Why Sales Personality Tests are Better than Sales Interviews as a Sales Talent Indicator

 

 

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The process of evaluating sales aptitude in job candidates could in some ways be compared to a small construction project like building a garage. To complete either project you will need to employ a variety of tools that each perform a specific function necessary to the project’s success. Where the comparison ends though is when you have two tools whose functions overlap. When building a garage it is not a problem to discard one of your hammers, drills or saws. When evaluating sales aptitude, the typical face-to-face interview and sales personality tests are in many respects, tools with overlapping functions. In this case though, it is best to use both, while being cognizant of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. In this way, by working in tandem each becomes a better tool in it’s own right.

Common sales hiring tools for vetting candidates
  • Resume sorting and analysis
  • Telephone interviews
  • Face-to-Face Interviews
  • Sales psychometric testing
  • Role playing/simulations
  • Reference checks
  • Background checks

It is quite likely that you use most, or perhaps even all, of the above sales hiring tools to one degree or another. If you are like the majority of hiring managers the results of the face-to-face interview(s) receive the greatest weight.

Most common areas for sales candidate evaluation
  • Education
  • Intelligence and ability to learn
  • Appearance and demeanor
  • Industry experience and knowledge
  • Product knowledge
  • Sales experience and training
  • Specific sales skills (presentation, communication)
  • Specific competencies (computer, software, contact management)
  • Personality traits/characteristics (self-motivation, energy level, ability to work independently, results-oriented)

Of this list, the single most important factor that hiring managers are trying to evaluate accurately is the candidate’s personality traits and characteristics. This is borne out not only by our many conversations with these hiring managers but also by numerous surveys. This is further confirmed by hundreds of published papers by experts in the field as well as by numerous HBR articles on this topic.

What is the issue?

The problem is that hiring managers are using interviews to evaluate personality traits and characteristics. This is a big and potentially very costly problem. Why? Because as we shall see, interviews are one of the least effective tools for measuring sales personality traits-the most important factor in determining sales success.

Accurately identifying sales personality in interviews is impossible?

There are so many authoritative articles and studies about face-to-face interviews and their lack of effectiveness as hiring tools that I won’t even bother trying to list them. The intent of this article is not meant to go over this well covered and well-researched topic yet again. Instead, our focus is specific to why trying to evaluate sales personality traits in interviews is very risky.   Here is why:

1.Role-playing by the applicant

Candidates today, have access to so much information via specific sources like Linkedin and Facebook, let alone general research via Google that they know in great detail about you, your company and what type of person you are trying to hire. In addition to knowing what you are looking for, these same sources are a terrific resource for job candidates to learn how best to ‘market’ themselves. Even if the candidate was not sourced via a recruiter, who probably coached them, given the tools at the candidate’s disposal, they might just as well have been. This is not new, as candidates have always tried to portray themselves in a way that matches what the interviewer is looking for. It is just that today they are far more sophisticated in their ability to pull it off. Please understand, I am not in any way suggesting they lack honesty or scruples, it is merely the fact that they want the job, so from their perspective they are ‘polishing the apple’ or ‘putting their best foot forward’.   Where it becomes a serious problem for you is when the personality traits they are trying to portray are very different from their real or natural personality traits. This is important because people can play convincing roles for short periods of time (interviews), whereas over time (once hired and on the job) they revert back to what is natural to them. As one common example let us suppose you are attempting to hire a rather assertive sales type (eg. a sales hunter or sales closer style). It is entirely possible, and actually quite common, for a non-assertive person to portray the style you seek. This is particularly the case if you are interviewing a non-assertive but highly sociable type. Your interview experience with this person convinces you that you have a winner so you hire the person. Months later, to your regret, you realize you were fooled. I cannot tell you the number of times even very experienced hiring managers have recounted to me variations of this scenario. The candidate’s role-playing will fool you!

2.Mis-identifying Personality Traits

An equally costly but different way of being fooled by applicants is the mis-identification of personality traits. This happens when the personality trait you think you are seeing in the candidate is actually a very different trait. There are numerous examples of this but a common one occurs with candidates who are extremely personable but not very assertive nor self-motivated. The problem is that high sociability looks like high assertiveness, but it definitely is not. As the interviewer sifting through this maze this can be a real problem since these candidates intuitively know what you want to hear and can be very adept at appealing to your ‘hot buttons’. Now, some sales roles that do not need a lot of assertiveness can be quite a good fit for these types. However, the problem is that if you are interviewing for a role that requires assertiveness along with the sociability (which is usually the case), you will live to regret hiring this kind of candidate.

3.Candidates that could be great but who you reject

People with a high level of extroversion are ‘in their own arena’ when being interviewed. This is the reason why these types can fool you. Conversely sales types who are more reserved, introverted and controlled in style do not interview very well. If you are interviewing quite a number of candidates who happen to be extroverts these introverts by comparison, will not come off very well. Their ‘poor performance’ in the interview can be a classic example of where interview performance has absolutely nothing to do with predicting sales success. Of course there are introverts that you should hire and introverts that you should not. Interviews are not a hiring tool that can discern the difference.

Why a Sales Personality Test is better?

One of the fundamental reasons for using a sales personality test is to avoid being fooled in job interviews. For this reason when you use sales personality tests none of these three costly issues should re-occur. Utilizing the sales test early in the process makes your interviews more effective by arming you with a deep understanding of the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and possible red flags, many of which would not have been apparent via face-to-face interviewing alone. Conducting an interview without incorporating sales personality tests means you are operating ‘blind’ and therefore the sales candidate has you at a serious disadvantage. By using a sales test in tandem with the interview you will have the advantage. Isn’t this the way it should be? After all, hiring mistakes are very costly.

I do hope this article has been helpful. I invite your questions and comments. Should you be interested in our services please visit us here-SalesTestOnline.com for a free demonstration.

Measuring and Testing for Soft Skills

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According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, ‘employers are increasingly looking for workers with strong soft skills…but many employers say it has gotten harder to find those applicants as the labor market tightens.’ This is just one of many articles and studies highlighting this issue.

The WSJ article was based on a study by LinkedIn’s team of economic researchers who analyzed 2.3 million LinkedIn profiles in order to determine the soft skills that were most sought after by employers. At the top of the list were communication, teamwork, social skills and interpersonal communication.

These findings are certainly consistent with other surveys, articles and studies.  Lists of the most sought after soft skills usually distill down to the 8 areas listed below.

Eight most sought after soft skills
  1. Communication
  2. Teamwork
  3. Interpersonal and Social Style
  4. Decision Making
  5. Organization
  6. Self-Motivation
  7. Problem Solving
  8. Leadership

In many of the articles detailing the importance of soft skills and the difficulty of finding people who possess them it is clear that employers will readily hire applicants with strong soft skills but weak technical skills. In a study of 700 HR Managers and professionals, 93% felt that technical skills are easier to teach than soft skills.

Psychometric tests for recruitment

If you have problems finding people with the right soft skills, the solution is to use an online psychometric test for your recruitment. Why would an online psychometric test solve the problem? To understand why, it helps to start by examining the actual term ‘soft skills’. The use of the word ‘skills’ is highly misleading since it strongly implies that they can be taught. In fact, most of what are referred to as ‘soft skills’ are not skills at all but are actually personality traits or characteristics, which are of course inherent or natural to the person. Most of the ‘soft skills’ listed above are readily identifiable by introducing a short psychometric assessment into your recruitment process. Candidates would complete it online and you would receive a comprehensive report outlining strengths, weaknesses and how they compare to your requirements.

Tests do identify soft skills but interviews do not

Extensive research has shown that interviews are notoriously bad for evaluating the ‘soft skills’ of job candidates. There are several reasons for this but what it comes down to is that job candidates are able to fool you during interviews since they know what you want to see and hear. Since we are, as has been shown, actually trying to determine the natural or inherent traits and characteristics of the candidate rather than being fooled by the false image that they portray in the interview, the only practical and efficient way to do this is to have them complete an online test that measures soft skills. This is especially so, given how accurate (over 90%) and effective tests are at drilling down to the traits necessary for success.

Online psychometric tests today are very easy to use since administering a test is as simple as sending the candidate a link. The candidate’s test results describing their soft skills are available for viewing by you instantly. Considering the many benefits of using an online psychometric test for recruitment, their cost, typically $30-60, is a small price to pay when you consider the cost of a making a hiring mistake.

Conclusion

Today there is no practical reason to lament the lack of soft skills in job candidates. What is necessary is to understand that it is not skills that you need to identify but personality traits and characteristics. With this in mind you can focus your interviewing process around identifying the most critical traits accurately, efficiently and economically. Incorporating an online psychometric assessment test into your recruiting process will do this. If you have any comments or feedback please let us know. If you would like to learn more about our services, and perhaps to have a complimentary demonstration please visit us here.

Sales Testing Accuracy

 

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Unsolicited Testimonial about our Sales Test

Below is an unsolicited testimonial from a client who has used our sales assessment test for almost five years.  For anyone who is skeptical about the accuracy of our sales test this should provide comfort.

PS. I have to say that the Rating is not that important to me on our Ejecutivo de Ventas profile.  I go into the text.  For every candidate I read them their results to see their reaction, to learn who they are (I don’t review before the interview – I want to see if the person in front of me matches the results I am reading), and see if I like the mix.  Then after reading them their results I ask every person how accurate the results are on a scale of 0-100%.  I have not had any one person (after more than 300 interviews) say that the results are lower than 75%.  Many people say that the results are 90%, 95%, and 98% accurate.  This alone is a testimonial as to how well you guys have created the test.  Thank you.  (And feel free to use this when promoting STOL to other companies.)

Use our Sales Personality Tests to Benchmark your best Sales People

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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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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’.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Considerations

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Sample size

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.

Conclusion

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.

Sales Personality-Why Sales Hunters can be “difficult”

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Many of our sales testing clients hire sales people to develop new business.   ‘Sales hunter’ is the typical term used to refer to these sales personalities. Often we engage in discussions with clients about the relative strengths and weaknesses of these and other sales personalities and what type would best fit the role(s) for which they are conducting the sales assessment.

These discussions almost always come around to the ‘two edged sword’ conversation. This is where I liken sales traits to the proverbial ‘two edged sword’ as a means of explaining that the ‘flip side’ of the sales personality that they intend to hire also possesses some rather undesirable aspects. I am not alluding to anything deep and mysterious but rather making them aware that the very personality traits that create the sales person’s potential strengths also create potential difficulties.

This could be said of any sales personality. This article however is focused on ‘sales hunters’ only because this is a type of sales person that many hiring managers are trying to recruit. I thought they would find this helpful. (For greater detail about the specific combination of personality traits that create sales hunters please see this article Hunters Defined.)

In summary, here are the trait drives of sales hunters:
  1. A very high level of Assertiveness. This means they are highly competitive, dominant, authoritative and take-charge types with a need to win, be in control and be recognized. They tend to think big and be risk-oriented.
  2. A very high level of Sociability. This means they are very extroverted, people oriented, outgoing and therefore require a lot of interaction with others as well as recognition and acceptance. They tend to be very persuasive in the way they communicate.
  3. A very low level of Patience. This means they are very impatient and are restless, pro-active and have a lot of nervous energy. They thrive on change/variety and dislike routine/repetition. They are deadline oriented and possess a sense of urgency.
  4. A very low level of Dependence. This means they are very independent, self-reliant, resist supervision, dislike rules and guidelines and tend to be quite weak with the details. They are risk and incentive oriented.

When one views these trait drives in combination one can easily understand why hunters are good at opening doors. They have the ego drive and confidence to absorb rejection and their high sociability and people orientation means they meet and relate to prospects quickly and naturally. A combination often likened to ‘an-iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove’. Their impatience means they have a built in sense of urgency that, along with their other traits, means they are true self-starters. Additionally, they are very independent so require little direction from management and being very risk oriented they are highly motivated by incentives.

It is also pretty easy to see that their rather large egos mean that even though they may not express it, deep inside they believe they can do your job better than you, therefore taking direction is not one of their strong suits. This issue is amplified by their distaste for procedures and guidelines which, from their perspective, they find very restricting and a hindrance to their need to operate autonomously. Their weakness with activities related to reporting/paperwork/details is tied into this view of being restricted as this is seen as a waste of time that keeps them away from the other activities they would prefer to be doing. Team environments are often a problem for them since the required effort to tone down their large egos can be inconsistent-and, truth be told, they only like team-work when they can lead the team. When making sales their belief that getting the sale overrides any need to follow the organization’s policies and systems, can create extra work for management. Their tremendous nervous energy (tapping fingers, shaking keys) seems to give off waves of impatience to those around them. This lack of ‘sit-ability’ can sometimes be quite disruptive.

Of course this is not a complete listing of the potential ‘difficult’ manifestations of their various trait drives. And to be fair, some of these ‘potential’ issues with sales hunters will not necessarily be seen in all sales hunters. It is worth noting here that our descriptions of trait drives and their resultant behaviors are not taking into account other aspects of the person such as experience, age, training, education and intelligence. These, and other factors, can often have a softening or mitigating influence.

Nonetheless, if you have managed enough sales hunters you have no doubt witnessed many of these behaviors and come to wonder if these sales hunters (sometimes referred to as ‘prima donnas’) are worth the hassle; they may make the sales but they can be very disruptive. Realistically of course, you do not really have much of a choice but to work with them since you need these sales personalities because they do open new doors.

So what can be done? The first thing to understand is how to work with them as productively as possible. A great thing about these sales personalities is that their thick skin (big ego) enables you to be extremely direct and blunt in the way you communicate with them, as they tend to find this quite motivating. If possible, let them work the role as if it were their own ‘business’. With broad and general direction, incentives, authority, responsibility, minimal details and reporting they will tend to thrive. Keep them very busy, since the faster the pace and the more they have on the go the more highly motivated they tend to be. When trying to get them to ‘tone down’ some of their ‘difficult’ aspects never forget that they are motivated by ‘what’s in it for me’, therefore always try to relate your ‘suggestions’ to something that will benefit them in a way that pushes their buttons, i.e. more money, more sales, more authority, more freedom. Any changed behaviors will come about from self-interest rather than any sort of fear of reprimand. I do hope this has been helpful and perhaps contains a couple of suggestions and insights that might be of assistance. As always, I look forward to your feedback, questions or comments.

Sales Personality and Sales Drive

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A lot has been written over the last few years about the subject of ‘sales drive’. The essence of these articles is that in order to be successful in sales one has to possess this very specific ‘characteristic’. Apparently, if you have this key quality of ‘sales drive’ you are more likely to become a sales ‘rock star’, to use the latest sales management jargon.

As anyone who has read any of my previous articles will attest, I wholeheartedly agree that one can ascribe the reason for sales success in certain sales roles to the presence of specific personality trait drives.

I fully realize that I am at risk of seeming like a nitpicker about this subject, but I find these statements about the presence of ‘sales drive’ as it relates to sales success to be very imprecise and vague.

Unfortunately, this imprecision and vagueness contributes to an erroneous and flawed impression of what accounts for sales success and therefore which sales people you should hire for your sales roles.

The first problem with the sales drive = rock star argument is that it is based on the assumption that all sales roles require hunters. Of course many sales roles do require hunters but many do not. The second problem with the sales drive = rock star argument is that the term ‘sales drive’ equates sales drive to a high level of assertiveness. The third problem with the sales drive = rock star argument is that the use of the term ‘sales drive’ strongly implies that there is one and only one type of ‘sales drive’ when in fact the many different kinds of sales personalities demonstrate very different and diverse ‘sales drives’.

This article is meant to firstly, add clarity and explanation about the subject of ‘sales drive’ (or more accurately stated ‘sales drives’). As well, this article is meant to explain that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sales roles, wherein a specific ‘sales drive’ is appropriate for all is very simplistic and misguided.

All Salespeople have some form of Sales Drive

Just as all people by and large are motivated by a wide variety of factors, it logically follows that sales people are motivated by this same wide variety. It is these differences in the factors that motivate them that result in sales people having different sales ‘styles’. For example, it should be obvious to any sales manager that a sales ‘hunter’ is motivated by a very different set of factors than a sales ‘farmer’. Of course there are many more sales personality styles than these two frequently referenced types.  They are each motivated and driven by a different combination of trait drives and motivational needs. Each has a particular sales personality style that is the product of these trait drives and motivational needs.

One could say that the sales hunter has a ‘sales drive’ that is directed towards the need to win, need for control and need for independence. One could say of sales farmers that their ‘sales drive’ is directed towards altruism with a desire to help the customer, the team and the organization.   Each has a very strong ‘sales drive’ even though they are very different and therefore have very different strengths and weaknesses. And of course, each is suited to a different type of sales role. If you buy the sales drive = sales rock star argument you would naturally be very reluctant to hire the sales farmer. This could be a big mistake since, depending on the role you are hiring for, the sales farmer is exactly the sales personality you should be hiring.

For a more detailed understanding of sales hunters and sales farmers please see these two articles:

Hunters Defined

Sales Personality: Hunters vs Farmers

Match Sales Drive to the Roles Requirements

Is there such a thing as ‘good’ sales drive? As mentioned previously, the concept of sales drive = sales rock star is flawed because it is based on the assumption of the presence of high assertiveness being desirable. One might as well view it as high assertiveness = sales rock star. There is some truth in this when one is talking about hunters and closers, although even in this scenario there are many caveats one should be aware of related to whether certain other trait drives are or are not also present. When it comes to other sales roles such as the above example of a sales farmer, a high level of assertiveness is usually unnecessary. In many instances it might even be detrimental, especially when one considers that high assertiveness is often accompanied by a strong distaste for procedures and details, something that often has great importance in these roles.

I suggest that a ‘good’ sales drive is one that is appropriate to the role and is a match for what the position requires.   While I have leaned heavily on the terms ‘hunter’ and ‘farmer’ for explanation purposes I do want to reiterate that there are many different sales personality styles. Each has their respective strengths and weaknesses. As well, each sales role has it’s own individual requirements.

In my opinion the ‘sales drive’ of sales ‘rock stars’ comes in many different forms since what constitutes a ‘rock star’ in one sales role can be entirely different from another sales role. The most common denominator though is that they are well matched to the requirements of that specific sales position.

I do hope the above has been helpful. I invite your thoughts and comments.

A Checklist for Selecting a Sales Test

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Given the huge costs of making a bad sales hire (see our Cost of Failure Calculator) the decision to incorporate a sales test into your company’s hiring/selection process can have far reaching implications for your organization’s sales team. For any business, using the wrong type of sales test, or using a sales test that is not effective, can be extremely expensive and painful. For smaller companies it is not an overstatement to say that the results of using an ineffective or inappropriate sales test can actually be a make or break proposition. (This article goes into a little more detail about this- Why Small Small Companies Can’t Afford NOT to Use a Sales Assessment Test).   Looking at the positive side, an effective sales test can have a massive ROI when one looks at the cost of testing, versus the profitability of hiring successful reps.

I have spoken to thousands of prospective clients over the years and I have often felt, that unlike many other business decisions the process of choosing the right sales test is very haphazard and muddled. It has always been a rather confusing task and the internet has made it even more confusing. Not only are there many more choices, but in visiting the websites of sales testing companies most of the product descriptions sound the same, therefore even very different services sound as though they are very similar. It certainly does not help that most of us are not willing to spend more than a few seconds on a web page to understand a particular company’s offering. Even major differentiators are missed, not to mention important but more subtle differences.

The purpose of this checklist is to provide an organized and systematic way of sifting through one’s options by breaking the process down into various categories requiring consideration. Like many decisions, it becomes more manageable by dealing with it as a series of smaller choices.

What Aspect of Candidates to Measure?

Tests are available to evaluate many aspects of sales people. Your most fundamental decision, quite possibly is to decide what aspects of the sales person you believe you need to measure. There are tests to measure some of the more inherent aspects of the person such as personality traits like drive, extroversion and independence. Others focus on intelligence, often referred to as mental alertness. The vast majority of tests tend to measure the learned aspects of the candidate such as sales skills or sales knowledge. Other more specialized tests measure sales knowledge generally or sales knowledge geared towards particular industries or the sale of certain products. Bear in mind that using sales tests should not be thought of as an either or proposition. For example, you could quite logically use 2 or even 3 instruments, each of which intended to provide you with a measure of different aspects of the candidate. Once you have decided what aspects of the sales candidates that requires testing you can narrow the focus of your search to those types of instruments.

Here are 3 helpful articles:

How Much Emphasis Should be Placed on the Results of a Sales Assessment Test?

Does Sales Personality Matter

3 Reasons to Evaluate New Grads with a Sales Test

Relevance to your Sales Positions

Is the testing customized or adapted to the needs of your specific role? A test may be very effective at identifying whether a person is good for sales but the underlying assumptions built into the test might be for a completely different kind of sales role from what you are hiring for. Sales roles differ dramatically. Even if you are using a testing system that has a track record in your industry it may be that your role is very different from what the test is designed to measure and identify.

Test Administration

Just about every type of test can now be completed by candidates over the internet. I would venture to say that a sales test vendor whose test is only available in paper format has not kept up to date. Draw your own conclusions from this.  There are, however several other considerations related to test administration:

  1. Credentials to take the test: How does the candidate obtain these credentials? Do they expire? Do you have to generate them or does the test vendor? How is this done and is it quick and convenient or complicated and cumbersome? A less than convenient system of providing the candidate with the testing credentials may not be a big problem if you are only doing the occasional test. On the other hand, if you are doing even just a few a month it can be a hassle, particularly if you have a candidate that you wish to test quickly. Ask questions about this, particularly if you are intending to test on any sort of scale.
  1. What devices can the test be taken on? Many tests have been available on the internet for some time but not all of them are mobile friendly. These days a lot of sales tests are taken on tablets and even mobile phones.   Whether mobile friendly or not, should the test, given it’s format, realistically be taken on a mobile phone? If you intend to administer a lot of tests remotely this is an important consideration since it may actually affect test results.
  1. Test time: There are still many tests that take the candidate from 45-120 minutes to complete. Years ago job candidates might not have balked at this but today it is not realistic to expect a candidate to sit for a test of this length. Ask yourself if you would. If the test or tests you are considering are this long and drawn out you can expect a fair number of candidates to start but not finish their test. What are the implications of this? Does this have a cost? How does this affect results?
Receiving Test Results

When the candidate completes the sales test how quickly do you receive the results? In what format do these results come to you? Is the information in a format that is easily shared with other decision makers? If the results are web based (as opposed to PDF or emailed) can other managers also access the same information? Are the results removed after you view them or can you come back to view them in the future?

Format and Analysis of Test Results

Are the test results clear and understandable? Is the report evaluation concise and to the point or is there a lot of information to sift through? If there is a lot to go through does the report style make it easy to interpret? If not, is support available to assist with the interpretation? When reading the results are the areas being evaluated relevant to the role you need the sales person to fill? Do you receive a rating or a recommendation as to the candidate’s fit for the role? Does the report contain information that can assist you for both pre hire (red flags, interview, reference check) and post hire (train, manage, develop)?

Sharing Results with the Candidate

Do you intend to share test results with the candidate? Are the results automatically sent to the candidate? In our experience test results that are written for the consumption of both the hiring authority and the candidate are not effective. Usually a more blunt approach works for the hiring manager whereas a “softened” approach works best for the candidate.

Accuracy of the Sales Test

Using a sales test that is not accurate is kind of like using an inaccurate tape measure. In other words, why bother? All of the above points are irrelevant if the test does not accurately reflect the candidate in the areas it purports to measure. Realistically, the accuracy of a test can be quite difficult to prove. The reason for this is because one of the major benefits of a sales test is that it prevents you from hiring people who will likely fail. Just this alone can save you a huge amount of money and time but there is no metric that will measure this. As well, trying to track the impact of a sales test to the obvious metrics of sales performance and job turnover can actually be very difficult for the simple reason that one can rarely isolate the impact of the test. Talk to the vendor about the issue of accuracy and see how they address this. Request a few free tests to be given to known current employees in order to see if the results jive with your experience. The reality is that if the test vendor has been in business for some time and this is their primary offering it probably is an accurate instrument.

Is the Sales Test Predictive of Success?

Can the sales test accurately predict whether a person is likely to be successful? Ask the sales test vendor if they have done studies of successful sales people who have completed the test to determine if a correlation exists between the test results and success in that sales role.

Not Easily Gamed

Job applicants have always tried to ‘sell’ themselves to potential employers. This is completely natural, understandable and in no way does it imply a lack of honesty. It is just that they want the job. Applicants have always had many tools to assist them in this, with the result that employers are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to taking some of the risk out of sales hiring decisions. With every conceivable kind of information, advice, tool and preparation available on the internet to assist job candidates, employers just don’t stand a chance. The reality is that whatever sales test you ultimately use, applicants who complete it will be trying to ‘game’ it to one degree or another. Test vendors should be able to address this issue to your satisfaction by explaining how their test deals with this reality.   Here is an article about this subject:

Can Our Sales Assessment Test be Cheated?

Testing for Other Roles

While you may be considering incorporating a sales test at the present time you may find that in the future you will need to test for other roles i.e. management. In our experience this is quite common. Although not a huge consideration, it can be much more convenient in several ways to deal with the same testing vendor for both. What other roles does the vendor test for, if any? Are there any extra charges or set up fees?

Testing in other Languages

For global companies having the test available in other languages can be an important issue. What other languages are available? Are there any specific procedures necessary to administer the test in these other languages?

Support

Is there support available should you need assistance with test results? If you need something resolved how long does it take? Is it only email support or is there a phone number where you can actually talk to a human? What is the expertise of the person you will be talking to and what do they know about your specific company and the issues you are trying to address with the testing? Are there limits to this support? Is there a charge? What about resolving password issues for you and or your candidates?

Experience and Track Record of Vendor

How long has the test vendor been in business and how long has the test been offered? Is testing their primary business or is it a sideline? If it is a peripheral business and they are a re-seller of tests, what is their expertise? Are they adding any value? Are they using the testing to promote their main service? In either case what is the success rate of the system they offer? It can realistically be difficult to demonstrate this but can they provide references and or any evidence of the efficacy of their system? Will they let you try it out at no cost on a couple of your people?

Scalability

If yours is a large or growing company then you should ensure that the sales testing system is not only scalable, but also scalable in the way that is most convenient to your needs. Is there a limit 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 responsibilities as the system is rolled out? 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 more than just a convenience. Another consideration is whether the system can be integrated into your applicant tracking system.

Reporting Capabilities of Testing System

If you are testing in any type of volume you will want to know about the reporting capabilities of the system. As time goes on and you have tested dozens, hundreds or even thousands of candidates, the ability to output the test results for analysis is essential. You should be able to output all or selected amounts and aspects of the test results to a spreadsheet so you may compare test results with your sales metrics.

Cost of the Sales Test

There is a huge variance in what you should expect to pay per sales test. For example there are $30 tests that provide almost as much information as many $300 tests. Cost per test becomes very significant the earlier in the hiring process you intend to administer the test. Here is an article that discusses this- Sales Personality Test-At what point in the Hiring Process?   Because of the internet, it makes great sense to test early on and prior to meeting the candidate. If your testing is too costly you will tend not to give it to candidates until quite late in the hiring process. For this reason, you will need to weigh the cost per test against how often you intend to use it. Some things to consider:

1.Are discounts offered for buying in volume?

2.Can you use your purchased tests for different job categories?

3.If you buy a quantity of tests do they expire?

4.Are there any additional costs, for example set up fees?

I believe this list of 16 categories is quite thorough and that if you evaluate prospective sales tests with these areas in mind it will ensure that you make a well founded decision about which sales test(s) to implement in your sales organization. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or for any assistance.

3 Great Reasons to Evaluate New Grads with a Sales Test

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If you recruit and hire new college grads for your sales team you might find that having them take a sales test early in the hiring process could be the best investment you ever make.

Just to clarify, when we talk about sales tests, there are myriad instruments that would be a complete waste of time to use. Since we are referring to candidates who have zero experience it will be a completely wasted effort to have them take any test that identifies sales knowledge, sales skills or sales competencies. These types of instruments, and any that are intended to measure the learned aspects of sales, are of no use in this scenario.

Specifically what I am referring to is a sales test that measures personality traits, hereafter referred to as a sales personality test.

A sales personality test measures the underlying personality trait drives that are natural to the person. It is these 5 trait drives; Assertiveness, Sociability, Patience, Dependence and Emotional Control that together will determine the person’s “sales style” should you hire them.

Why would you have these completely “green” applicants take a sales test and what can you learn that is so important? Study after study has shown that the main determining factor of sales success is personality and that very few sales people fail due to being deficient in skills, training or product knowledge. The reason for this is not because these latter elements are not important but merely because they are readily identifiable and teachable. An individual’s personality traits, on the other hand are not only inherent but they are also much harder to determine.

Given the previously mentioned importance of personality to sales success, a sales personality test will give you an un-embellished understanding of the candidate’s sales potential. Armed with these insights the test results will be extremely useful in the following ways:

Identifying fit and overall suitability

If you have previously evaluated your current sales people with a sales personality test you can determine how close the candidate is to the benchmarks that were established when you tested your top performers.  Knowing if the candidate is a close match to your ideal rep will mean they are definitely worth investing time, effort and money to train.

Maximizing the new recruit’s potential

If hired, the results of the sales personality test will provide insight into any weak areas (red flags) that necessitate special attention by the new recruit’s immediate supervisor. As well, the test results can be used to match the new recruit with the most appropriate sales supervisor.   In essence, you can customize your training and management in order to speed up the new recruit’s journey to full potential.

Choose the best sales role

If you recruit for multiple sales roles, the test results may be used to ‘stream’ the new recruit into the most appropriate sales role based on personality fit. This alone will ensure a greater likelihood of sales success.

Conclusion

If you have ever had any doubt that using a sales personality test can save you a huge amount of money take a moment to try out our Cost of Failure Calculator. Every manager knows that bad sales hires are costly but you will be shocked at the actual number.

Armed with the true costs of a failed hire you will see that the few dollars you would spend on a sales personality test is a small price to pay when recruiting new graduates.

Sales Personality: Hunters vs Farmers

Personality Traits of Top Sales Farmers

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Sales farmers and sales hunters are two very well worn terms that refer to different kinds of sales personalities. Obviously we all know what these two terms mean in regards to the sales function.   Hunters find and acquire new customers while farmers look after customers that have already been acquired.

Despite the widespread use of these terms, there seems to be very little consistency among even very experienced managers when asked to articulate their respective traits, let alone understanding why they go about their business in the way that they do.

In a previous article, ‘Hunters Defined’ we articulated the personality traits of ‘sales hunters’ in an effort to give some clarity and definition to their sales personality traits. This article is meant to, not only define the traits of ‘sales farmers’ but, as the title suggests, to specify the traits of the very best ‘sales farmers’. If you hire farmers, this article should provide you with an understanding of what motivates them and why they are successful in these roles.

Since we often talk about sales ‘farmers’ and ‘hunters’ in the same conversation I thought it might be helpful to compare and contrast their respective personality trait drives. You will of course see that they are distinctly different in certain key areas yet some of you might be surprised that they are also similar in other areas.

Below are 4 trait drive scales followed by a quick explanation of what the highs and lows on that scale mean in terms of motivational drive.

Assertiveness – Need for control, competitiveness, need to win, ego drive.

High levels of this factor mean that the individual is highly competitive, dominant, authoritative, assertive, take-charge, needs to “win”, needs to be in control and be recognized, thinks big, is risk oriented.

Low levels of this factor mean that the individual needs harmony, affiliation and belonging, seeks guidance and direction, avoids risk, likes to be a member of the team, is cautious and careful, helpful and considerate.

Sociability – Need for interaction with others, empathy and persuasiveness, extroversion.

High levels of this factor mean that the individual is very extroverted, sociable, people oriented, outgoing, needs lots of interaction, is very persuasive, empathetic, needs acceptance and recognition, communicates persuasively.

Low levels of this factor mean that the individual is very introverted, reserved, work or task oriented, analytical, technically oriented, is skeptical, a tangible or concrete thinker, communicates formally, factually or directly,

Patience – Need for stability and predictability, comfort with repetition and routine.

High levels of this factor mean that the individual is very patient, passive, reactive, unhurried, relaxed, calm, deliberate, tolerant, amiable, likes routine/familiarity, likes stability of repetition, dislikes change.

Low levels of this factor mean that the individual is very impatient, is restless and pro-active, thrives on change/variety, has nervous energy, deadline oriented, a multi-tasker, is bored by routine and repetition.

Dependence – Need for rules, structure, guidelines, need for approval and security, need for direction.

High levels of this factor mean that the individual is very dependent on the structure of rules, procedures and guidelines, is very perfectionistic and detailed, is compliant, has a strong fear of failure, and requires security.

Low levels of this factor mean that the individual is very independent, is very self reliant, dislikes rules, procedures and guidelines, is lax with details, is risk oriented, has little fear of failure, resists supervision, is incentive oriented.

Where do sales hunters and sales farmers differ?

The first area where they differ is in their degree of Assertiveness. Typically top ‘hunters’ have a very high level of assertiveness whereas ‘farmers’ tend to be quite low on this scale. The high level of assertiveness in the ‘hunters’ is where the ‘push’ comes from and this same trait drive gives them the ego to absorb the inevitable rejection by many prospects. ‘Farmers’, on the other hand, are much more concerned with harmony and helpfulness and tend to be very considerate, causing them to put the needs of other’s ahead of their own.

The second area where they differ is in their degree of Dependence. ‘Hunters’ tend to be very independent (a low level of dependence). This independence is why they tend to balk at rules and guidelines and why they resist supervision. This same trait drive is where their risk orientation, fearlessness, and incentive orientation derives from. Top ‘Farmers’ tend to be very dependent and therefore require procedures, guidelines and structure for direction. They also tend to be quite careful and thorough with the details of their work. They are quite risk averse so are not motivated by incentives in the same way as ‘hunters’.

Where are they similar?

The first area where they are similar is that both styles tend to be very high on the sociability scale, therefore being highly motivated by interaction with others. This means that they are both outgoing and people oriented with a natural ability to communicate with the listener’s needs in mind, making both styles very persuasive in their communications. Even though both styles are very outgoing and people oriented, a lot of their differences come about due to their accompanying degrees of assertiveness. Hunters can tend to be quite ‘pushy’ if necessary whereas farmers tend to be extremely amiable and eager to please.

The second area where they are similar is that both styles have a low level of patience. In other words, they are both impatient. Please note that we are not referring in any way to tolerance of others. When we say impatience we are referring to sense of urgency, need for variety and nervous energy. Both have a strong need for variety and change in their working environment and both tend to be natural at multi-tasking. Hunters have a real sense of urgency directed towards getting results. The farmer’s sense of urgency is directed towards helping and being of service to others-the customer, the boss and the team.

So the top ‘sales farmers’ are non-assertive, outgoing and persuasive. They have a sense of urgency and need for variety in their work and they are also quite dependent on rules and structure in order to give them direction. They are very altruistic and are therefore highly motivated by the desire to help others-the customer, the team. Their eagerness to please others means that they will be highly motivated by recognition and a pat on the back by the boss.   Because they have quite a fear of failure and risk aversion they will tend to follow the procedures carefully and will be reluctant to go beyond the guidelines without input from their manager. Top sales farmers will operate with seeming independence and seeming authority when they are on firm ground with regards to the rules and their comfort with the role. For this reason they may appear quite assertive and independent if they are highly familiar with the position.

What to be aware of when hiring sales farmers?

  1. Because they are very outgoing they have the appearance of being more assertive than they actually are. Do not mistake this high sociability for assertiveness and mistakenly put them in more of a ‘sales hunting role’.
  2. Farmers that are new to the role tend to require support and direction until they are on firm ground and familiar with the role. Once familiar they will operate with independence and with little need for direction within the parameters and guidelines. Please note that hiring an experienced farmer to fill the same role in your company will mean they likely have acquired the familiarity and comfort to operate without too much direction.
  3. In addition to needing the clarity of procedures they are highly motivated by altruism so they tend to go about their business by trying to help others (customer, company, boss, team). A pat on the back and the feeling of being valued for their contribution will be highly motivating to them.
  4. Bear in mind that two important reasons why they are effective is due to their sense of urgency and care with rules and details. They follow up well largely because they have a perfectionistic streak and an urgency to do so. The less effective farmers tend to be much more passive and lacking in this sense of urgency. As well the less effective farmers are not nearly as particular with the details. Consequently they are not as careful to follow the procedures nor to follow up as conscientiously. Be careful about these differences. FYI our sales personality test will quickly and accurately identify the differences.
  5. If you hire a ‘sales farmer’ remember to support them via the type of direction described-recognition, a pat on the back, clarity of expectations, support when they need assistance etc. When top sales farmers leave an organization the one most common reason they cite is ‘I did not get the support I needed from my boss’.

I hope some of the above is useful the next time you are thinking about hiring a sales farmer.

I look forward to your comments.

Welcome to the SalesTestOnline.com Blog

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When I recently began to think about what I was going to say in this first post I have to admit that I was suddenly at a loss as to how to actually get started and what to write about. When thinking about it I thought it quite ironic that this month it will be our 30th year in business and yet here I am writing my first blog post. I like to think I have learned a thing or two about the issues around hiring, managing and motivating different sales personalities. That said I have never been the type to spend a lot of time writing about it until quite recently. We are living in the age of “content” so this blog is evidence of my having adapted to this new reality.

Knowing how so few blogs actually generate many visitors, I realize as I write this that it might be quite some time before someone other than me reads my posts. So I feel a bit like someone walking on a beach talking to myself. I have to say I can’t wait until I have my first visitor who posts a question or comment.   Who will be the first? What will the question be?

Going forward I intend to keep the subject matter quite broad. Obviously the main theme will be related to the focus of our experience with sales assessment testing and all things connected to this. That said I intend to post items that I believe would be of interest to our intended audience even if the connection to our business is somewhat tenuous at times. Since I can’t possibly create all the content for this forum I intend to post items from as diverse a range of sources as possible.

I would hope my writing skill develops with practice. Skills aside I will deal with subjects in a no BS way and will address any questions or subjects as honestly as I am able, even if the answer is not helpful to our business. It seems obvious to me that if visitors (if we ever do get any) can count on us to be informative while delivering our message in a straightforward and uncomplicated manner then they might ultimately trust us an authority in our niche.

Thank you and Welcome !

Dave Pearce