Are You Using Sales Skills Assessments to Hire Managers?

BY C. Lee Smith
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Are you using sales skills assessments to hire managers? If not, it's time to start. The results of these assessments will help you move the right candidate into these key positions. In her often-​cited research, Megan Gerhardt and fellow academicians report that in any organization, individuals who move into leadership roles typically display specific personality characteristics: extroversion, conscientiousness and openness to experience. The researchers are careful to note that these are not the characteristics that effective leaders need.

The Real Job of a Sales Manager

The same principles hold true when leaders select team members to move into a sales management role. Organizational leaders may decide that their most extroverted sales rep is the best employee to manage the team. Often, the top selling rep gets the nod from company leadership. After all, members of the C‑suite figure that those reps know how to close deals better than anyone else on the team.

Before you make this important hiring or promotion decision, think about the qualities a sales manager needs. The qualities tie directly to the responsibilities of the position. I believe your sales manager should be tasked with the goal of building, developing and motivating a high-​performing sales team. Your sales manager should excel in these areas.

Using Sales Skills Assessments to Hire Your Managers

As Ryne Sherman points out in his HRexchangenetwork post, hiring the right leader in any organization means using a good assessment. “Personality assessments provide a data-​driven, scientifically valid, and ethically fair way to evaluate leadership potential and to develop future leaders.” You’ll want to use sales skills assessments to hire your managers and those assessments must go beyond measuring personality. You can use the results of a good assessment to determine how well a candidate will fit into the position you need to fill.

Sales organizations are fragile enough as a result of our current pandemic-​generated recession. The manager you bring in must be positive and empathetic in this challenging sales environment and not exhibit toxic behavior that will discourage your reps.

Keep in mind that 25% of sales professionals have left an employer because they didn’t like their direct manager. That level of turnover is expensive as leaders must spend time trying to get to the bottom of the problem and then deal with possibly removing the sales manager.

You can avoid that poor outcome by hiring a sales manager who possesses the right characteristics to succeed in the role. When you use an assessment, you remove bias from your hiring process. In far too many organizations, leaders move a high performing rep into a management role because of personal friendship. Or they may hire an outside candidate who comes highly recommended by a professional contact they admire. While these individuals may succeed as sales managers, you can reduce the risk of making an unsuitable hire by taking the time to analyze the results of the sales skills assessment.

The Importance of Coachability

A good sales skills assessment will also tell you if an individual is a good fit for the team, your organization and the solution you sell. In some cases, a candidate may have great assessment results but also be flagged as having work behavior that might be problematic. Don’t assume that you need to move onto the next candidate immediately. Talk with the individual about your areas of concern. If they are receptive to your questions and suggestions, they are showing themselves to be coachable. Reps and managers who are coachable may succeed in your organization if you are willing to commit the resources necessary to help them develop.