Sales Testing – Sometimes We’ll Rain On Your Parade!

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One thing I have frequently observed is that, at times, hiring managers have a tendency to ‘talk themselves into a candidate’.  This happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as the fact that the candidate is personable to the extreme and knows all of the right answers to the interviewers questions. At other times the recruiter has real pressure to fill the role and has had very few candidates apply, so it is a case of hiring the best of a bad or small bunch.

A frequent situation is when the hiring manager lends great credence to the candidate’s industry experience while downplaying the candidate’s obvious weakness in other areas.  An example of this is when the candidate is a proven sales farmer but lacks the hunter sales style that the recruiter is actually looking to hire.

Experts have written volumes to explain the reasons why people make decisions that make no sense, based on the facts and evidence that is right in front of them. There are no doubt, many reasons why a hiring manager will talk himself into hiring a candidate despite all the evidence that is arguing against it.

An often over-looked benefit of using SalesTestOnline.com is our role as counselors and providers of sober second thought since we have nothing vested in whether the candidate is hired or not. While our sales testing is fully automated, we support it with full and unlimited telephone advice whenever you need it. We have done a lot of testing over the last 32 years and we are pleased to share our insights and advice or just to serve as a sounding board.

Whether we are confirming your nagging doubts, revealing new insights or just answering some specific questions, our approach is practical and very direct. Even if your ultimate decision is to hire the individual anyway, our insights will often assist you to give the candidate the best shot at success. And of course sometimes we’ll rain on your parade. Of course when you stop and think about the time, money and grief you’ve avoided you’ll be happy we did!

Sales Testing – Is Your Sales Test Scalable?

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When considering implementing a sales test in your organization, it makes perfect sense to first feel comfortable not only with the accuracy of the test but also the relevance of the information that the test reveals.

Almost as important as accuracy is whether the sales testing system can be scaled to fit the growing requirements of your sales organization. Of course, for many small companies, scalability is not important. On the other hand, if yours is a large or growing company, you should ensure that the sales testing system is not only scalable, but more importantly, is it scalable in the way that is most convenient to your present and future needs. Though not an exhaustive list, below are 9 areas worth addressing with your sales test vendor.

Languages

A sales test that is only available in English can be a major hindrance if you plan to expand overseas. Being forced to use a different sales testing instrument to address the language issue is awkward and inconvenient. It is not just the inconvenience but also the fact that by using different instruments your ability to compare individuals and groups based on the same metrics is seriously hampered.

Different Sales Roles

By now it should go without saying that sales roles can differ very dramatically within the same company. If your sales test is not adaptable to differing requirements of your sales roles such as inbound, outbound, account management and really all the permutations of what sales really means, then whose needs is the sales test serving? The sales test should be completely customizable to your needs for all of the sales related positions for which you are hiring.

Management and Supervisory Roles

In our experience here at SalesTestOnline.com clients who use our sales test will very often want to test for other roles as well such as sales management and supervisory functions. Being able to use the same vendor and platform to test for these other roles is convenient and seamless, just as it should be!

Integration with Applicant Tracking System

Sales testing software that cannot be integrated into your applicant tracking system is going to be a real headache and a bottleneck in your recruiting and hiring plans. Make sure both your ATS and your sales testing software can ‘talk’ to each other.

Multiple Devices

Most sales testing today is done by applicants on their own devices away from the presence of the interviewer. Given that for many people their only access to the web is via their phone or tablet it is extremely important that when you scale up that you ensure your sales test can be taken on all devices.

Easy Test Administration

Believe it or not, even today some sales test vendors expect you to ask an applicant to sit for 1-2 hours in order to complete a sales test. In our experience this is not only unnecessary but it is also unrealistic and impractical. Anything beyond about 15 minutes is problematic when testing in any serious numbers.

Reporting and Analysis

Analysis of current and past test results as well as integration with actual sales results is more than just a convenience when testing hundreds or even thousands of reps each year. Bulk uploading of testing data into a spreadsheet alongside your other metrics should be considered a basic requirement if you are scaling up.

Multiple Managers Access

Are there limits 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 level of authority. 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 critical.

Cost

The cost of sales testing varies dramatically. Any Google search for sales testing, sales assessment or related terms will find literally thousands of potential vendors, many of whom are fine for testing a couple dozen applicants. On the other hand, if you plan to test in the hundreds, thousands or more, the cost becomes a primary issue. As a general rule you can plan on testing 3-5 applicants for each sales role to be filled. You may find though that a set yearly price that enables you to test an unlimited number of applicants is actually the best and most economical approach. Our clients who use this option find this offers additional benefits in being able to have any and all applicants take the sales assessment test.

Conclusion

The nine areas above are a great place to start if you are doing research into sales testing for your growing sales organization. We have a great deal of experience with this. I would be very pleased to speak with you personally to learn about your plans and objectives and I am happy to share any of our insights.

Sales Testing – Are Your Sales Recruiters Working in Harmony?

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What do I mean by this question?

In this recent article, I wrote about the very expensive hiring mistakes that occur when sales hiring managers lack a clear understanding of the specific personality traits and motivational drives for the sales roles for which they are hiring.

I am not going to go over the same ground again except to reiterate that, while any hiring manager is fully capable of spelling out the required education, experience, product knowledge and technical skills, we all know that weakness in these areas is rarely the reason sales people fail. Failure happens in sales almost always due to the candidate having a bad match for the role’s required personality traits and motivational style. Yet, despite how critical to sales success this information is I still find very few hiring managers who are able to clearly and succinctly articulate what specific traits they are looking for.

When a hiring manager is not able to accurately describe and define the required traits it is a problem. What is a bigger and potentially more expensive problem is when you have a team of hiring managers recruiting and hiring for the same position but who have perceptions of the role that are all over the map and possibly contradictory to each other. Lots of sales failures and high turnover will result from this.

Can’t happen in your organization? Hopefully not, but don’t be so sure. In my experience it is far more common than you might think.

Here’s a little exercise that is easy to do, fun and potentially very revealing. Below is a list of descriptive traits. Try to use ones that you know are relevant to the position.  Make a list and a table as I have done below.* Have each of your hiring managers complete this questionnaire independently of each other and then have them returned to you.

Instructions: Rate the following descriptors as to importance for success in this sales role:

Not Very         Somewhat       Highly
  1. Independent
  2. Team-player
  3. Incentive-oriented
  4. Service-oriented
  5. Detailed
  6. Entrepreneurial
  7. Impatient
  8. Analytical
  9. Persistent
  10. Competitive

*I’m just using these 10 to illustrate but add as many as you like.

What you are looking for is firstly, a consistency in the answers, which would mean that your hiring managers are more or less in sync with regards to what type of candidates they are trying to hire. Secondly, the general perception of the role should be in keeping with those traits that are found among your most successful current sales people in that role. In other words, a view that is not only widely shared but one that is focused on identifying the traits that you know have a proven connection to success.

What you are likely to find is, not only quite a disparity in the answers, but also perceptions of the role that, while consistent between the hiring managers, are nevertheless off the mark when compared to the current successes.

Conclusion

Hiring successful sales people is a complex process that, depending on how it goes can be either very costly or very profitable. I like to think of it as a two-sided equation with the sales role on one side and the candidate on the other that you are trying to match to the role. A lot of time, energy and money is devoted to sourcing, identifying and vetting sales candidates. It has been my experience here at SalesTestOnline.com that what often gets lost in the shuffle is the value and importance of analyzing the role itself.

If you have any questions about this article I would be pleased to hear from you. Perhaps I could explain the customization feature of our service and the many benefits of testing your top performers.

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

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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 SalesTestOnline.com 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 SalesTestOnline.com 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!