The Best Way to Hire a Sales Rep: Use Sales Assessments

BY C. Lee Smith
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Are you looking for yet another sales professional to join your organization? Maybe you’ve got your eye on someone and decide sales assessments aren't the best way to hire a sales rep in this situation. You’re not alone. Our booming economy has too many employers chasing too few candidates. Managers can’t afford to waste time and risk losing a candidate who decides the interview and assessment process at the company is a giant hassle.

If you rush to hire a person who you’ve seen in action at another company, you may think you have some idea of what you’re getting. You may have heard great things about this employee from their co-​workers. And you may have heard that this person excels at customer service. On the surface, this candidate seems like a miracle. If that’s the case, you should hit the brakes. When something seems to good to be true, it usually is.

A Short History of Hiring Practices

An interesting piece penned by Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School, for the Harvard Business Review earlier this year, outlined the history of how U.S. organizations hire. From the 1940s through the 1970s, our economy ran on the notion of lifetime employment. If a worker left a company after five or ten years of service, they were considered short-​timers or job hoppers.

The challenging economy in the late 1970s, coupled with waning union power, drove organizations to retrench and lay off long-​time employees. Loyal workers were stunned. They’d grown accustomed to the lifetime employment era when workers entered organizations at the ground level. Slowly, they advanced. In those days, “Corporations filled roughly 90% of their vacancies through promotions and lateral assignments,” Cappelli notes.

Employers now only fill about 30% of open positions with internal candidates. This trend means organizations don’t have a lot of information about who they are hiring. While it’s always appropriate to require an internal candidate to take an assessment before considering them for a promotion, it’s doubly important to enforce that rule for external candidates. That's why using a sales assessment is the best way to hire a sales rep.

The Best Way to Hire a Sales Rep: Use Sales Assessments When Hiring

If you’re like many hiring managers, you may be relying on an outside agency to bring you candidates. In our Voice of the Sales Managers survey, nearly 34% of hiring organizations noted they turn to outside recruiters to bring in candidates. In the tight job market, your recruiters may be digging up ‘passive’ candidates. These candidates, says Cappelli, are not looking for work. But they could be convinced to jump ship for more money.

On the other hand, active candidates aren’t always demanding more money. They may be more interested in the potential to advance their skills and their position in an organization. How will you know for sure?

A hiring manager needs to understand the true motivations of the candidate. Often, a person, especially one who’s being recruited, won’t understand what drives them. Or, they may fear acknowledging that they have a high need for power. But, as a hiring manager, this is exactly the kind of information that will help you determine if the candidate will fit into your organization. Currently, only 22% of sales managers ask their candidates to take an assessment that measures motivation. This information, which is part of the assessment tool offered by TeamTrait™, will give you more insight into what’s really driving your candidate.

Types of Assessments That Work Best

While you might worry that asking candidates to take assessments will put them off, the practice is gaining traction. Research shows over 70% of job applicants have taken an assessment of some sort during a hiring process. In the sales management field, nearly 60% of organizations give sales skills assessments to applicants. And 49% use personality assessments. [Voice of the Sales Manager. 2019] 

Do these efforts work? Researchers cite an Aberdeen Group study that reveals a 39% lower turnover rate when companies use pre-​hire assessments to vet their candidates. One way to improve your outcomes is to pinpoint what you’re trying to accomplish with your assessment effort.

"Whether you're trying to impact staff retention, sales volume, early hire failure rate, employee engagement, productivity, theft, absenteeism or drug use in the workplace, there are different assessment instruments designed specifically to measure constructs that can directly impact these, and countless other organizational issues or goals," says Whitney Martin, president of ProActive Consulting.

For sales organizations, a comprehensive assessment like TeamTrait™ is the best way to hire a sales rep. While you need to understand a candidate’s sales skills and their behavioral tendencies, you can’t stop there. Measuring work tendencies such as resilience and determination will allow you to predict how a candidate will react in a challenging sales environment. Similarly, assessment tools should also measure a candidate’s decision-​making tendencies. How do they reason through problems they encounter? Are their reactions fueled by logic or emotion?  And wouldn’t it be nice to know if that candidate you’ve been watching from afar possesses the chops to strategically think about how a prospect could use your product to improve productivity.

Don’t wing it when it’s time to hire your next sales professional. Use sales assessments that will indicate how the individual will behave in a variety of situations, interact with your team, and respond when they encounter disappointment.