Sales Personality Testing – Misconceptions About Successful Sales Personalities


A big part of our work here at involves talking to hiring managers about what personality traits are required to be a success in the sales roles for which they are responsible. A common element of these conversations is my attempt to have the client describe for me, in their own words, the ‘perfect person for the role’ in terms of style and personality traits. In the course of these conversations, clients will typically provide a wide ranging and highly diverse description that is rich in both relevant and irrelevant descriptors. That’s okay because my job, and part of what they are paying us for, is our ability to sift through this information since we have such a long history of job analysis under our belts.

One of the interesting things about these conversations is that the client often tells me what they don’t want their sales people to be like. Which brings me to the subject of this article.

For example, you would be amazed at how often clients will actually say “I don’t want a used car salesman” or “I don’t want a life insurance” salesman. I have had enough of these conversations to realize that this is their short hand or coded way of telling me that they do not want to hire sales people that are overly pushy, sleazy and unethical among other not so nice attributes. We have all seen these clichés on TV and in the movies so many times over the years that I’m sure that I don’t need to go further to spell out for you what it is that they mean.

What’s most interesting is that the facts tell a story that totally contradicts the widely held assumptions and preconceived notions about the sales people in these roles. In two recent studies of top performing sales people, one of top insurance sales people and the other of top auto sales people, our findings show that the top performers are anything but the unethical, slimy and pushy types that the public and many hiring managers assumed them to be. In fact, if these managers knew what the facts actually revealed many of them would say that these were exactly the type of sales people that they wanted to hire.

Despite the fact that the studies looked at top performers in two different industries there were a lot of shared traits between the groups and, as mentioned, these personality traits are not what is widely assumed.

Specifically, our studies show that a very high percentage of these top reps are very altruistic in mindset and are therefore not particularly motivated by commission, ‘winning’ or closing the deal. Instead, and surprisingly, they are primarily motivated by the need to help or to be of service to others. They are a conservative, careful and helpful group who tend to follow the rules and procedures and follow up with prospects very diligently.   They are anything but pushy and overbearing. Instead they are careful to do their research in order to determine the prospects needs and to thoroughly answer the prospects questions, provide information and to address any concerns. Rather than overtly pushing the prospect for the close they hang in there until the prospect is ready to ‘buy’.

One should definitely not assume that just because this style of sales person has proven to be very successful in these two companies that this sales style will work in all companies within these two industries. As well, just because a sales person has come from, and perhaps been successful in, a particular industry you should never assume that they have a sales style that is specific to all that are successful in that industry. Sales roles can and do differ dramatically from company to company within an industry. This goes a long way to explain why a sales person can be a flat out failure in one role and a great success in another, sometimes even within the same organization.

Almost every hiring manager agrees that the overwhelming reason why sales people fail is because the sales person’s personality is poorly matched to the sales role for which they were hired. It has been my experience that a lot of these mismatches are avoidable by properly analyzing the role from the perspective of it’s personality and motivational requirements. Often, this vital step either does not get done properly or is not even done at all. Without this step being performed sales people get hired with no true sense of whether they are a good fit since obviously they are not being measured against a consistent and relevant set of criteria. Talented sales people are interviewed and even hired, but when you’ve hired the wrong talent for that role the results are typically very disappointing for all concerned.

One of the great benefits of using is our thorough analysis of your sales role(s). The results of this analysis is that we clearly identify the specific sales traits that you need in your sales roles in your company. This is particularly powerful when we test a sampling of your top performing sales people in order to create your unique Target Profiles. The resulting Suitability Rating scores of your sales candidate’s test results are then highly predictive of future sales success.

If you would like to learn more about how this process works or if you have any questions about what we do and how it might be of benefit I would be pleased to hear from you. I promise to be very frank and straightforward in any of our discussions.

Tests for Sales – 5 Must Haves in a Sales Test in 2018


Whether you are using a sales test currently or are thinking of implementing one, this article is meant to spell out the 5 most basic things that any test for sales must have in 2018. For a deeper dive see this previous post, A Checklist for Selecting a Sales Test.

My assumption is that you have done some vetting of sales tests and that you are already comfortable with both their accuracy and predictability of sales success. With these two fundamental issues settled it then comes down to more of the ‘practical’ issues as follows.

Fast Test Administration

In 2018 it is just not realistic to expect candidates to complete a test that is longer than about 20 minutes. It is hard to believe but there are still some ‘old school’ sales tests on the market that take the candidate 60-120 minutes to complete. There are a number of issues with these very long and daunting sales psychometric instruments, not the least of which is getting a top candidate to set aside the time but also the issue of candidates who get part way through and abandon the test. In the current tight and very competitive job market you need to make it easy and convenient for candidates to be tested. About 20 minutes is the limit.

Taken on Multiple Devices

In the same vein as the above, you need to ensure that your sales test has maximum accessibility. For this reason, candidates must not only be able to take it on laptops, desktops and tablets but critically in 2018, on their smart phones. For many younger candidates their phone is their only device. If your sales test is not available on a phone then you will have an unnecessary and annoying barrier to evaluating many top candidates.

Geared to Your Sales Roles

As I have written on many occasions, sales roles differ a lot. For this reason your sales test must have the flexibility to be customized to identify the criteria you use to identify a successful sales person. If the sales test cannot, or is not, geared to your requirements then the test results at a minimum must be clear, concise and easily understandable. This way you will have no doubt about the candidate’s sales strengths and weaknesses. After all, the idea behind using a sales test is to make your decisions easier and better.   If the test results are ambiguous and murky in their delivery they will just serve to confuse you.

Outstanding Support

If you use a sales test it is inevitable that you will have questions about results, need some advice or even just a sounding board. Getting the information you need has to be readily accessible by email and phone. Not only that but in 2018 it needs to be especially fast. It is a very competitive job market so top candidates are often being courted by several employers. Not being able to get the answers you need when you need them could literally mean you miss out on top candidates.

Low Cost Per Test

In 2018 it is all the more important to ‘cast your net wide’ for suitable candidates. Expensive sales tests may or may not be better; that is an argument for another article. One problem with them though, is that they tend to be used so late in the hiring process as to be merely a formality, therefore negating any benefits and insights that they are meant to reveal. Testing often and early in the hiring cycle is the way to go in 2018. Of course for most businesses this is only going to happen if the sales testing is economically priced. By testing early you can quickly identify those candidates in whom you are interested and then move them along in your process. Valuable time is saved on many levels since you can do this even prior to an interview. The low cost per test also means that you can affordably test even candidates in whom you only have a marginal interest in order to ‘just make sure’ or to possibly uncover any ‘diamonds in the rough’.

I do hope you have found this article of benefit. If you would like to discuss any points in this article or you would like a demonstration of I would enjoy hearing from you.

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


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 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?


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.


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 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.


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.


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?


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.


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 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.