What’s Wrong With Sales Candidate Assessment Tests

Recently I responded to an inquiry asking if I would make a sales aptitude test to assess sales job candidates prior to interviewing. The prospect’s idea was that I would use my experience to develop some questions that would “smoke out” how good or bad the candidate was at selling. My answer will surprise you:

“What you’re asking for here is not easy.

In fact, I’m not sure a contractor can do it. Not even me. The resources necessary for developing a statistically relevant and accurate test are beyond an individual.

I have two decades of post-college experience, many of them as a sales trainer and sales force developer, and I’m not sure I could do this. Not saying this unconfidently: it’s in acknowledgement of the issues here. Let me tell you about them.

First, you have to have a way of making sure the test-taker isn’t “gaming” the test. They can whip through and answer everything with the “good” responses, and how do you know if they’re lying or not?

Second, you have to move beyond “personality tests”. Many people have grafted on some sales copy to behavioral or personality tests over the years–but these are not accurate for sales performance predictors. Take a personality factor like “drive”. Well your CFO has a lot of drive–but can they sell? *Will* they sell? Probably not. They don’t see themselves that way. So “drive” is no indicator of selling ability. Behavioral and personality profiling tests are useless for this function, despite what their sales copy tries to convince you of.

A good sales performance predictor test has to validly check:

1. Can they sell? (Do they have the skills)

2. Will they sell? (How much head trash do they have)

3. What’s their money tolerance? (Too low and they’ll find reasons to screw it up)

4. How much empathy do they have for their prospects? (Too much and they’ll allow the prospect to do things like shop around)

5. Are they trainable? (Will they follow a manageable, measureable process)

6. Are they coachable? (Not the same thing as trainable–will they accept feedback)

and then there are other factors, which I don’t know how they apply to your situation yet, such as:

7. How strong is their consultative skill set? (If you are following a consultative selling model).

I can be overconfident and tell you “Oh I can make you a test.” Sure I can. But will it work? Will it be statistically valid and accurate? I don’t think so. I know what questions to ask, but even with three years of statistics education as part of my operations management training I do not know how to craft a statistically valid test. And neither do any other contractors bidding on your project.

What I do know is that there is an existing sales candidate test that I have personally taken. And it is the very best assessment I’ve seen. It was developed by a sales force development company and does all the things I mentioned above–including checking if the candidate is trying to “game” the test.

The downside is that it is not cheap. Several hundred dollars per candidate–I haven’t been involved with it for awhile, but I think you buy a subscription to use it for a time period.

What I do for my clients is give them questions to ask that help them qualify candidates In or Out at the resume submission step in the process. So you only use your energy on those candidates who pass the quick initial screening.

This is what I can in good conscience give to you, because I know it works: the screening process, in written notes and as a 64-minute webinar for future reference. And I can connect you with the provider of the assessment.

This is what works. I have many clients who use this screening process as part of their hiring steps for commission and inside sales teams. And it saves them a ton of time and money. I’ll also include a one-hour phone/skype consultation for us to meet and personalize this process for your own situation.

I hope you appreciate this truthful explanation of what your request really means, and I look forward to working with you.”

That was my response. It’s the honest truth: not what people want to hear probably, but exactly what you should be considering when you pick a sales assessment to screen candidates. Contact me for more info.

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