The sales game is tough and it’s getting more and more difficult every day. The reasons vary depending on what reports you read or whom you listen to but recent surveys show that less than 50% of sales people meet or exceed quota. With so much pressure to “deliver the numbers” many sales organizations are looking for a proverbial silver bullet in their quest to hire top quality sales reps. For many of these organizations the answer lies in expanding the hiring process to include personality assessments.
The personality assessment industry, estimated at $500M plus (and going about 10% per year), currently has over 2,500 personality questionnaires and each year dozens of the companies emerge with new types of test. Even Match.com, the Internet dating site has recently announced plans to enter this lucrative market. These test have become so popular that it is estimated that 20% of all U.S. companies and more than 80% of all Fortune 500 companies now use personality testing as part of their hiring process.
Some employers swear by them and are convinced that they are hiring better as a result of their use. Other say that they tell you no more than a skilled interviewer could learn during a standard interview. No matter what side of the debate you fall on, the usefulness of these personality tests raises some serious questions.
How accurate are they? Can they predict sales success? Do they really work?
Accuracy of the test is determined by a variety of factors. 1) The test itself and how it is administered. 2) The person taking the test. 3) The individual evaluating the results.
As I mentioned previously there are hundreds and thousands of different tests, although there are only about a half dozen that are most widely used. The most popular and recognized industry names include SHL, Myers & Briggs, 16PF (Personality Factors), and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. The problem being most of these test were developed for reasons other than hiring. The Myers Biggs test was originally developed for use in training and development and the MMPI test was developed for clinical psychologists to test for personally disorders. This alone makes their applicability questionable and besides what sales person isn’t a little bit out there?
Despite what many of the test producers claim to the contrary, the accuracy is subject. All too often a sales professional taking the test knew they were looking for them to answer a question a certain way. They know what they are “supposed” to do, but maybe doesn’t always do it. It is also very easy to cheat on the test. In fact there are websites that are dedicated to helping candidates do just that. In addition, many of the traits being tested for are very subjective and the tests require a great deal of interpretation. Given that most HR folks don’t have backgrounds in psychology, it’s probably safe to say they rely on the salesmen of the tests to tell them the results. (pretty ironic don’t you think?)
So can these tests really predict sales success? Dave Kurlan, Author and Sales Development Expert, weighed in on the topic in a blog post, titled Exposed – Personality Test Disguised as Sales Assessments. In the post he stated, “Personality Assessments and Behavioral-Styles assessments are not predictive of sales performance”. He went on to say that because “personality tests’ questions are asked in the context of social settings, not sales settings, so none of the findings are sales-specific.” He added that “because personality assessments’ findings are not sales-specific, they are not predictive.”
So do these tests really work? You be the judge. To me, the sales profession is far more complex than 50 or 150 multiple-choice questions and whether or not you remember your 5th grade math equations. Let’s not forget about things like: drive, attitude, determination, work ethic, enthusiasm, passion, creativity, personal character and personal integrity.
Bottom line, personality tests measure a broad range of descriptive traits, but research has repeatedly shown that they do little to predict how well a Sales Professional will perform in a given sales role. So do these tests really work? With statics showing only 50% of sales people hitting their quota I have to wonder.
What do you think? Can personality tests determine sales success?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments.