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:
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.
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’.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.