Sales Aptitude Testing – Sales is Sales is Sales-NOT!


Many pithy sayings and expressions, even those that have very old origins, are often very insightful and helpful despite seeming very simple. In just a few words one is able to ‘hit the nail on the head’ about a topic and ‘get right to the bottom line’ (you see, I just used two of them).

Even though some of these sayings can be very truthful and helpful, some are just plain wrong and downright unhelpful. Perhaps you are thinking ‘who cares’ or ‘so what’.   But what if the saying reflects thinking that is fundamentally misguided and wrong? What if that wrongheaded view of things results in expensive business mistakes like hiring poor sales people? If that was happening in your business it wouldn’t be ‘who cares’ or ‘so what’ you would be thinking, it would be more like WTF.

When I hear a hiring manager say, ‘sales is sales is sales’ or phrases with a similar meaning my ‘sales testing radar’ goes on high alert. Why? Because if it is indicative of the hiring manager’s view of the sales role(s) in his company then that is a potential problem.

The problem is that this simplistic and generalized view of the role of sales belies a fundamental ignorance of the fact that sales roles do differ dramatically and, as a result, so do the necessary traits, motivational drives and personality requirements. This is true not only between businesses but also very often within the very same company, selling the very same things to the very same customers. Examples of this abound. If your hiring managers are not acutely aware of how the personality traits for one sales role differ from another then sales hiring mistakes are sure to follow!

Every hiring manager can clearly spell out the necessary education, experience, product knowledge and technical skills for his/her sales roles. The reality though is that these things are down the list of importance because they are readily identified and easily taught and are very rarely the reason why sales people fail. Sales people invariably fail because their personality traits and motivational style is a bad match for the sales role at hand. When you consider how much this contributes to sales success it surprises me how seldom I encounter a hiring manager who can clearly and succinctly articulate the ‘style’ of sales person he or she is attempting to hire.

I liken this inability to describe the personality and motivational requirements of the role to a casting director who auditions actors while having no clear sense of what he is looking for. Put another way, if you don’t know precisely what you are looking for, you won’t really know when you see it, nor can you objectively and consistently evaluate the talents of the candidates you are vetting.

The results are pretty predicable. With high hopes, new sales people are hired who are in fact a bad match for the role.  When their performance inevitably lags, management wastes money and time trying to rectify the problem with training. Eventually when this shows little effect and all concerned are unhappy with the situation, the sales person leaves or is let go. Then the same process begins anew.

While the above scenario may be predictable it can easily be avoided by using a sales aptitude test. Here at we conduct a thorough analysis of your sales roles in order to clearly understand the necessary traits for success. We call these your Target Profiles. In our long experience and in our many studies of successful sales people for organizations all over the world, they are proven to be highly predictive of success.

Trying to build a team of successful sales people is a complex, difficult and expensive task. Why make it any more of a challenge than it has to be? Given what is at stake, it just makes sense to work with a clear ‘roadmap’ to the sales people you need to hire. In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going you might wind up someplace else.’


Sales Aptitude Testing – No Sales Test Results…A Blessing in Disguise?

imgres-3I love the following quote by Winston Churchill when he learned from his wife that he had been thrown out of office right after leading Britain to victory in World War Two. When his devoted wife Clementine placed her hand on his shoulder and said, “It may be a blessing in disguise” Churchill looked up at her and fighting back tears he replied: “Well, at the moment it is certainly very well disguised.”

Often when I hear or use the term ‘blessing in disguise’ I can’t help picturing Churchill and remembering how, even at that moment, he maintained his sense of irony and humor.

I will sometimes have a ‘blessing in disguise’ conversation with clients about sales test results, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Allow me to explain. Normally, when a candidate takes our sales test the report that is produced for the hiring manager provides a clear picture of everything needed to make the best hiring decision. To see what I mean here is link to a sample report. Every so often, a report contains a message that the candidate’s results ‘cannot be determined at this time’. As well, none of the personality trait-drive scales, nor any of the work tendency scales contain rating scores. Additionally, in the various narrative based sections of the report it is explained to the reader that not only are the results unable to be determined ‘at this time,’ but that the reasons why are that the candidate would seem to be experiencing some form of serious personal stress.

The first time a client receives one of these ‘conflicted and unclear’ sales test reports on an applicant they will, in very short order, email or phone us to find out if there was a ‘glitch’ with our system or if ‘something went wrong’ with the test. Of course, at this point I have to explain that no, there was not a ‘glitch’ and yes, our system is working just as it should be. Unfortunately, the reason for the inconclusive results is that the personal stress that the candidate seems to be experiencing has altered the way they have answered the questions on our test. In effect, the validity trigger within our test ‘knew’ not to trust the test answers.

Quite naturally the client is often frustrated with this because of course they rely on, and place great value on, the information from our sales test to assist in their hiring decisions. Their frustration is intensified when they realize that not only should they not re-test the candidate but that our suggestion is that the candidate is likely a very risky person to hire at this time. Of course because of this risk we usually recommend that other candidates should be considered for the role.

If the hiring manager has a number of candidates to choose from when this occurs it is usually little more than an annoyance. If, on the other hand, the client has no other candidates for the position or perhaps this was the best of a small bunch then I really feel their pain. They need to fill the role and here we are telling them that the candidate is very risky and to avoid the person if they possibly can.

This is when the ‘blessing in disguise’ conversation begins. What is important to understand, and what I explain to the hiring manager, is that although there is no detail in the test results, a valuable service is being performed. These states of personal stress are typically not apparent in interviews. By bringing the situation to his attention and alerting him to the hidden hiring risks he has the option to move on to another candidate. As well, if the candidate is otherwise very strong the report has alerted him to probe deeper in order to learn about the situation.

In a previous article I explained that, while here at we tend to focus on the more ‘positive’ aspects of our service, the fact is that a huge benefit to using our sales test is that one tends to avoid hiring sales people that you otherwise might have hired if you had not used our test. Which of course might be considered A Blessing in Disguise!

Sales Testing – People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well


Here is a link to an outstanding article by social scientist Adam Grant in The Atlantic:

People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well

Based on 16 rigorous studies of thousands of people, this  article by Adam Grant very nicely explains how we humans almost all share weak self-awareness.

The findings he reports in this article should give pause to those who rely too much on interviews. Every manager who has been tasked with hiring sales-people, has stories about being fooled in interviews. Here at we have always thought of it as ‘playing the role’. This assumes a level of self-awareness in candidates that the author’s findings would seem to contradict.

Whether sales candidates fool you because they are consciously playing a role or they ‘believe’ through lack of self-awareness that they possess the strengths they use to describe themselves, the bottom line is the same. Interviews are a very poor predictor of sales success.

All the more reason to use a sales test!