Does Talent Testing Help You Hire Better Salespeople?

As a sales leader, you may use some form of talent testing to decide on which prospects you should interview and hire with the belief that these tests have some secret source that will enable you to make better decisions. 

There are many talent assessment providers out there, and nearly all of them will refer you to some form of science that backs up their claim. They will recommend the traits for a given role, based on their research of what success means to them. They may also advertise that by taking the test, they are reducing bias in the hiring process. As such, they are helping in some way to increase the diversity and inclusion within your culture.

Are these tests scientifically valid, and do they offer any benefit to us as employers?


Traditional Talent Testing

People have been using psychometric testing in an attempt to increase recruitment success for many years. I am sure that we have all taken questionnaires by companies like 16 Personalities, Myers-Briggs, Predictive Index, etc. These are often fun to do and help create a persona of what a person’s traits are. The hypothesis is that certain types of personalities fit specific roles in life. Yet there is little to prove that this is a successful approach to hiring. 

People give different answers on different days, depending on how they feel or try to cheat the test. The results can become skewed to the responder’s beliefs of what a successful person in that role should behave and resemble. Given this, the responses are unreliable at best.

Bias from the recruiter side also impacts the hiring process. Many of us believe that a successful salesperson should have specific traits, i.e., Type A personalities. They then adjust their hiring criteria to reflect these beliefs. The worst case is that we rely on the questionnaire provider to determine a candidates fit based on their opinion. Whatever the analysis, this automatically limits the prospect pool, often removing people who have the skills to be successful in the role.

What’s even more concerning is that we are not testing our hypothesis. We hire based on intuition and subjectivity; somehow, we believe that we know what success is. We have all worked with a successful salesperson, and this provides us with an outline of whom we should hire. Statistically, however, the sample size of our experiences is tiny. Can we rely on this to make crucial decisions?

“You should be skeptical,” says Simine Vazire, a personality researcher at the University of California, Davis. “Until we test them scientifically, we can’t tell the difference between psychometrics and pseudoscience like astrology.”


Can I Clone You?

I am sure we have all heard this during our working life. If we could somehow duplicate the skill-set of an individual, we could increase our success. That said, what makes a person a likely candidate for cloning at one company may not translate to another. For one, I have been asked to be cloned at one company and told the opposite at another. What made me a success in one did not translate.

The culture of a company has a significant impact on whether or not we succeed in that environment. Taking a generic test that does not consider the situation of the testing company considerably limits the value of the results.

The only way you can clone the successful people in your organization is to understand what attributes make them a success in your specific environment and correlate those results to a measure of attainment.


You Need to Measure Success

To truly create a profile of what a successful candidate looks like, it is imperative to not only analyze the attributes of the person but also to correlate your company’s performance data against those attributes. By doing so, you are using data science rather than your belief system to benchmark success. 

This capability enables the creation of a data-driven performance fingerprint of what sales success looks like in your company. For example, we would analyze your most successful salespeople’s attributes to determine what psychographic characteristics are related to performance. There are over 400 attributes that we use to describe a person’s behavior, although only a few of these may be required to understand the success or failure of a new hire in your business.

Most importantly, fingerprints are not a one and done! 

Fingerprints are continuously updated. This scientific validation ensures that the attributes of success are monitored and adjusted for accuracy.


Fingerprints Go Beyond Recruitment

A fingerprint is not only used in hiring; it can benefit both Learning, Development, and Planning. For example, if we know that a salesperson in your company requires emotional intelligence, we can focus our learning and development plans on enhancing this behavior. Having the capability to tailor your personnel training plans to what success looks like will focus both time and delivery on what converts into an increase in sales.

The fingerprint does not stop there. 

It will also enable you to transfer or promote people within your organization to the role of salesperson. Based on a person’s responses, and without personal subjectivity bias, we can determine a person’s probable revenue attainment and potential success as a salesperson. There are always hidden gems within your company. Why not find out who they are?

Finally, we are not just limited to salespeople. Fingerprints can be created for every role where performance can be linked to personal attributes.


In Conclusion

The answer to the original question, ” Does Talent Testing Help You Hire Better Salespeople?” is a big yes. But there is a “but.” Psychometric testing requires validation. Without science, it is nothing but conjecture.

We already spend billions of dollars each year on testing that has no real scientific validation. Why not use that money to invest in data science that predicts results based on measurable personal attributes. It will not only help you recruit better candidates, but also give you greater confidence in being able to reach your number.

Mat Tarbuck is one of the founders of Sellicity Inc. He has a passion for data science and works with customers to improve overall sales performance. In the past, Mat has developed and taken software companies to market in both the US and Asia.

One Response

  1. Good article Mat. Those fingerprints will clearly identify those Attributes in outliers who blow their sales numbers up contrary to the company mould.

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