Sales Personality and Sales Drive


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.

A Checklist for Selecting a Sales Test


Given the huge costs of making a bad sales hire (see our Cost of Failure Calculator) the decision to incorporate a sales test into your company’s hiring/selection process can have far reaching implications for your organization’s sales team. For any business, using the wrong type of sales test, or using a sales test that is not effective, can be extremely expensive and painful. For smaller companies it is not an overstatement to say that the results of using an ineffective or inappropriate sales test can actually be a make or break proposition. (This article goes into a little more detail about this- Why Small Small Companies Can’t Afford NOT to Use a Sales Assessment Test).   Looking at the positive side, an effective sales test can have a massive ROI when one looks at the cost of testing, versus the profitability of hiring successful reps.

I have spoken to thousands of prospective clients over the years and I have often felt, that unlike many other business decisions the process of choosing the right sales test is very haphazard and muddled. It has always been a rather confusing task and the internet has made it even more confusing. Not only are there many more choices, but in visiting the websites of sales testing companies most of the product descriptions sound the same, therefore even very different services sound as though they are very similar. It certainly does not help that most of us are not willing to spend more than a few seconds on a web page to understand a particular company’s offering. Even major differentiators are missed, not to mention important but more subtle differences.

The purpose of this checklist is to provide an organized and systematic way of sifting through one’s options by breaking the process down into various categories requiring consideration. Like many decisions, it becomes more manageable by dealing with it as a series of smaller choices.

What Aspect of Candidates to Measure?

Tests are available to evaluate many aspects of sales people. Your most fundamental decision, quite possibly is to decide what aspects of the sales person you believe you need to measure. There are tests to measure some of the more inherent aspects of the person such as personality traits like drive, extroversion and independence. Others focus on intelligence, often referred to as mental alertness. The vast majority of tests tend to measure the learned aspects of the candidate such as sales skills or sales knowledge. Other more specialized tests measure sales knowledge generally or sales knowledge geared towards particular industries or the sale of certain products. Bear in mind that using sales tests should not be thought of as an either or proposition. For example, you could quite logically use 2 or even 3 instruments, each of which intended to provide you with a measure of different aspects of the candidate. Once you have decided what aspects of the sales candidates that requires testing you can narrow the focus of your search to those types of instruments.

Here are 3 helpful articles:

How Much Emphasis Should be Placed on the Results of a Sales Assessment Test?

Does Sales Personality Matter

3 Reasons to Evaluate New Grads with a Sales Test

Relevance to your Sales Positions

Is the testing customized or adapted to the needs of your specific role? A test may be very effective at identifying whether a person is good for sales but the underlying assumptions built into the test might be for a completely different kind of sales role from what you are hiring for. Sales roles differ dramatically. Even if you are using a testing system that has a track record in your industry it may be that your role is very different from what the test is designed to measure and identify.

Test Administration

Just about every type of test can now be completed by candidates over the internet. I would venture to say that a sales test vendor whose test is only available in paper format has not kept up to date. Draw your own conclusions from this.  There are, however several other considerations related to test administration:

  1. Credentials to take the test: How does the candidate obtain these credentials? Do they expire? Do you have to generate them or does the test vendor? How is this done and is it quick and convenient or complicated and cumbersome? A less than convenient system of providing the candidate with the testing credentials may not be a big problem if you are only doing the occasional test. On the other hand, if you are doing even just a few a month it can be a hassle, particularly if you have a candidate that you wish to test quickly. Ask questions about this, particularly if you are intending to test on any sort of scale.
  1. What devices can the test be taken on? Many tests have been available on the internet for some time but not all of them are mobile friendly. These days a lot of sales tests are taken on tablets and even mobile phones.   Whether mobile friendly or not, should the test, given it’s format, realistically be taken on a mobile phone? If you intend to administer a lot of tests remotely this is an important consideration since it may actually affect test results.
  1. Test time: There are still many tests that take the candidate from 45-120 minutes to complete. Years ago job candidates might not have balked at this but today it is not realistic to expect a candidate to sit for a test of this length. Ask yourself if you would. If the test or tests you are considering are this long and drawn out you can expect a fair number of candidates to start but not finish their test. What are the implications of this? Does this have a cost? How does this affect results?
Receiving Test Results

When the candidate completes the sales test how quickly do you receive the results? In what format do these results come to you? Is the information in a format that is easily shared with other decision makers? If the results are web based (as opposed to PDF or emailed) can other managers also access the same information? Are the results removed after you view them or can you come back to view them in the future?

Format and Analysis of Test Results

Are the test results clear and understandable? Is the report evaluation concise and to the point or is there a lot of information to sift through? If there is a lot to go through does the report style make it easy to interpret? If not, is support available to assist with the interpretation? When reading the results are the areas being evaluated relevant to the role you need the sales person to fill? Do you receive a rating or a recommendation as to the candidate’s fit for the role? Does the report contain information that can assist you for both pre hire (red flags, interview, reference check) and post hire (train, manage, develop)?

Sharing Results with the Candidate

Do you intend to share test results with the candidate? Are the results automatically sent to the candidate? In our experience test results that are written for the consumption of both the hiring authority and the candidate are not effective. Usually a more blunt approach works for the hiring manager whereas a “softened” approach works best for the candidate.

Accuracy of the Sales Test

Using a sales test that is not accurate is kind of like using an inaccurate tape measure. In other words, why bother? All of the above points are irrelevant if the test does not accurately reflect the candidate in the areas it purports to measure. Realistically, the accuracy of a test can be quite difficult to prove. The reason for this is because one of the major benefits of a sales test is that it prevents you from hiring people who will likely fail. Just this alone can save you a huge amount of money and time but there is no metric that will measure this. As well, trying to track the impact of a sales test to the obvious metrics of sales performance and job turnover can actually be very difficult for the simple reason that one can rarely isolate the impact of the test. Talk to the vendor about the issue of accuracy and see how they address this. Request a few free tests to be given to known current employees in order to see if the results jive with your experience. The reality is that if the test vendor has been in business for some time and this is their primary offering it probably is an accurate instrument.

Is the Sales Test Predictive of Success?

Can the sales test accurately predict whether a person is likely to be successful? Ask the sales test vendor if they have done studies of successful sales people who have completed the test to determine if a correlation exists between the test results and success in that sales role.

Not Easily Gamed

Job applicants have always tried to ‘sell’ themselves to potential employers. This is completely natural, understandable and in no way does it imply a lack of honesty. It is just that they want the job. Applicants have always had many tools to assist them in this, with the result that employers are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to taking some of the risk out of sales hiring decisions. With every conceivable kind of information, advice, tool and preparation available on the internet to assist job candidates, employers just don’t stand a chance. The reality is that whatever sales test you ultimately use, applicants who complete it will be trying to ‘game’ it to one degree or another. Test vendors should be able to address this issue to your satisfaction by explaining how their test deals with this reality.   Here is an article about this subject:

Can Our Sales Assessment Test be Cheated?

Testing for Other Roles

While you may be considering incorporating a sales test at the present time you may find that in the future you will need to test for other roles i.e. management. In our experience this is quite common. Although not a huge consideration, it can be much more convenient in several ways to deal with the same testing vendor for both. What other roles does the vendor test for, if any? Are there any extra charges or set up fees?

Testing in other Languages

For global companies having the test available in other languages can be an important issue. What other languages are available? Are there any specific procedures necessary to administer the test in these other languages?


Is there support available should you need assistance with test results? If you need something resolved how long does it take? Is it only email support or is there a phone number where you can actually talk to a human? What is the expertise of the person you will be talking to and what do they know about your specific company and the issues you are trying to address with the testing? Are there limits to this support? Is there a charge? What about resolving password issues for you and or your candidates?

Experience and Track Record of Vendor

How long has the test vendor been in business and how long has the test been offered? Is testing their primary business or is it a sideline? If it is a peripheral business and they are a re-seller of tests, what is their expertise? Are they adding any value? Are they using the testing to promote their main service? In either case what is the success rate of the system they offer? It can realistically be difficult to demonstrate this but can they provide references and or any evidence of the efficacy of their system? Will they let you try it out at no cost on a couple of your people?


If yours is a large or growing company then you should ensure that the sales testing system is not only scalable, but also scalable in the way that is most convenient to your needs. Is there a limit to how many managers that may have access to the test results? Can access be tailored so that managers either see or are restricted from seeing what is appropriate to their responsibilities as the system is rolled out? If you are testing sales people all over the country or around the world you may wish to take the testing down to some local level such as a branch or region for example. Being able to give access to some and not others in these and similar scenarios is more than just a convenience. Another consideration is whether the system can be integrated into your applicant tracking system.

Reporting Capabilities of Testing System

If you are testing in any type of volume you will want to know about the reporting capabilities of the system. As time goes on and you have tested dozens, hundreds or even thousands of candidates, the ability to output the test results for analysis is essential. You should be able to output all or selected amounts and aspects of the test results to a spreadsheet so you may compare test results with your sales metrics.

Cost of the Sales Test

There is a huge variance in what you should expect to pay per sales test. For example there are $30 tests that provide almost as much information as many $300 tests. Cost per test becomes very significant the earlier in the hiring process you intend to administer the test. Here is an article that discusses this- Sales Personality Test-At what point in the Hiring Process?   Because of the internet, it makes great sense to test early on and prior to meeting the candidate. If your testing is too costly you will tend not to give it to candidates until quite late in the hiring process. For this reason, you will need to weigh the cost per test against how often you intend to use it. Some things to consider:

1.Are discounts offered for buying in volume?

2.Can you use your purchased tests for different job categories?

3.If you buy a quantity of tests do they expire?

4.Are there any additional costs, for example set up fees?

I believe this list of 16 categories is quite thorough and that if you evaluate prospective sales tests with these areas in mind it will ensure that you make a well founded decision about which sales test(s) to implement in your sales organization. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or for any assistance.