How to Choose the Most Accurate Sales Assessment Test

Ed Marsh | Sep 7, 2022

Stop Wasting Time Hiring Mediocre (or WORSE!) Sales Candidates

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to episode

  1. Should you even use a sales assessment test when hiring sales? Yes
  2. Testing methodology including ipsative and normative and what they mean
  3. Understand the predictive validity of a sales candidate screening and why that's important
  4. What to look for in order to choose the best sales assessment test

Transcript follows:

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. My biweekly videos are intended to be thought-provoking for industrial manufacturing company execs. If you know of one who you think might find some value, please share it with them.

The Black Box of Sales Assessment Tests

Today we’re going to dig into sales assessment tests – how to select the right one, and therefore, various types of sales screenings, and what makes them different. As we jump into that, let’s first tackle the premise.

Should you even use sales candidate screenings when hiring industrial salespeople?

The short answer I say is yes. An accurate sales assessment test is an important tool in the sales force testing toolkit. And there are many reasons why. This article covers 11 of them. Here’s a short version.

  1. Save time – only interview candidates that can sell. From there determine cultural fit, market familiarity, etc. to decide who you’d like to hire
  2. Find candidates who will succeed in your environment – using a tool that accounts for the specifics of your market and sales situation
  3. Eliminate your conscious and unconscious bias – let the assessment evaluate first. Before you see names or resumes.
  4. Have a roadmap for the interview – a good assessment can help uncover the lurking issues that you need to ensure your interview digs deeper into
  5. Save money – hiring mistakes, recruiters, empty territories, etc. are really expensive
  6. Shorten ramp-up – find candidates who will start to be profit positive in short order
  7. Tailor onboarding – understand areas of growth potential and focus on those to improve onboarding
  8. Reduce DEI (diversity/equity/inclusion) liability exposure – comply with regulations including requirements for pre-employment screening
  9. Make continuous recruiting feasible – assessments help create a very efficient process that you can run continuously – just like you expect your team to do for prospecting
  10. Avoid awkward conversations around referral and internal candidate decisions – when an internal candidate isn’t the right fit, you can refer to science and data, and emphasize where their important impact is
  11. Build customized sales management plans – understand what makes people tick, and how to help them improve

So, let’s stipulate that it is important to use a sales assessment test when hiring sales candidates. How do you pick the right one? First, you have to understand the tools available.

Comparing Sales Candidate Assessment Tools

There are lots of tools that are tweaked or configured, and built around sales-sounding language, but are fundamentally personality and behavioral tests, IQ tests, or other types of tests that are used for other purposes.

Each measures different things. And according to research by Andy Miller, they aren’t predictive of sales success. For instance, behavioral assessments are only 20% predictive and personality assessments only 22% predictive of sales success. (more here)

So, the first thing to understand is the predictive accuracy of sales success for any tool you’re considering.

It seems crazy to use one in your process that is fundamentally not predictive of success. Part of understanding how this can be is to understand the difference between ipsative and normative testing methodologies.

Ipsative vs. Normative Assessment Tools

Basically, ipsative means that the tool is designed to compare you to yourself. It highlights relative strengths and weaknesses and compares trends over time.

That contrasts with a normative test which measures against absolute and empirical values. In other words, actual data of, in this case, sales people. It’s relative to those who succeed and fail rather than relative to yourself a year ago or a year from now.

Using ipsative tools, like personality and behavioral styles assessments for pre-employment is often contrary to the publishers’ instructions and may create liability for hiring decisions.

You’ve probably heard of many of these and may use some. DiSC®, Caliper, SalesFuel HIRE, SalesGenomix™, SalesDNA™, DriveTest™, Devine, Predictive Index, and others. In fact, the popular tool DiSC says specifically on its website:

“Although DiSC profiles are often used as part of the hiring and onboarding process, they’re not recommended for pre-employment screening. DiSC does not measure specific skills, aptitudes, or other factors critical for a position; it describes one’s natural work behavior patterns or styles to help improve productivity, teamwork, and communication.”

In other words, it’s specifically NOT for trying to determine who can sell! Now, there may be value in having the information for the purposes they propose – for instance matching people on teams, etc. And often you’ll find that they do properly capture someone’s preferences and style. But it’s not satisfactory for a sales assessment test. You need a tool that will accurately predict how someone will perform in the field.

Testing Validity Language

Some other terms you might encounter as you research sales assessments include “Face Validity” which means that it appears to test for what they say it does and “Construct Validity” which means that findings are consistent with what they say they are testing for.

The right tool is one with documented “Predictive Validity” – in other words it must correlate to on-the-job performance.

A Sales Assessment Test Should Accurately Predict Who WILL Sell

Additionally, the assessment must measure a candidate’s commitment, desire and motivation - their will to succeed. After all, sales is tough. You’ve probably seen lots of folks with plenty of intelligence and sales skill that never realized their potential. You can’t afford to carry them on your P&L.

The sales assessment tool that we use:

  • asks sales-specific questions to screen for 21 core sales competencies – each with multiple attributes
  • is adapted to your industry and market
  • is guaranteed to be actionable and comes with an onboarding report

And it’s independently found to be 92% predictive after 30 years and >2,000,000 salespeople assessed.

The bottom line is that, as with so many things, the key to selecting the right sales assessment test is to really understand more about the details than you probably wish you had to.

It would be great if you could do a quick Google search, compare prices, and ask a couple questions. In most cases, though, the folks selling sales aptitude tests probably don’t really understand the limitations of the tools they’re selling. To select the best sales assessment test you have to find the one that doesn’t create any exposure to labor and hiring regulations, and which will help you select salespeople that are most likely to hit and exceed quota most quickly.

I’m Ed Marsh. If you found value in this episode of Signals from the OP check out the full playlist and maybe even like it, share it, and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog