How effective is Personality Assessment in identifying strong sales candidates for your organization?

One of the most commonly used tool to assess sales candidates is psychometric test. While psychometric tests is a great tool when applied to what bis was designed for, it is a inadequate tool when fashioned to identify the right sales candidate for your company. The best explanation I have found for the flaw in using personality assessments to select candidates as versus a science based sales assessment, was a November 2010 article by Dave Kurlan  titled ” Selling Power Hit and then Miss the Mark on Sales”.

Below is that entire article. Read and share your feedback.

Selling Power Hit and then Miss the Mark on Sales – By Dave Kurlan

This must be the week for big names laying big eggs.  The problem stems from the fact that people who are not experts on sales, selling, sales organizations and salespeople, are weighing in with opinions that are either based on unrelated science (general behavior versus sales behavior) or faulty analysis.  So yesterday it was the Harvard Business Review article and today it’s a Selling Power article.

They pointed to three qualities that are highly predictive indicators of a top sales performer.  Let’s see how their claims (using data from personality assessments) stack up against real sales science (using Objective Management Group’s data from sales specific assessments).

They said the 3 highly predictive qualities are:

  1. Able to Connect – they actually measure empathy.  The problem is that there are TWO kinds of empathy.  Measuring empathy alone (personality test) is NOT predictive.  Being able to distinguish between good empathy (relating to the problems the salesperson can solve) and bad empathy (relating to their stalls, put-offs and objections) IS predictive.  But predictive of what?  In the end, it is only predictive of whether salespeople can identify problems representing sales opportunities, and whether they are likely to be vulnerable to every stall, put-off and objection that comes their way.  It’s two data points, but not the entire story and therefore, not predictive of overall performance.  As a matter of fact, a related finding, and even more predictive of whether salespeople will accept stalls and put-offs, is how trusting they are of what prospects promise – whether they take prospects at their word or approach them with a degree of skepticism.  Those who are most trusting, don’t even recognize the stalls and put-offs and as a result, don’t even get to the point where they have the option to change a prospect’s opinion.
  2. Driven to Persuade Others – This is my favorite.  Driven and persuasion are both social findings.  First we’ll tackle Driven.  Everyone on your company’s executive team is Driven, but they aren’t all driven to succeed at selling.  You’ll get false positives on Driven until it snows in the Caribbean.  Our version of that is sales specific and it’s called Desire for Success in Sales.  And while it is one of the two most important findings in our assessment, it is not a measurement of effectiveness. While the absence of Desire would prevent a candidate from being recommended, the existence of Desire is not predictive of success, only a willingness to change (improve).  Persuasion, when measured in a social context, is a meaningless finding because in that context, there is a missing variable.  Money.  And money, or the need to get someone else to part with it, is a deal changer.  The Personality Test’s use of Persuasion is  a finding out of context and additionally, it is not a measurement of a sales skill.
  3. Able to Deal with Rejection – They got this one right.  But it’s only partially predictive of a single selling activity, and that is cold-calling.  But the Personality Test measures rejection in a social context, not in a sales context.  So is getting turned down for a date the same as having a prospect say, “not interested”?  Is having your idea rejected the same as getting hung up on?  The personality test measures the fear of rejection while we measure the impact of rejection – specifically, whether the salesperson will recover quickly enough to continue making their calls.  Our Rejection finding is a single data point out of three that predicts whether a salesperson will consistently prospect for new business.

Understand the difference between our highly predictive, sales specific assessment verus the personality and behavioral styles assessments.  Recogize that their marketing is complete with sales lingo to make you think it is an assessment for sales when the reality is that it has been modified (same assessment but names of the findings have been changed for sales) for sales. You should also recognize the limitations of what personality and behavioral styles assessments can actually measure when the context for their questions is social rather than business.  Findings taken from a social context are not predictive of sales success.  For more informatoin about the difference between personality assessments, behavioral styles assessments and our highly predictive, sales specific assessments, read these articles.

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