need to be prepared to allow for compensating factors. In the third example you are placing importance on the results but not for purposes of making the hire, simply to increase the odds of success once the person is hired. Your business has it's own hiring challenges so you need to find what works best for you. We will often have discussions about this subject with our clients.
Trying to distill the answer to the question of how much emphasis to place on the test down to some numerical answer really misses the point and attempts to simplify and quantify a process that can only be quantified to a degree. An applicant may "numerically" be a good fit because he has the right "scores" on the various components (including our test) of your hiring system but he may be someone you still should not hire. Conversely an individual may be weak in one or some areas (including the sales assessment) but you should probably still hire the person.
If it is true that "gut-feel" should not be the only thing that you rely on when hiring, it is just as true that scientific tools like tests should not be the sole factor. If hiring sales people is an art and a science then a balanced approach that relies on "gut-feel" as part of the decision makes sense. There are things that are highly important that no sales assessment test can measure. An example would be "likeability". An applicant may have all the "scores" he needs to be considered a good hire but he just turns you off. If that is how you react to him, won't a lot of your customers feel the same way? Another example might be an applicant's affinity or "love" of the product/industry? For example, what if you sell cars and you have two applicants for a position, one of whom whose test scores are weak but who just loves cars and everything about them? I suggest that the "car lover" might be the one to hire because once he is in an environment that fits his passion he will be likely to stick with the job and work to overcome his shortcomings.
A sales assessment test measures the person's potential. As such it measures what a person "can do" not what they "will do". As you know there are a lot of people with high potential who do very little with that potential. Conversely there are a lot of people with seemingly little potential who get an awful lot done and are very successful because they use whatever they do have very well.
Fortunately or unfortunately people are complicated. View the sales assessment test for what it is, a tool to perform a specific function. As a tool it is of course not the only tool. Like all tools it works best when used with other tools that are performing their intended purpose. Depending on the particular hiring challenge you face, you should be prepared to adjust the relative importance of the sales assessment test to suit your needs.
David Pearce is the President of SalesTestOnline.com. Established in 1986, SalesTestOnline.com is North America's #1 provider of pre employment assessment testing of sales candidates as well as sales profiling tools used to evaluate sales employees for sales competency. SalesTestOnline.com has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our personality sales test to measure sales aptitude when hiring. Our online sales assessment test is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.
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