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!

Sales Testing – Is the Cost of a Sales Test Justifiable?

cost of a sales test is a no braner

One thing I’ve noticed when talking to hiring managers about sales testing is that today they are, almost without exception, highly cognizant of the costs of making a bad hire.   This is a big change from when I started this company in 1986. Then it was fairly common to speak to even senior managers who just had no clue about how expensive it can be to hire a sales dud.

When one calculates the financial costs of a failed sales hire and one looks at the potential financial upside of hiring more sales winners, the dollars spent on sales tests are like the proverbial ‘drop in a bucket’. This is nothing new. What is new is that unlike managers of the past, modern hiring managers know this intuitively and therefore have no argument with it.

Nevertheless, I am sure there are still at least some hiring managers who might see the few dollars spent on sales testing as an unwarranted and unjustifiable expense. So, in the mindset of words that ‘bear repeating’, I thought I would spell out a few areas that show, both from an upside (potential profit) and downside (potential loss) perspective that the financial justification for a sales test is clearly a ‘no brainer’ decision.

Because the dollar cost of using a sales test varies dramatically, as does the number of tests used when hiring a single sales person I am starting with a couple of simple assumptions. Our service tends to be quite inexpensive. The customized version of our service works out to be about $32 per report. Assuming you test 8-10 candidates to hire one sales person I have pegged the total cash outlay for a single sales hire at a nice round $300.

So the question you need to ask yourself is whether you can justify spending $300 to not only avoid a bad hire but also to ensure a good hire. You decide!

Cost of a Hiring Failure

I’m starting off with my big gun here, the cost of hiring a sales person who fails and is terminated. Here is a link to our Cost of Failure Calculator. You can input your own specific numbers and be as conservative as you like. You will see that even if you are really conservative and look at things very narrowly a bad hire will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars at a bare minimum.

Working with Borderline Candidates

Hiring a real dud like the above situation vs. a top performer is easy, in the sense that what you are dealing with and how you deal with it is pretty clear. What is more common, or at least more difficult is when you realize you’ve hired a rep who is borderline-not quite bad enough to let go but just not making it. You can often avoid this with a sales test but if you find yourself in this situation the test results provide insights about training, motivating and managing the rep. These insights save you valuable time.

Higher Sales Higher Profits

Have you ever run the numbers to compare the sales and profits from a top performer vs. an average performer? Every business is unique of course, but the financial difference, if looked at over a one to two year period is significant. A major benefit of using a sales test is the ability to hire sales candidates with the same success traits as your top performers. A sales test that is customized around the traits of your top performers is a very precise tool for truly understanding who has the potential to be a sales rock star.

Time is Money

I looked it up and this famous phrase was indeed coined in 1748, by none other than Benjamin Franklin. If it was true then it is even truer today. Using a sales test saves time in many ways. Below I’ve listed just five.

  1. Time saved by working with high potential vs. low potential salespeople.
  2. Time is saved because test results show you how to manage, train and motivate from day one.
  3. You save time by identifying and vetting job candidates much faster which is critical in the current tight job market.
  4. By testing early in the process, a sales test enables you to devote your valuable interview time exclusively to top candidates.
  5. Using a sales test with your current staff identifies not only the success traits of top people but also clearly tells you if you have been wasting time training someone who will never thrive.

The Bottom Line

How much is your and your manager’s time worth? What did your last failed sales hire cost you? How profitable will it be if your next hire is a top performer?

Does the cost of a sales test seem justifiable to you?


Sales Aptitude Testing – 5 Ways a Sales Test Can Really Help You in this Tight Job Market


If you are currently hiring, or planning to hire sales people, you are no doubt well aware of how tight the job market is. In fact, as this recent New York Times Article explains, the unemployment rate, which was recently at 4.1 percent is presently at a 17 year low. Furthermore, since the economy is forecast to continue to strengthen, employers should expect it to become even harder to hire suitable talent for the foreseeable future. It may seem counter-intuitive to some but now is a perfect time to incorporate a sales aptitude test into your hiring regime.

It is true that some managers might view using a sales aptitude test in the current job market as an additional and unnecessary barrier to hiring the best sales talent. If, rather than viewing the sales aptitude test as a barrier, you instead view the sales test as a tool to speed up the vetting process and widen the ‘net’ it will be clear that your sales recruiting will definitely gain a valuable edge. Below I have listed five areas where a sales test will pay big benefits.

Faster Vetting Process

Despite the basic point of the old adage about ‘hiring slow and firing fast’, speeding up the vetting process does not have to mean a lessening of candidate quality. Obviously anything you can do that helps you connect with the high potential applicants faster and earlier in the process is a benefit. This is one reason why many companies now use a sales test at the beginning of the hiring process. By front-loading the administration of the sales test, you will quickly and efficiently identify the high potential candidates prior to your competitors. You are then able to expedite these top candidates through to the next hiring step such as a phone screen and face-to-face interview.

Always Be Recruiting

Hiring experts will invariably advise you that recruiting top sales people should be an ongoing and continuous process rather than something that you do only when you actually need to fill a role. These experts suggest keeping your eyes and ears open for sales people that you meet in your daily business and personal life. It could be a sales person who is selling something either to you personally or for your business. By having an economical sales aptitude test at your disposal whenever you need it you can very easily evaluate these passive candidates in a very non-committal manner by having them agree to take a sales test.

Less Than Ideal Candidates

Despite your efforts to maintain the same hiring standards, it is inevitable that in a tighter job market you will have to hire sales people that you otherwise might not have. Candidates whose qualifications are less than ideal are not all the same. A sales aptitude test will give you valuable insight into the candidate’s specific strengths and weaknesses.   It may be the case for example that one candidate’s shortcomings are easier to contend with and to work around than another candidate’s. The information that the sales test uncovers can be very valuable in this scenario.

 Casting a Wider Net

Most managers continue to try and hire sales people from their own industry in the mistaken belief that product and industry knowledge are critical.   On the contrary, all the available evidence indicates that sales people very rarely fail because of these factors. This is because industry and product knowledge can be taught. In fact, sales success mostly has to do with how the sales person’s personality fits the role. This being the case, one of the benefits of a sales aptitude test is your ability to evaluate sales candidates from other industries. Essentially you are casting a wider net in order to identify suitable candidates. For example, if you are looking for hunter type sales people it might make sense to identify successful hunters in other industries or businesses. If they are shown to have the potential from this perspective you may be able teach them about your products or services.

Getting Them And Keeping Them

It is true that you choose sales candidates but it is also true, especially now, that candidates choose you. The insights gained by using a sales aptitude test give you a thorough understanding of the candidate’s specific motivational drives and ‘hot buttons’. This ‘under the hood’ understanding of the candidate is invaluable in shaping how you present the role and what your company and management team brings to the equation. If the candidate is worth hiring isn’t it worth this extra effort to know how to give it your best shot?

If you are interested in learning more about the many benefits of sales aptitude testing or just to share your unique sales hiring challenges I would be pleased to hear from you.

Sales Assessment Testing – View it as Your Backup Parachute!


First of all, you could give me 5 back up parachutes and I would still not jump out of an airplane! Unlike the brave souls who get their thrills from skydiving I remain perfectly content to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. Recently though while watching a skydiving demonstration from the safety of good old terra firma, it crossed my mind that using a sales assessment test can be likened to packing a back up parachute. Okay I have to admit it is a big stretch when you compare the failure of a parachute with a failed sales hire but I really needed a good visual image to go along with this article.

Seriously though, when interviewing and hiring sales people, a lot can go wrong in your efforts to understand the candidate and hence to make the right decision.  Given the financial consequences of a bad sales hire isn’t it just sensible to use a sales test in order to provide additional peace of mind and to ‘just make sure’? Here are five ways a sales assessment test will do just that.

Improved Reference Checking

Most reference checking is useless because it is basically just a verification of facts-dates, positions etc. Having access to the results of a sales assessment can make your reference checking much more effective. Why? Because when you talk to the reference you have the ability to exhibit a far greater understanding of the applicant. When you exhibit insights about the candidate and frame these insights around job activities the reference is more likely to open up and give you useful and job relevant feedback.

Better Interviews

The same insights that make you better at reference checking will definitely improve your interviews. Firstly, you can, if you wish, restrict your interviews to only the most qualified candidates by using the sales assessment early on. This means you can have fewer but more comprehensive interviews. Secondly, by having the sales assessment results at hand you can zero in on any red flags. In essence the sales assessment results will put you firmly back in control of the interview.

Uncover Concerns

A sales assessment provides insights into areas that are just not apparent to even the best interviewer. Whether these concerns are ‘deal breakers’ or not, just having the information helps.

Confirming What You Know

For better or worse sometimes a sales assessment confirms what you already think and feel about the candidate. If your negative view is confirmed at least you can feel comfortable that you have done what you can to make sure. If your positive impressions are confirmed the sales assessment results will lend some objectivity to your positive impressions.

Shorter Ramp Up

The results of a sales assessment can be particularly useful with new sales employees even just as the catalyst for starting an open and frank dialogue. Better communication will usually mean a better working relationship. Furthermore, the results will be particularly useful in understanding how to manage, train and motivate the new hire.


When you contrast the financial costs to make a bad sales hire against the many benefits of using a sales assessment test, hiring a sales person without using one makes about as much sense as jumping out of airplane with no back up chute. You wouldn’t do that, would you?