Use a Sales Personality Test to Increase Sales

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If you’ve interviewed and hired sales people you’ve no doubt experienced the frustration and disappointment of hiring a sales person who interviewed like a winner but once hired, turned out to be a complete and utter failure.

Many hiring managers are so weary of this and have experienced it often enough that they’ve resigned themselves to viewing the hiring process as a coin toss.

This cynical view of sales person selection is not only completely unwarranted but it’s also extremely unfortunate when you consider the cost of a hiring failure, which the Harvard Business Review pegs at between $75,000 and $300,000.

If you’re not using a sales personality test in your sales selection process you need to immediately and seriously consider using one. Trying to hire sales people without this vital sales hiring tool is like flying blind and puts you at a very serious and costly disadvantage.

This is why today many companies that hire top sales talent have reduced the chances of hiring a sales failure by integrating sales assessment tests into their hiring process. According to another HBR article, “76% of organizations with more than 100 employees use tests for external hiring”.

Perhaps you should too, because if you are not currently using a sales test you are most likely relying far too heavily on face-to-face interviews. This is a huge and costly mistake and is a root cause of failed hires because face-to-face interviews are notoriously bad tools for choosing sales people. Consider the following:

In a Forbes Leadership Forum article about the shortcomings of interviews as predictors of success, Professor Don Moore of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley writes: “Hundreds of studies reveal the profound limitations of the traditional interview. Interviews favor manipulative candidates, or ones who know how to make a positive impression even in a brief interview…but those aren’t always the best job performers. We all know of instances in which a poised, charming job candidate turned out to be a disaster. Traditional job interviews are simply not very good at selecting the best candidates (and) are a poor predictor of subsequent performance”. Professor Moore continues: “Managers are consistently overconfident in their ability to identify the best candidates using a job interview. We cling to the fanciful notion that we can perfectly predict future job performance, despite overwhelming evidence against it”.

How Sales Candidates Fool you?

The problem of being fooled by sales candidates is by no means a new issue. It is in fact a reason why the first sales personality tests were developed more than 60 years ago. The reason why they continue in widespread use, is firstly that they work. The second reason is that candidates are even more adept at playing the role today due, not only to their access to information about you and your company, but also tools that assist them to market their ‘brand’. As an interviewer the odds have never been in your favor but now you don’t really stand a chance.

Being fooled by sales candidates comes in various forms but the most common are the three described below.

Being fooled by the candidate’s act

This can take different forms but it occurs when candidates adjust their style (eg. raising their assertiveness level, or portraying a greater level of extroversion) during the interview based on what they believe you are looking for. Candidates fool even the most experienced interviewers when they do this because it is quite easy to pull off this ‘act’ for short periods of time. A very common example is when sales recruiters are hiring hunter or closer types. It is very common in this situation for a non-assertive yet very sociable candidate to dramatically bump up their ‘seeming’ assertiveness during your interview with them. Of course what typically happens is you hire them because they interview really well and then months later you discover, to your regret, that you were fooled by their act. A very costly mistake that you could have avoided by having had the candidate take a sales personality test.

Mis-identifying the candidate’s personality traits

Unlike the issue above where the candidate plays a role that serves to fool you, in this case the candidate is not playing a role at all but merely acting naturally. You get fooled because the trait you are seeing creates the impression that it is something entirely different. There are also many examples of this but a common one occurs with candidates who are extremely sociable and extroverted yet are lacking in assertiveness and self-motivation. The reason you get fooled by this, is because, in short doses high sociability looks like high assertiveness but definitely is not. If you did in fact want to hire a sales person with high assertiveness you will regret this very costly hiring error.

Rejecting certain candidates who do not interview well

Unlike the two examples above where the candidates appear better than they are, in this example these candidates appear worse. A great example of this is the sales candidate who is quite introverted and reserved but who also possesses a great degree of drive and self-motivation. Because these candidates are somewhat ill at ease in interviews they do not always come off very well and can be seen as aloof, cold and even a little brusque, and for this reason you can easily reject them from the selection process. This is a great shame and potentially a very expensive hiring error because they are often highly successful in more technically oriented sales roles as this article about introverts in sales demonstrates.

How will a Sales Personality Test solve this issue?

Sales personality tests solve this problem because they cut through the role and get right to the core of who the candidate really is. You no longer get fooled, and the process is now tilted back in your favor because you now thoroughly understand the candidate’s true motivational style. This is critical information for you to have at this stage because once the person is hired and settled into the role it is this personality that you will be dealing with.

Armed with this critical information you will immediately know whether the candidate has potential and whether you should proceed to the next step. You will also possess great insight into the candidate’s specific strengths, weaknesses and any potential red flag areas. These additional insights mean you can be very specific and targeted with your questioning and other vetting methods. Many managers who use sales personality tests refer to them as their ‘secret weapon’.

The Benefits

1.You will increase sales because the sales people you hire will all start out with high potential for success.

2.You will save massive amounts of time because you will know from the moment a new sales person starts, how to manage and motivate them.

3.You will save further time because you will no longer need to waste your efforts attempting to make a bad hire succeed.

4.Your entire hiring process will be more effective since you can spend your time vetting only those with high potential.

5.You will save further money and time and enhance your company’s brand by avoiding a revolving door in your sales department.

Investment required for these Benefits

The benefits described above can be yours for a tiny cost, no matter the size of your sales team. The cost of our sales person test, varies from just a couple of dollars for high volume clients to around thirty dollars for even quite small companies who do only occasional sales testing. Sales test costs are here.

Learn More

If you are interested in learning more I would enjoy hearing from you and would be very pleased to discuss your specific sales hiring challenges and if you are interested, to arrange a complementary demonstration of our service.

Sales Interview Effectiveness:New York Times Article, ‘The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews’

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Below is a link to a really great article in The New York Times called ‘The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews’.  The article is by Jason Dana, an assistant professor of management and marketing at the Yale School of Business. The findings Professor Dana writes about in this article offer compelling evidence that hiring managers need to consider when looking at their sales hiring practices. Most important, without explicitly saying so, he makes a very strong case for using a sales test instead of, or at the very least in combination with, the sales interview.  Here is a link to the article.

For anyone who is also interested, here is our own article about the effectiveness of sales interviews that we published on this topic.

I hope you find one or both helpful.

 

 

 

 

Sales Personality Tests-Six Reasons Why SalesTestOnline is better than the Predictive Index

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Often, in my conversations with prospects that are considering implementing a sales personality test, they have remarked at the similarities of The Predictive Index to SalesTestOnline.com. This has happened frequently enough that I thought I would dedicate a post to the subject in order to spell out both the similarities and differences.

This article will demonstrate that, while first impressions make it seem that The Predictive Index and SalesTestOnline.com are very similar, a little exploration past these first impressions will reveal clear and important differences.   Not only are these important differences, it is these very differences that I believe you will see that make our system far superior to the Predictive Index as a sales personality test.

Full disclosure: For 3 years in the early 1980’s I worked for what was then the largest Predictive Index licensee in the world. Because of this I am very familiar with the PI’s strengths but also it’s shortcomings.

Similarities of Predictive Index and SalesTestOnline.com
1.The Testing Instruments

First impressions are usually made of our system when one takes or administers our test. This cursory experience is all that most people actually experience about either of our respective systems.   To them the system is the test, when in reality the test is really just the device that gathers information about the test taker. Nevertheless, as tests and testing experiences go, they are virtually identical. Both The Predictive Index and SalesTestOnline.com use free choice adjective checklists. Both tests are untimed and have two screens (originally two sides of a paper and pencil test) each with lists of about 100 adjectives. The first screen asks the test taker to ‘check off the words that describe how others expect you to act’ and the second screen asks the test taker to ‘check off the words that really do describe you’. It is no great surprise why we are seen as being the same.

2.Personality Trait Drive Scales

While many of the folks who compare us to PI are doing so based solely on their experience of having taken or given our sales test, in some instances we have the opportunity to speak with trained Predictive Index analysts. Their knowledge of course, goes deeper since they would have completed the analyst training and therefore would have access to the results of the PI test. Their training would have made them familiar with the PI graphs and how to interpret them. This is the second area where the PI and SalesTestOnline.com are similar. In the two images below you will see both an example of a Predictive Index scoring sheet and the trait drives section from one of our reports. Even though we identify these trait drives somewhat differently they are essentially the following same 6 trait drives:

  • Assertiveness
  • Sociability
  • Patience
  • Dependence
  • Emotional Control
  • Stamina

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It is the combination of where the person scores on these various trait drives that creates the PI pattern that Predictive Index analysts are trained to interpret and of course it is the combination of these trait drives that enables us to describe the individual’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of specific aspects of sales eg. closing, prospecting, response to incentives as well as how they fit the specific sales role at hand.

The two aspects described above-the testing experience and the trait drive scoring, are clearly similar. Below however I will describe the critical differences and explain why the PI does not even come close to SalesTestOnline.com as a sales test or otherwise.

Differences Between PI and SalesTestOnline.com
Inaccuracy Due to Poor Analyst Skill

In order to understand why the differences between SalesTestOnline.com and The Predictive Index are so huge even though the instruments themselves are the same it is important to think of the test and the interpretation of the test results as two separate pieces. What do I mean by this? To understand, you need to realize that at the heart of the PI program, is their certified analyst training. This training, which was originally two weeks long, was reduced to one week in the 1970’s but is now compressed into a total of only 14 hours over two days. The sole purpose of the training is to teach people how to interpret the graphs and therefore how to describe the motivational style of test takers. At the end of the training the interpretive skill of the analysts tends to be highly varied. Not only this but when analysts return to work where they are expected to use their training, some are very busy doing interpretations and therefore improve their skill while others might use it only occasionally. If you have any doubt about this inaccuracy in the interpretations put the identical PI pattern in the hands of three different analysts and ask them each to prepare their own interpretation. Despite the fact that the PI test itself is very accurate you will see that the interpretations are dramatically different. The poor skill of ‘trained’ PI analysts and the resulting inconsistency and inaccuracy in their interpretations of test results is the Achilles heel of the PI program.

Misunderstanding the Requirements of the Role

Sadly, another area where The Predictive Index goes off the rails at the hands of ‘Certified Analysts’ relates to their lack of skill when they are bench-marking. The purpose of this is to identify the ideal PI patterns for the role. Test takers would then be compared to these benchmark patterns in terms of their fit or match. This is great in theory, but in practice it doesn’t really work as planned. The main reason for this, is that PI analysts often have a strong bias toward certain patterns. In other words they ‘like’ certain PI patterns more than others. These are typically the high A, high B, low C, low D patterns. This bias skews their ability to conduct an objective analysis of the behavioral requirements of the position. Among the other factors that detract from their objectivity in this area is simply the narrowness of their experience. Those analysts who have broad experience in analyzing jobs learn that there are great variances that often exist in the traits of the most successful people in those roles.

Other PI Analyst Issues

There are numerous other issues that result from poor analyst interpretation. A common one is for the analyst, whose training is intended to equip them with the skill to not only interpret the results but to describe what this means in terms that are relevant to the role. In other words, their interpretation and feedback needs to be job specific rather than just the general traits of the person who was tested. Unfortunately this skill, which takes considerable time and practice to develop, is not something that very many PI analysts possess. Because of this, when asked to evaluate an applicant or employee, most analysts will just copy or refer to one of the 16 standard pattern classifications that they learned about from their training manual.

The actual PI test is very accurate and in the hands of skilled analysts it can be a great tool. Unfortunately skilled analysts are all too few. The above issues seriously detract from the accuracy hiring managers need to rely on when using this type of sales psychometric test in the hiring process.

Cost

Even without the issues described above, PI is very costly when looked at on a per evaluation basis. The yearly retainer costs a minimum of nearly $5000 US plus the cost of training at least 2 analysts at a minimum of $1500 US each. These are the costs for clients with the fewest number of employees. Larger clients will pay a substantially higher yearly retainer fee and will be required to train many more analysts. And of course when trained analysts leave your company their replacements will require training. I believe that if many PI clients calculated their actual cost per evaluation they would be unpleasantly surprised.

Six Reasons why SalesTestOnline.com is Better
Same Test and Same Factors Measured

Our sales test uses the very same psychometric methodology as the Predictive Index. The testing experience is just as quick and painless and we measure the same temperament and motivational aspects of the candidate.

Accurate and Consistent Results

We’ve removed the inaccuracy and inconsistency caused by poor analyst skill.  Our system is automated so your test results are always accurate, precise and true.

Test Results are Thorough, Concise and Job Specific

When used as a personality sales test, here is the report you instantly receive. As you can see, not only do you receive measures of the same trait drive scales as the PI but you receive much more such as prospecting, closing and a job suitability rating. Just like the PI you may use our psychometric testing system for all roles within your organization. Here is a sample of our non-sales report.

Customized to your requirements

Another reason we are better is our Job Profiling system. We have analyzed tens of thousands of jobs so our knowledge and skills ensure that you are targeting the correct sales personality for each role.

Expert Support

We are available if you need guidance, have questions or just need a sounding board. Over the years we have worked with numerous PI analysts and we can ‘speak your language’ in order to make our assistance even more effective.

Lower Cost

Here is a link to our pricing. When you purchase a block of tests everything is included, with no time limit to use them. Do the math yourself and you’ll see that our system can offer any size company significant savings.

Conclusion

If you like The Predictive Index you will love SalesTestOnline.com. Our service is superior but less costly. We have a 30 year track record with over 1400 businesses and we enjoy a 97% re-order rate. If you are considering a change or you just want to see what other options are available to you I suggest you try a complementary demonstration by visiting our web site. On the other hand if you have questions about our service or this article, or just to discuss your needs I would enjoy hearing from you.

Sales Personality Test: Hunter Farmer Hybrids

maxresdefaultAny discussion of the personality of sales people very quickly comes around to the well-used terms of Sales Hunters and Sales Farmers. Because of the widespread reference to these two sales person personality types I have previously devoted entire articles to each. There are many other sales person personalities, and while I normally avoid these labels, I do find it interesting that there is a scarcity of names for some of the many other styles.

I wanted to write about a style that could best be called a Hunter-Farmer Hybrid. Admittedly, this is not an elegant handle, but it is an appropriate name given the strengths and weaknesses of sales people with this sales personality style.

As is often the case when I attempt to describe sales person personality, it is useful to refer to the 4 main trait drive scales below.

Assertiveness – Need for control, competitiveness, need to win, ego drive.

Sociability – Need for interaction with others, empathy and persuasiveness, extroversion.

Patience – Need for stability and predictability, comfort with repetition and routine.

Dependence – Need for rules, structure, guidelines, approval, security and clearly defined direction.

The Sales Hunter

Sales Hunters, of course, are high on assertiveness, high on sociability, low on patience and low on dependence.   This combination of traits is why they can absorb rejection while prospecting and why they are very risk oriented, independent, resistant to rules and impatient with a sense of urgency.

The Sales Farmer

Sales Farmers, on the other hand, are low on assertiveness, high on sociability, low on patience and high on dependence. This trait combination is why they tend to be warm and helpful but not pushy. They meet and relate to others readily, tend to stay within the guidelines and follow direction, are good at follow up activities, and tend to be organized. As well, they are team players that are eager to help others.

The Hunter-Farmer Hybrid

On two of the trait drive scales, Sociability and Patience, the Hunter-Farmer Hybrid is the same as the others. Like the others ‘hybrids’ are very outgoing, empathetic, people oriented and persuasive. As well, ‘hybrids’ have a sense of urgency, need variety and a fast paced working environment.

It is on the other two trait drive scales, Assertiveness and Dependence that the Hunter-Farmer Hybrid is different from both Hunters and Farmers. On these two scales ‘hybrids’ are a blending of the two styles and therefore have a mid-range level of Assertiveness and a mid-range level of Dependence. When we take these four trait drives together it means that the ‘hybrid’ can be very effective in sales roles that combine the requirements of both sales hunting and sales farming. Put another way they are ‘quite well suited’ to both sales hunting and sales farming while not necessarily being ‘perfectly suited’ to either. Some examples of roles for which they are suited:

  • Roles requiring the rep to not only open accounts but also to service and maintain those accounts.
  • Sales hunting roles requiring a lot of follow up and attention to detail in order to close the sale.
  • Sales hunting roles where very high assertiveness is not really necessary.
  • Sales hunting roles with a long selling cycle.
  • Technically oriented sales roles.
  • Farmer sales roles where a little more assertiveness would assist with up-selling, cross-selling and getting deeper into the account.
  • Many account management sales roles.

There are in fact many different types of sales roles to which these ‘hybrid’ types are highly suited. This has long been the case since there have always been a high percentage of sales roles that needed this type of ‘dual’ focus on what are, in sales personality terms, contradictory demands.

Hybrids in Sales Hunter Roles

Today, even clearly defined sales roles that require a pure business development focus have evolved in ways that necessitate a style more aligned with that of these ‘hybrids’ rather than that of the pure ‘hunter’ style. For example, the requirement to use contact management software and other common sales tools and technologies can in many ways be very demotivating to the highly independent nature and big egos of pure sales hunters, whereas ‘hybrids’ are very comfortable with this kind of ‘structure’. The requirements of social selling are just another example of the same issue.

Still another factor that has changed the traditional hunter role in favor of ‘hybrids’ has to do with the way prospects now interact with sales people during the sales process. The high assertiveness of sales hunters can now actually be a detriment when interacting with some prospects, and the hunter’s impatient frustration at having to keep following up in order to get a decision can mean they give up on the prospect too early, therefore losing out on sales that the hybrid will get simply by ‘hanging in there’ longer.

What to Consider when hiring Hunter Farmer Hybrids
  1. Like many very outgoing types they create the impression that they are more assertive than they are. Be conscious of this in relation to how assertive one needs to be in your sales role.
  2. Much like sales farmers, when they are new to a role, ‘hybrids’ tend to prefer to be given clear support and direction and then once familiar they prefer a far greater degree of latitude.
  3. Like the typical sales farmer they have a fairly strong streak of altruism in what motivates them. Being recognized for their contribution to the success of their team will be an effective motivator.
  4. Like sales hunters they are motivated by incentives (bonus, commission) yet they also have quite a strong fear of failure so guarantees that minimize the risks will be effective.
Conclusion

I do hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about hunter farmer hybrids or would like to learn more about SalesTestOnline.com I would appreciate hearing from you and would be pleased to discuss your specific challenges.

Why Sales Personality Tests are Better than Sales Interviews as a Sales Talent Indicator

 

 

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The process of evaluating sales aptitude in job candidates could in some ways be compared to a small construction project like building a garage. To complete either project you will need to employ a variety of tools that each perform a specific function necessary to the project’s success. Where the comparison ends though is when you have two tools whose functions overlap. When building a garage it is not a problem to discard one of your hammers, drills or saws. When evaluating sales aptitude, the typical face-to-face interview and sales personality tests are in many respects, tools with overlapping functions. In this case though, it is best to use both, while being cognizant of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. In this way, by working in tandem each becomes a better tool in it’s own right.

Common sales hiring tools for vetting candidates
  • Resume sorting and analysis
  • Telephone interviews
  • Face-to-Face Interviews
  • Sales psychometric testing
  • Role playing/simulations
  • Reference checks
  • Background checks

It is quite likely that you use most, or perhaps even all, of the above sales hiring tools to one degree or another. If you are like the majority of hiring managers the results of the face-to-face interview(s) receive the greatest weight.

Most common areas for sales candidate evaluation
  • Education
  • Intelligence and ability to learn
  • Appearance and demeanor
  • Industry experience and knowledge
  • Product knowledge
  • Sales experience and training
  • Specific sales skills (presentation, communication)
  • Specific competencies (computer, software, contact management)
  • Personality traits/characteristics (self-motivation, energy level, ability to work independently, results-oriented)

Of this list, the single most important factor that hiring managers are trying to evaluate accurately is the candidate’s personality traits and characteristics. This is borne out not only by our many conversations with these hiring managers but also by numerous surveys. This is further confirmed by hundreds of published papers by experts in the field as well as by numerous HBR articles on this topic.

What is the issue?

The problem is that hiring managers are using interviews to evaluate personality traits and characteristics. This is a big and potentially very costly problem. Why? Because as we shall see, interviews are one of the least effective tools for measuring sales personality traits-the most important factor in determining sales success.

Accurately identifying sales personality in interviews is impossible?

There are so many authoritative articles and studies about face-to-face interviews and their lack of effectiveness as hiring tools that I won’t even bother trying to list them. The intent of this article is not meant to go over this well covered and well-researched topic yet again. Instead, our focus is specific to why trying to evaluate sales personality traits in interviews is very risky.   Here is why:

1.Role-playing by the applicant

Candidates today, have access to so much information via specific sources like Linkedin and Facebook, let alone general research via Google that they know in great detail about you, your company and what type of person you are trying to hire. In addition to knowing what you are looking for, these same sources are a terrific resource for job candidates to learn how best to ‘market’ themselves. Even if the candidate was not sourced via a recruiter, who probably coached them, given the tools at the candidate’s disposal, they might just as well have been. This is not new, as candidates have always tried to portray themselves in a way that matches what the interviewer is looking for. It is just that today they are far more sophisticated in their ability to pull it off. Please understand, I am not in any way suggesting they lack honesty or scruples, it is merely the fact that they want the job, so from their perspective they are ‘polishing the apple’ or ‘putting their best foot forward’.   Where it becomes a serious problem for you is when the personality traits they are trying to portray are very different from their real or natural personality traits. This is important because people can play convincing roles for short periods of time (interviews), whereas over time (once hired and on the job) they revert back to what is natural to them. As one common example let us suppose you are attempting to hire a rather assertive sales type (eg. a sales hunter or sales closer style). It is entirely possible, and actually quite common, for a non-assertive person to portray the style you seek. This is particularly the case if you are interviewing a non-assertive but highly sociable type. Your interview experience with this person convinces you that you have a winner so you hire the person. Months later, to your regret, you realize you were fooled. I cannot tell you the number of times even very experienced hiring managers have recounted to me variations of this scenario. The candidate’s role-playing will fool you!

2.Mis-identifying Personality Traits

An equally costly but different way of being fooled by applicants is the mis-identification of personality traits. This happens when the personality trait you think you are seeing in the candidate is actually a very different trait. There are numerous examples of this but a common one occurs with candidates who are extremely personable but not very assertive nor self-motivated. The problem is that high sociability looks like high assertiveness, but it definitely is not. As the interviewer sifting through this maze this can be a real problem since these candidates intuitively know what you want to hear and can be very adept at appealing to your ‘hot buttons’. Now, some sales roles that do not need a lot of assertiveness can be quite a good fit for these types. However, the problem is that if you are interviewing for a role that requires assertiveness along with the sociability (which is usually the case), you will live to regret hiring this kind of candidate.

3.Candidates that could be great but who you reject

People with a high level of extroversion are ‘in their own arena’ when being interviewed. This is the reason why these types can fool you. Conversely sales types who are more reserved, introverted and controlled in style do not interview very well. If you are interviewing quite a number of candidates who happen to be extroverts these introverts by comparison, will not come off very well. Their ‘poor performance’ in the interview can be a classic example of where interview performance has absolutely nothing to do with predicting sales success. Of course there are introverts that you should hire and introverts that you should not. Interviews are not a hiring tool that can discern the difference.

Why a Sales Personality Test is better?

One of the fundamental reasons for using a sales personality test is to avoid being fooled in job interviews. For this reason when you use sales personality tests none of these three costly issues should re-occur. Utilizing the sales test early in the process makes your interviews more effective by arming you with a deep understanding of the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and possible red flags, many of which would not have been apparent via face-to-face interviewing alone. Conducting an interview without incorporating sales personality tests means you are operating ‘blind’ and therefore the sales candidate has you at a serious disadvantage. By using a sales test in tandem with the interview you will have the advantage. Isn’t this the way it should be? After all, hiring mistakes are very costly.

I do hope this article has been helpful. I invite your questions and comments. Should you be interested in our services please visit us here-SalesTestOnline.com for a free demonstration.

Measuring and Testing for Soft Skills

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According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, ‘employers are increasingly looking for workers with strong soft skills…but many employers say it has gotten harder to find those applicants as the labor market tightens.’ This is just one of many articles and studies highlighting this issue.

The WSJ article was based on a study by LinkedIn’s team of economic researchers who analyzed 2.3 million LinkedIn profiles in order to determine the soft skills that were most sought after by employers. At the top of the list were communication, teamwork, social skills and interpersonal communication.

These findings are certainly consistent with other surveys, articles and studies.  Lists of the most sought after soft skills usually distill down to the 8 areas listed below.

Eight most sought after soft skills
  1. Communication
  2. Teamwork
  3. Interpersonal and Social Style
  4. Decision Making
  5. Organization
  6. Self-Motivation
  7. Problem Solving
  8. Leadership

In many of the articles detailing the importance of soft skills and the difficulty of finding people who possess them it is clear that employers will readily hire applicants with strong soft skills but weak technical skills. In a study of 700 HR Managers and professionals, 93% felt that technical skills are easier to teach than soft skills.

Psychometric tests for recruitment

If you have problems finding people with the right soft skills, the solution is to use an online psychometric test for your recruitment. Why would an online psychometric test solve the problem? To understand why, it helps to start by examining the actual term ‘soft skills’. The use of the word ‘skills’ is highly misleading since it strongly implies that they can be taught. In fact, most of what are referred to as ‘soft skills’ are not skills at all but are actually personality traits or characteristics, which are of course inherent or natural to the person. Most of the ‘soft skills’ listed above are readily identifiable by introducing a short psychometric assessment into your recruitment process. Candidates would complete it online and you would receive a comprehensive report outlining strengths, weaknesses and how they compare to your requirements.

Tests do identify soft skills but interviews do not

Extensive research has shown that interviews are notoriously bad for evaluating the ‘soft skills’ of job candidates. There are several reasons for this but what it comes down to is that job candidates are able to fool you during interviews since they know what you want to see and hear. Since we are, as has been shown, actually trying to determine the natural or inherent traits and characteristics of the candidate rather than being fooled by the false image that they portray in the interview, the only practical and efficient way to do this is to have them complete an online test that measures soft skills. This is especially so, given how accurate (over 90%) and effective tests are at drilling down to the traits necessary for success.

Online psychometric tests today are very easy to use since administering a test is as simple as sending the candidate a link. The candidate’s test results describing their soft skills are available for viewing by you instantly. Considering the many benefits of using an online psychometric test for recruitment, their cost, typically $30-60, is a small price to pay when you consider the cost of a making a hiring mistake.

Conclusion

Today there is no practical reason to lament the lack of soft skills in job candidates. What is necessary is to understand that it is not skills that you need to identify but personality traits and characteristics. With this in mind you can focus your interviewing process around identifying the most critical traits accurately, efficiently and economically. Incorporating an online psychometric assessment test into your recruiting process will do this. If you have any comments or feedback please let us know. If you would like to learn more about our services, and perhaps to have a complimentary demonstration please visit us here.

Sales Testing Accuracy

 

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Unsolicited Testimonial about our Sales Test

Below is an unsolicited testimonial from a client who has used our sales assessment test for almost five years.  For anyone who is skeptical about the accuracy of our sales test this should provide comfort.

PS. I have to say that the Rating is not that important to me on our Ejecutivo de Ventas profile.  I go into the text.  For every candidate I read them their results to see their reaction, to learn who they are (I don’t review before the interview – I want to see if the person in front of me matches the results I am reading), and see if I like the mix.  Then after reading them their results I ask every person how accurate the results are on a scale of 0-100%.  I have not had any one person (after more than 300 interviews) say that the results are lower than 75%.  Many people say that the results are 90%, 95%, and 98% accurate.  This alone is a testimonial as to how well you guys have created the test.  Thank you.  (And feel free to use this when promoting STOL to other companies.)

Use our Sales Personality Tests to Benchmark your best Sales People

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One of the lesser-known uses of our sales personality tests is the ability to ascertain the common personality traits among your top sales people. By identifying their shared personality trait drives, benchmarks can be created. In turn these benchmarks (we actually call them Target Profiles) can be used to compare sales candidates against, when you are hiring.

The benefits of conducting this kind of analysis and using the results when hiring, are immense. Here are a few:

  1. Working with a clear understanding of the role

A very common reason for bad sales hires is not having a clear and articulate insight into the requirements of the sales role. Without this clarity one is operating similarly to a casting director who conducts auditions with no specific part in mind.

  1. All new hires will have high potential

You would be fooling yourself to think every candidate who matches your benchmarks is going to be a sales success. Sales personality tests will definitely tell you if the candidate can do the job but this does not guarantee that they will do the job. Nevertheless, hiring without using sales personality tests means certain candidates who lack this potential get hired merely because they looked good when interviewed. Hiring sales people whom you’ve determined possess at least the potential for success allows you to operate with the comfort that you are not wasting your scarce resources trying ‘to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’.

  1. A streamlined hiring process

By devoting your energies to the high potential candidates you will save valuable time and you can devote extra effort to vetting these high potential candidates even more carefully. You will interview fewer, but better candidates, and not waste time interviewing the marginal ones.

  1. New hires will get up to speed much faster

Hiring candidates who you know have the potential means you will have a clear understanding of how to work with them from day one. Areas such as strengths, weaknesses, how to train and motivate, will not require a learning curve since you will be managing sales personalities with which you are highly familiar and about whom you have a thorough understanding.

What are the steps?

  1. Identify your top performers

The first step is to identify the top performers to use as the benchmarks. In doing this it is important to only use those top sales people who are successful in the way you would like new people to do the job. Anomalies should be excluded. As an example, if you are trying to hire new people to be good sales hunters your current best hunters should be the ones you test. If though, you have veteran sales people on your staff that hit their numbers via re-orders/renewals, it is possible that they should be excluded since they are not ‘hunting’. Conversely, a less experienced sales person who is obviously doing the job in the way you desire but whose numbers may not yet reflect it, should probably be included.

  1. Rank and test

Once you have decided who to test you may immediately go ahead and do so simply by emailing each person the testing instructions. You will also need to provide us with a ranked list with their names. How many you decide to test can vary but as a general rule the larger the sampling the better, as the inevitable outliers and anomalies become more obvious and are less likely to cloud the picture. The top performing 20% is usually a reasonable number. We also suggest that you provide us with any information about the role such as a job description, our completed Job Profile Form, copies of ads, or even any comments you may wish to send us about what would be the ‘ideal’ person for the role. These additional items let us look beyond the statistics found in the test results and help us to better understand our findings.

  1. Analysis and discussion

Our real work begins once your top performers have taken the test.   We look at their results to determine the common trait drives of the group. Not only do we look at the entire group but typically we also analyze the ‘best of the best’ and other sub-groups to see if this demonstrates a strengthening of the trends. We also analyze and break out the traits of the ‘outliers’ since this also provides valuable information. None of this is done in isolation since we would already have looked at the job description, your comments/feedback and the completed Job Profile form. It is sometimes necessary to have a discussion with you about the test results in order to square them with your description of the role.

  1. Set the Target Profiles and adjust as required

Once we enter the settings and set your Target Profiles, all test takers will have a score (eg. 80-100% Excellent, 0-19% Very Poor) on their test results that rates them for closeness to your Target Profiles. It is sometimes necessary to adjust or tweak the Target Profiles at this point, which of course can be done quite readily. It is worth noting that adjustments to Target Profiles can be performed at any future point should the requirements of the role change.

Considerations

  1. Different sales personalities can be equally effective

An important point to bear in mind is that all sales roles have more than one Target Profile (benchmark) against which sales test takers are compared. This is to reflect the fact that, while an analysis of the top performers in any particular sales role will identify clear trends, this does not mean you should expect them to be identical. Take a simple example of a group who are all very assertive and all very independent. When we look beyond these traits we find that while many are extroverts a very large minority are introverts. The Target Profiles we set would need to allow for this, to reflect the fact that in terms of introversion vs. extroversion (in our example) test takers of either style are highly suitable for the role and therefore their Suitability Rating needs to reflect this. This is one very simplified example. For each role we set up to three Target Profiles in order allow for these differences while maintaining the clear trends.

  1. Playing the odds and outliers

Different styles aside, there will be sales people among your top performers who are ‘outliers’ in most aspects relative to the rest of the group. In my experience the fact that the ‘outlier sales person’ is a top sales performer can sometimes be hard for some clients to wrap their head around. Their typical response is to put forth the ‘if I had used your sales test when he applied I would not have hired him’ argument. My counter to this is that my perspective is a little different since I have profiled thousands of sales roles and that in my experience intentionally hiring more of the ‘outlier’ style will result in serious grief. Proving a negative can be almost impossible but I will usually use the approach that hiring against the Target Profiles is like playing the odds. Hiring sales people who fit the Target Profiles does not guarantee success, as some candidates will still fail. Conversely there will be some people who defy the odds and succeed. Nevertheless, if one were to hire 10 sales people who fit the benchmarks and 10 sales people who were opposite to the benchmarks the success/failure rates would become brutally obvious.

  1. Sample size

Some of our smaller clients express concerns about sample size. While a bigger sample is usually better a small sample is never a stumbling block. Since we have profiled so many roles over the years our knowledge of these other roles and how they compare to your role solves this issue. In this situation the Job Profile Form, job description and your feedback as to what you require in the role becomes very helpful and useful.

Conclusion

Using sales personality tests when hiring will enable you to be much more accurate about who to add to your sales team and will dramatically cut down on costly hiring mistakes. Using the sales test results of your top performers to create Target Profiles (benchmarks) takes the accuracy of your hiring to a whole other level.

If you are interested in learning more about bench-marking your top performers, or simply have comments or questions, please let me know.

Sales Personality-Why Sales Hunters can be “difficult”

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Many of our sales testing clients hire sales people to develop new business.   ‘Sales hunter’ is the typical term used to refer to these sales personalities. Often we engage in discussions with clients about the relative strengths and weaknesses of these and other sales personalities and what type would best fit the role(s) for which they are conducting the sales assessment.

These discussions almost always come around to the ‘two edged sword’ conversation. This is where I liken sales traits to the proverbial ‘two edged sword’ as a means of explaining that the ‘flip side’ of the sales personality that they intend to hire also possesses some rather undesirable aspects. I am not alluding to anything deep and mysterious but rather making them aware that the very personality traits that create the sales person’s potential strengths also create potential difficulties.

This could be said of any sales personality. This article however is focused on ‘sales hunters’ only because this is a type of sales person that many hiring managers are trying to recruit. I thought they would find this helpful. (For greater detail about the specific combination of personality traits that create sales hunters please see this article Hunters Defined.)

In summary, here are the trait drives of sales hunters:
  1. A very high level of Assertiveness. This means they are highly competitive, dominant, authoritative and take-charge types with a need to win, be in control and be recognized. They tend to think big and be risk-oriented.
  2. A very high level of Sociability. This means they are very extroverted, people oriented, outgoing and therefore require a lot of interaction with others as well as recognition and acceptance. They tend to be very persuasive in the way they communicate.
  3. A very low level of Patience. This means they are very impatient and are restless, pro-active and have a lot of nervous energy. They thrive on change/variety and dislike routine/repetition. They are deadline oriented and possess a sense of urgency.
  4. A very low level of Dependence. This means they are very independent, self-reliant, resist supervision, dislike rules and guidelines and tend to be quite weak with the details. They are risk and incentive oriented.

When one views these trait drives in combination one can easily understand why hunters are good at opening doors. They have the ego drive and confidence to absorb rejection and their high sociability and people orientation means they meet and relate to prospects quickly and naturally. A combination often likened to ‘an-iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove’. Their impatience means they have a built in sense of urgency that, along with their other traits, means they are true self-starters. Additionally, they are very independent so require little direction from management and being very risk oriented they are highly motivated by incentives.

It is also pretty easy to see that their rather large egos mean that even though they may not express it, deep inside they believe they can do your job better than you, therefore taking direction is not one of their strong suits. This issue is amplified by their distaste for procedures and guidelines which, from their perspective, they find very restricting and a hindrance to their need to operate autonomously. Their weakness with activities related to reporting/paperwork/details is tied into this view of being restricted as this is seen as a waste of time that keeps them away from the other activities they would prefer to be doing. Team environments are often a problem for them since the required effort to tone down their large egos can be inconsistent-and, truth be told, they only like team-work when they can lead the team. When making sales their belief that getting the sale overrides any need to follow the organization’s policies and systems, can create extra work for management. Their tremendous nervous energy (tapping fingers, shaking keys) seems to give off waves of impatience to those around them. This lack of ‘sit-ability’ can sometimes be quite disruptive.

Of course this is not a complete listing of the potential ‘difficult’ manifestations of their various trait drives. And to be fair, some of these ‘potential’ issues with sales hunters will not necessarily be seen in all sales hunters. It is worth noting here that our descriptions of trait drives and their resultant behaviors are not taking into account other aspects of the person such as experience, age, training, education and intelligence. These, and other factors, can often have a softening or mitigating influence.

Nonetheless, if you have managed enough sales hunters you have no doubt witnessed many of these behaviors and come to wonder if these sales hunters (sometimes referred to as ‘prima donnas’) are worth the hassle; they may make the sales but they can be very disruptive. Realistically of course, you do not really have much of a choice but to work with them since you need these sales personalities because they do open new doors.

So what can be done? The first thing to understand is how to work with them as productively as possible. A great thing about these sales personalities is that their thick skin (big ego) enables you to be extremely direct and blunt in the way you communicate with them, as they tend to find this quite motivating. If possible, let them work the role as if it were their own ‘business’. With broad and general direction, incentives, authority, responsibility, minimal details and reporting they will tend to thrive. Keep them very busy, since the faster the pace and the more they have on the go the more highly motivated they tend to be. When trying to get them to ‘tone down’ some of their ‘difficult’ aspects never forget that they are motivated by ‘what’s in it for me’, therefore always try to relate your ‘suggestions’ to something that will benefit them in a way that pushes their buttons, i.e. more money, more sales, more authority, more freedom. Any changed behaviors will come about from self-interest rather than any sort of fear of reprimand. I do hope this has been helpful and perhaps contains a couple of suggestions and insights that might be of assistance. As always, I look forward to your feedback, questions or comments.

Sales Personality and Sales Drive

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A lot has been written over the last few years about the subject of ‘sales drive’. The essence of these articles is that in order to be successful in sales one has to possess this very specific ‘characteristic’. Apparently, if you have this key quality of ‘sales drive’ you are more likely to become a sales ‘rock star’, to use the latest sales management jargon.

As anyone who has read any of my previous articles will attest, I wholeheartedly agree that one can ascribe the reason for sales success in certain sales roles to the presence of specific personality trait drives.

I fully realize that I am at risk of seeming like a nitpicker about this subject, but I find these statements about the presence of ‘sales drive’ as it relates to sales success to be very imprecise and vague.

Unfortunately, this imprecision and vagueness contributes to an erroneous and flawed impression of what accounts for sales success and therefore which sales people you should hire for your sales roles.

The first problem with the sales drive = rock star argument is that it is based on the assumption that all sales roles require hunters. Of course many sales roles do require hunters but many do not. The second problem with the sales drive = rock star argument is that the term ‘sales drive’ equates sales drive to a high level of assertiveness. The third problem with the sales drive = rock star argument is that the use of the term ‘sales drive’ strongly implies that there is one and only one type of ‘sales drive’ when in fact the many different kinds of sales personalities demonstrate very different and diverse ‘sales drives’.

This article is meant to firstly, add clarity and explanation about the subject of ‘sales drive’ (or more accurately stated ‘sales drives’). As well, this article is meant to explain that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sales roles, wherein a specific ‘sales drive’ is appropriate for all is very simplistic and misguided.

All Salespeople have some form of Sales Drive

Just as all people by and large are motivated by a wide variety of factors, it logically follows that sales people are motivated by this same wide variety. It is these differences in the factors that motivate them that result in sales people having different sales ‘styles’. For example, it should be obvious to any sales manager that a sales ‘hunter’ is motivated by a very different set of factors than a sales ‘farmer’. Of course there are many more sales personality styles than these two frequently referenced types.  They are each motivated and driven by a different combination of trait drives and motivational needs. Each has a particular sales personality style that is the product of these trait drives and motivational needs.

One could say that the sales hunter has a ‘sales drive’ that is directed towards the need to win, need for control and need for independence. One could say of sales farmers that their ‘sales drive’ is directed towards altruism with a desire to help the customer, the team and the organization.   Each has a very strong ‘sales drive’ even though they are very different and therefore have very different strengths and weaknesses. And of course, each is suited to a different type of sales role. If you buy the sales drive = sales rock star argument you would naturally be very reluctant to hire the sales farmer. This could be a big mistake since, depending on the role you are hiring for, the sales farmer is exactly the sales personality you should be hiring.

For a more detailed understanding of sales hunters and sales farmers please see these two articles:

Hunters Defined

Sales Personality: Hunters vs Farmers

Match Sales Drive to the Roles Requirements

Is there such a thing as ‘good’ sales drive? As mentioned previously, the concept of sales drive = sales rock star is flawed because it is based on the assumption of the presence of high assertiveness being desirable. One might as well view it as high assertiveness = sales rock star. There is some truth in this when one is talking about hunters and closers, although even in this scenario there are many caveats one should be aware of related to whether certain other trait drives are or are not also present. When it comes to other sales roles such as the above example of a sales farmer, a high level of assertiveness is usually unnecessary. In many instances it might even be detrimental, especially when one considers that high assertiveness is often accompanied by a strong distaste for procedures and details, something that often has great importance in these roles.

I suggest that a ‘good’ sales drive is one that is appropriate to the role and is a match for what the position requires.   While I have leaned heavily on the terms ‘hunter’ and ‘farmer’ for explanation purposes I do want to reiterate that there are many different sales personality styles. Each has their respective strengths and weaknesses. As well, each sales role has it’s own individual requirements.

In my opinion the ‘sales drive’ of sales ‘rock stars’ comes in many different forms since what constitutes a ‘rock star’ in one sales role can be entirely different from another sales role. The most common denominator though is that they are well matched to the requirements of that specific sales position.

I do hope the above has been helpful. I invite your thoughts and comments.