Tl;dr - There are so many sales screening tools that it's confusing to pick the best one for your requirements. This article will help to understand how to define your parameters, and then compare tools so that your choice delivers the results you need, accurately, predictively, and in compliance with expectations and regulations.
Selecting a Sales Aptitude Test That's Right for Your Business
When it comes to selecting a sales aptitude test, it helps to understand the full range of options - there are lots of them out there - to best match the available tools against your requirements.
The key to selecting the best sales aptitude test is to be clear on several points:
- why you want to test
- what you want to test for
- how you plan to leverage test results
- at what point in the recruiting, hiring, and management process you will use the results
These are important points because some assessments may be inappropriate or even potentially violate federal employment guidelines if used in ways that may be common, but contradictory to the publishers' "small print" guidance.
It's also important if your goal is to test for likely sales success, to fundamentally understand the difference between an assessment built and designed for sales, versus a personality or behavioral styles assessment adapted for sales.
Reasons to Use a Sales Aptitude Test
Generally, the why is pretty simple. Sales force testing tools try to figure out whether you should hire a prospective rep (internal or external) or to diagnose some sales performance issues with an existing team.
Often there's a trigger event - for instance, an empty territory, replacement or addition of a sales manager/VP of sales, new investors/owners, or some significant sales challenges.
Important Clarity of What You Want to Test For
Here things start to get more complex. There are a number of possible attributes for which you might want to test. Common examples include:
- teamwork inclinations
- personality attributes or behavioral styles that you might anecdotally associate with salespeople (e.g. likes meeting new people)
- work ethic/habits
- certain sales skills and competencies
- ability to sell in the specific situation and market environment that characterizes your company
- organizational fit & performance, culture & collaboration (e.g. 180° or 360° assessments)
This is obviously an important step because they are many, very different attributes, and the assessment results will be irrelevant or directly applicable to your decision, depending on what you're hoping to achieve.
For sales applications, many companies default to one of the well-known behavioral styles assessments (e.g. The Predictive Index, etc.) or personality assessments (e.g. Caliper Profile, Wonderlic, Myers Briggs, etc.) that they might use elsewhere in the organization or have heard about. They may also consider situational judgment tests, numerical reasoning tests, sales competencies tests, and assessments for individual sales competencies.
Be careful though. Assessments that HR uses to build high-performing engineering teams, or determine who to promote to call center manager will capture some elements of anyone's work style but are specifically NOT designed for sales.
Many of these tests have created "sales versions" which apply sales terminology and language to the same core test product and results. That can be a bit misleading.
So the "what" matters. If you're goal, for instance, is to see which reps fit best with which managers, then an assessment tool doesn't need to be sales-specific. But if your goal is to identify sales people who will beat quota, then an effective test must be built specifically to measure sales performance rather than simply have a veneer of sales terminology applied to a general test.
Decide How You Will Use the Test Results
There are also numerous different ways that companies use assessment results within the broad sales evaluation context. Sometimes the same assessment tool can support multiple purposes, but sometimes not.
Examples of use cases include:
- deciding whether or not to interview a candidate
- deciding whether or not to hire a candidate
- deciding whether or not an underperforming rep is trainable (whether poor performance can be reversed or not)
- considering promoting an employee to the next level sales role
- evaluating internal candidates for transfer to sales
- determining best fit - mapping teams, assigning new hires to certain managers, assigning certain reps to certain clients
- creating an individual or sales force wide training plan
- realigning folks by helping to determine their best fit role in the company, or within the sales team
- restructuring the sales team
Obviously, this ties in very closely with the question of what you will test for (above.)
Pricing models may play a role as some of these use cases will be very high volume (e.g. screening candidates to decide who to interview) and probably continuous, while others may be infrequent or periodic (e.g. restructuring the sales team.)
Decide When You will Use the Test
This is partially embedded in the question of how you will use the assessment (above.) Examples include:
- high volume, automated applicant assessment during the recruiting process
- focused, specific assessments of potential candidates during the hiring process
- planning and guiding the onboarding process of new hires
- planning and guiding training programs for individuals and teams
- identifying quick wins and strengths/weaknesses for performance improvement
This is important because different assessment tools may be particularly well, or poorly suited to use at different stages. For instance, The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidelines on Employment Test and Selection Procedures provide some important criteria for pre-employment screening including:
- the test must be predictive of success in a job
- "employment tests and other selection procedures (must be) properly validated for the positions and purposes for which they are used. The test or selection procedure must be job-related and its results appropriate for the employer’s purpose."
- "tests and selection procedures (must not be) adopted casually by managers who know little about these processes"
Further, it must be used broadly (not for selected candidates.)
This is possibly the reason why some test firms are open and explicit that their assessments are specifically NOT for pre-employment screening.
In other words, certain use cases may be prohibited at certain points in the employee life cycle. And often consultants who see every situation as a nail for their preferred assessment hammer may inadvertently create liability.
As many companies work to boost DEI efforts, it's important that you consider the role a test will play, and implementation procedures to support those efforts rather than undermine them.
Finally, common assumptions may not support best practices. For instance, it's common that sales candidates are assessed amidst progressing interviews - often after initial rounds and prior to a final interview. But best practice actually advises otherwise. By a final interview, a decision is largely codified and assessment results provide either a perfunctory confirmation of sound judgment or they're discounted as being wrong when they identify shortcomings of a candidate that the team has decided they like. And that may well be contrary to the EEOC guidelines (above.)
So don't just assume there's a simple point to use it in your process. Rather think through the related factors.
Points to Keep in Mind When Researching the Best Sales Aptitude Test for Your Business
There are countless assessment tools that are sold for every use case and scenario outlined above. Some are good. Some are predictive. Some are accurate. Many are not.
It's important that you clearly define why you're testing, what you're testing for, how you will use the results, and at what point in the process.
Then, unfortunately, you've got more work to do. You'll need to understand the methodology (ipsative vs. normative), the validated predictive accuracy (see EEOC guidelines above) and the design concept (e.g. specific to a sales role, or adapted.)
Don't just assume that the fact that you use a test (which feels objective) makes it effective or even appropriate (potentially illegal) for your use case.
And understand the financial model (per test, license, volume, billable consultant time to help interpret/implement results, etc.)
Most importantly, if you're trying to decide whether someone will be effective at sales (candidate assessment) or how to help them improve (rep, manager, or VP evaluation) then you need a sales aptitude test that delivers that insight specifically.
That means a test that's designed and built for sales, and which determines not only whether someone CAN sell, but whether they WILL sell. Further, it has to identify particular skill areas and mindsets that will support or impede an individual's success, it must have significant validated predictive accuracy, and it must account for the context of your market (e.g. average deal size, buyers called on, degree of competition, etc.)
Once you've done your homework, you'll likely determine that there's a very, very narrow range of options for a sales aptitude test - and that you might want to complement that with other assessments to gauge cultural fit and management pairings.
The Best Sales Aptitude Test
In my experience, once users understand the full range, and define their requirements, there's one tool that's clearly superior for candidate assessments and sales evaluation.