Why Sales Assessments Lead to Better Hiring

BY C. Lee Smith
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What is a sales assessment test and why should you use it in hiring?  The answers to these questions are simple. You’ll improve the quality of the sales professionals that you bring into your organization and you’ll ultimately sell more product and services when you use assessments. Here’s how you can make that happen.

The Perils of Hiring on Emotion

The first few sales hires I made led to big business problems. Everyone, especially your work friends, knows somebody they want to recommend to you. I fell into this trap. Too many times, I wasn’t cautious. I hired sales professionals who came highly recommended by an employee and didn’t do enough research on my own.

It’s easy to make these kinds of mistakes because sales professionals are typically strong influencers, in DISC terminology. (The DISC system of personalities was developed by William Moulton Marston and is widely used in sales assessment tests.) They excel at selling themselves. The thing about sales professionals is that, once hired, they proceed to form strong relationships with co-​workers. They even bond with their supervisors. To make sure people love them and will do what they want, they often bring gifts to the office. The gift-​giving and bonding behaviors are designed to stir emotions. Unfortunately, all those positive emotions don’t lead to higher sales.

Better Hiring Using Data

The problem with emotional hiring is that it’s easy for candidates to hide their weaknesses. They’re so busy selling you on themselves that they hope you won’t figure out they can’t actually close a deal.

The best sales assessment tests remove emotion from the hiring equation. These kinds of assessments give you multiple perspectives on an individual's motivations and how they’ll interact with others in your organization. With the right data, you’ll also gain insights on how they are likely to treat the kinds of customers you typically do business with.

A sales aptitude test should measure how well a candidate is suited for specific parts of sales process. A person who scores big points in the targeting and prospecting functions might do well as a new business hunter. Strong assuring skills may indicate that your prospect will excel as a customer service agent. Algorithms that rank a candidate’s answers to standard question sets will give you a better indication about a person’s abilities than ‘going with your gut.’

Currently, about 59% of sales managers use sales skills assessments to measure candidate aptitude. If more sales managers did so, they'd dramatically improve the outcomes of their hiring process.

Manager and Sales Culture Fit

Sales assessments can give you insight into how a candidate is likely to fit with the sales manager and in the culture of your department. How do you know if a candidate will work well with the manager you have in mind? Consider whether the rep would accept coaching from that manager. If both the rep and the manager have combative work styles, you can expect frequent arguing and discord in the relationship. If you’ve got a manager who’s complacent, and you hire a low-​energy rep, you can expect that the sales meter won’t move in the direction you want it to. That’s another scenario to avoid.

Does your leading candidate fit into your mission and values? I like to use assessments and interviews to answer that question. If a candidate I like for other reasons ends up scoring low on empathy and problem-​solving on our assessments, I probe those areas during an interview. That’s because I’m looking for people who demonstrate the key behaviors everyone else in our organization exhibits.

Another aspect of company fit relates to culture. If everyone on your current team works collaboratively with little regard for hierarchy, keep that in mind when you’re interviewing candidates. If you encounter an individual who’s accustomed to thriving in a siloed organization, they may not be the best match for you.

In hiring sales professionals over several decades, my thinking has evolved. I now know not to formulate a conclusion before looking at the data. Making an emotionally-​fueled hiring decision can eventually lead to an equally emotionally-​fueled termination.