Sales Assessment Tests – Fact or Fantasy as a Sales Hiring Selection Tool?

Or Can Sales Assessment Tests Keep Slugs Out of Your Sales Department

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The debate rages on using sales assessments to improve sales hiring results. It ended for me nearly 20 years ago, however you make your own call. Here’s what happened to me:

In 1992 I was attending a week long seminar presented by Jay Abraham in LA. The seminar was geared to entrepreneurs looking to create copywriting and marketing businesses. I had already started my own company helping radio stations leverage their existing brand so I wasn’t looking for a new business. What I was looking for was some answers, since I was finding it tough to market and sell my concept. When I saw the seminar advertised I figured I’d go out to LA to learn to become a better marketer.

One of the presenters, Jim Cecil, conducted a number of sessions that were specifically tailored for sales managers.  His session titled, “Keeping Slugs Out of Your Sales Department” was where I first heard about assessments.

Every sales manager deals with the question of “How do protect yourself from bringing slug salespeople on board?” It’s not a joke and the statistics are overwhelmingly negative. You get one top performer for every four hires. Turnover kills sales departments and makes sales managers wary of replacing a salesperson, even if they are mediocre. Our new company with 200 salespeople was a revolving door.

Jim had each of the 200 attendees complete a free sales assessment. (This was in pre-Internet, so each attendee filled a paper form out that was then input into a computer.)  As each of our profiles was distributed you could hear the  “Ooohs” and “Ahhs” – and a lot of nervous chuckling.

When I read my profile I was surprised at the accuracy. It had taken me 10 minutes to complete, yet it was very insightful. That night after the session I faxed a copy to my wife to get her opinion. (She knows me better than anyone.) She called the next morning to tell me it had nailed me – both my strengths and weaknesses.

I was hooked on the idea of using sales assessments as a hiring tool. We added another assessment that measures Values, as opposed to personality style and over the next two years began requiring that every single applicant complete the profiles before we interviewed.

The result we more than doubled the percentage of top performers we were hiring. Our turnover was reduced by two-thirds and ended up selling the company in 2001 for more than $12 million.

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