Two Critical Tests for Sales Candidates

When hiring for a position as critical as sales, I’m always surprised that companies don’t take the time to test candidates better than they do.

I recognize that the HR department is ill equipped to test salespeople beyond the standard personality or temperament assessment but, even then, most seem loath to use these tools. It’s as though they are showing a weakness if they have to use a tool to help with the hiring process. And that they are supposed to be able to divine the keepers from the ones they should be throwing back.

I don’t expect HR people to be able to properly assess a salesperson’s selling ability beyond the knowledge level. Like other professions, it generally takes-one-to-know-one in order to properly assess a sales candidate.

Even then, sales managers feel they have an innate ability to select winners. In fact, tossing a coin will often give them the same results as an interview. I wrote about this in my article “Luck is Not a Hiring Tool.”

Somewhere along the line you should do some semi-formal testing.

My concerns stem from my years in the sales training business where I was too often brought into a company and asked to basically train pigs to fly. They wanted to train salespeople who, at best, should have been selling something else, and at worst, should not have been in sales at all.

Don’t get me wrong, not all the salespeople were misfits or duds, but many were. Too many, in my mind. I wondered how these people got hired for sales in the first place. In some cases, they were masters of selling themselves into a job but unable to sell little else.

I started to use our Sales Temperament Assessment (STA) (now owned by Callidus Software Inc.) to assess workshop participants prior to the training so at least I knew which ones were likely to “get it and use it,” which ones would “get it and maybe use it,” and those who would “get it but not be able to use it.”

While I recommend the use of the STA as part of the hiring process, of course, I also have two other “tests” that I like to see companies use.

The first is a mini competency quiz which consists of 10 sales-related questions that allow you to assess the candidate’s knowledge of selling. You’d be surprised what this short quiz uncovers. More important than what the person knows is what he doesn’t know. It will show you what areas the candidate will need help in should you decide to go ahead and hire him.

If you don’t want to create your own quiz, download the “Hiring Interview Toolkit” e-book. The quiz is in there.

The second test is a sales simulation where you ask the candidate to go through an appropriate sales scenario with you as the prospect. Choose a neutral item or service as you don’t want to know if the person knows the product, you want to know if he can sell, period.

Many candidates talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk, they fail to make the grade.

We include a couple of simple sales scenarios, along with a detailed sales call checklist, as part of a Hiring Interview Toolkit we made available to clients who have signed up for our Sales Temperament Assessment services. Of course, you can always make up your own sales simulation fairly quickly. Again, you can download the Toolkit here.

I know you’re busy. Everyone is. But if you’re not going to take the time to hire smart and test your candidates, then you might as well just flip a coin. That way you’ll save time while having the same odds of success at hiring a winner.