High Assertiveness = Closing Sales

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Here at SalesTestOnline.com we’re given the opportunity to evaluate large numbers of top sales people within a wide ranging and highly varied group of sales forces. Name the service or product, and we’ve probably tested many successful sales people who sell it.

Sales roles do differ considerably of course, so the criteria for what it means to be a successful rep can vary a lot from role to role. These differences aside, nothing is a more fundamental definition of sales success than closing the sale.

Since sales closers are the ones who ‘put food on the table’ so to speak, management is always interested in better understanding the commonalities among these closers with the end goal of hiring more of the same. This of course means we often find ourselves discussing the traits of their top closers based on the findings of our sales assessment test.

We do our utmost to make them understand that when it comes to the traits of top closers, it is about the combinations of traits and how they work together that ultimately matters. As well, that while these trait drives are critical and important, they are just one factor among many that determines success. Put simply, when it comes to why someone is likely to be successful there are no easy answers.

That said, in my experience, hiring managers really appreciate it when they’re able to zero in on a single indicator that tends to predict sales success. So with qualifiers mentioned, this article is about that single indicator, a high level of assertiveness.

One of the pitfalls of talking about personality traits and other characteristics is that many of the terms one references mean different things to different people. As we define it, assertiveness refers to a need for control, competitiveness, self-motivation, drive, dominance, ego and the need to make one’s own decisions and to be in charge.   Therefore, when we say that they have a high level of this trait drive it means they are authoritative types who can be assertive in putting forth their ideas, they are dominant in the sense of wanting to be in charge and have a real need to control their own destiny and to make their own decisions. Tending to thrive on competition, they are motivated by being measured, whether against others or against goals. Their competitiveness and large egos mean they have a very strong sense of self worth and a need to win. As well, they tend to think big with little concern about risk and will be highly motivated by, and responsive to, commission and incentive based compensation.

In study after study of top sales closers, the majority and often the vast majority, possessed a high level of assertiveness. This holds true not only for most kinds of B2B sales but also many kinds of B2C sales. What the reps are selling and whether it is a tangible or non-tangible seems to make little difference. Sales force size also has no bearing on the results. Below are a few examples:

  1. Home improvement service sold to homeowners: Of the top 30 closers just under 70% had high assertiveness
  2. Business consulting sold to senior executives: 75% of the top sales closers had high assertiveness.
  3. Real estate investment sold to high net worth individuals: 60% had high assertiveness.
  4. Telecom services for business: 80% had high assertiveness
  5. Educational Services sold to individuals: 55% had high assertiveness.

What’s more, while these numbers show the clear relationship between high assertive and top closers there is one other factor that adds weight to the assertiveness equals closing argument. That is, many of those reps that are not in the ‘high assertiveness category’ actually have ‘moderately high assertiveness’. In other words, just because a rep does not have high assertiveness it does not necessarily mean that his assertiveness is low.   In fact when you combine these two groups, the ‘highs and the moderately highs’ they vastly outnumber those with low assertiveness in every single case.

Many would have you believe that traits and personality have nothing, or at least very little, to do with sales success. They would prefer you to believe that the determination of potential success is exclusively about training reps, imparting product knowledge and having reps follow specific systems, methods and procedures. Our data and our experience demonstrate clearly that traits matter a lot.

Are you using a sales personality test to identify candidate traits and fit? If not, then you are essentially operating blind and failing to measure a critical predictor of sales success. Unacceptably high costs, wasted time and money due to hiring mistakes will be the inevitable result.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so and you’d like to explore a solution I would enjoy having a frank conversation with you. Please feel free to email me directly at dave@salestestonline.com

Sales Assessment Test Pricing

imagesAccording to conventional wisdom, one should not put pricing on their website. There are many reasons for this thinking, but basically they boil down to the idea that, unless the prospect has had a discussion with you in order for you to explain the value of your offering, then the pricing is meaningless. As well, when your price is right out front for all to see then some prospects (suspects?) will just focus on the price and will shop around to save a couple of bucks.

I don’t know about you but these days when I’m researching a service I don’t really want to talk to a rep until I am very seriously interested. For this reason, if the website wastes my time by not fully explaining things and does not have the information necessary to understand the offering, the last thing I am likely to do is waste my time conversing with a sales rep, whether about price or otherwise. It seems to me that it is just showing common courtesy and above all respect for the prospect’s time to have a website that clearly explains what you do and the value of what you do. In my view, this includes the price of what you do!

Therefore, since I determine what appears on our website, you will notice that the price of our sales assessment tests is right here on this pricing page for all to see.

You will also notice that we do not offer single sales tests and only offer our testing in pre-paid blocks with a sliding discount that offers lower per-evaluation costs for larger quantities.

Why are single assessments not offered? The reasons are quite simple really. Our goal is to keep the cost of our sales tests extremely low, which in turn will mean they will be liberally used and in particular they will be used very early in the hiring process. In this article we discuss the pros and cons of rather expensive sales assessment tests and how they do not get used because hiring managers are woeful about ‘wasting’ these expensive tests on candidates who are not ‘test-worthy’. Another common issue we’ve found with small companies is their tendency to test just one candidate per open position. The problem with this is that the hiring manager’s mind is already made up about the candidate. In fact, they should have tested their top 3-5 people so as to compare candidates and to use the information to probe into the relative merits of each. By purchasing a small block of tests they’re able to do this quickly, efficiently and very economically.

Sales testing shouldn’t be like that expensive tool or appliance you never touch for fear of breaking it, or like the sofa your grandmother kept permanently covered in plastic. No, our belief is that a sales test isn’t much good unless it actually gets used. Therefore, our pricing makes this happen! So if you’re actually interested in using a sales test because you want to hire winners then I’d love to hear from you.

Please feel free to get in touch. As always I would be more than pleased to learn about your particular sales hiring challenges. I promise to be very forthright in my comments and I am pleased to share what I can.

Managing and Motivating Sales Hunters

images-3Sales Hunters! There is no other single kind of sales role for which we conduct more sales assessment testing. No matter the product, service or field of business, experienced hiring managers quickly learn how challenging it is to properly identify and hire these highly valuable assets.

I’ve written a lot about how hiring managers get fooled in interviews. This happens because candidates are adept at playing roles and by our tendency to misread what we think we are seeing in the candidate. Because of the huge cost of hiring mistakes, our clients view the cost of using our service as a drop in the bucket.

Organizations that hire sales hunters have always tended to have very high turnover rates for specific reasons that I will address below. But, too many managers in these companies have been living with unacceptably high turnover for so long that they have developed an attitude of ‘it is what it is’. They have, wrongly in my view, resigned themselves to the belief that nothing can be done to help fix the situation.

Just as hiring hunters is both difficult and important, so is retaining them. This article is about how to adapt your management style to an approach that both motivates them and keeps them.

To make sure you know what you are dealing with, it’s helpful at this point to spell out the traits of sales hunters. Typically, top sales hunters are highly assertive, very outgoing, very impatient and highly independent. Their high assertiveness, when combined with their high sociability, means they can be authoritative, empathetic, or a blending of the two drives depending on the specific situation. We liken this combination of traits to an ‘iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove’ and it is a critical contributor to their ability to successfully prospect. They have a built in sense of urgency and results orientation. They need a very fast paced working environment with ‘lots of balls in the air’ and are highly adept at achieving their goals through people. They have a great distaste for any form of structure such as rules, guidelines, policies and procedures. They are organized and attentive to the details up to a point but for the most part they very much dislike detail type work. They are competitive and risk driven and therefore are comfortable with incentives and commission. They are highly independent and very venturesome and have few fears about moving from job to job.

In previous articles I have likened traits to a two-edged sword. What I mean is that the very traits that result in one’s ‘strengths’ simultaneously create certain ‘weaknesses’. In the case of the top hunters above please note where I have made reference to how they have a basic dislike for rules, guidelines and details. As well, please note their lack of hesitation about changing employers. The point is that these are potential problems in even the very best hunters.

There is a subset of sales hunters that are overly impulsive and gut-level in decision-making style. These tendencies further aggravate and weaken their work behavior in several areas. Specifically, they can be very disorganized, scattered, inconsistent and very weak with the details and follow up. In addition, they are highly prone to job turnover. In effect, in areas where even the best hunters are somewhat of a concern, this group is extremely problematic. They should therefore be viewed as having high potential but with extra risk.

10 Guidelines for Managing Sales Hunters
  1. Present suggestions and ideas in terms of what’s in it for them
  2. Deal with them as if they are ‘running their own business’
  3. Feel free to be very direct when communicating with them
  4. Keep them very busy with lots on the go
  5. Give as much authority and responsibility as possible
  6. Minimize the details and, if possible, provide a ‘detail assistant’
  7. Minimize rules and procedures – no micro-management
  8. Create a competitive atmosphere as they need to be measured
  9. When procedures and details are unavoidable show them the positive impact on their bottom line
  10. Make sure they have incentives in their compensation
Conclusion

I am cognizant of the fact that, depending on the culture of your organization, some of the above suggestions might not be realistic. That aside, as a manager at least being aware of those situations where frictions are likely to arise will give you some guidance. As the saying goes: ‘forewarned is forearmed’!

I do hope you have found this article beneficial. As always, I would be more than pleased to learn about your particular sales hiring challenges. I promise to be very forthright in my comments and am pleased to share what I can.

Testing for Management Potential

27789986_sSometimes a great name can actually be a bit of a hindrance! Let me explain. When we started in business in 1986, job candidates filled out paper and pencil tests and we manually prepared written evaluations. In those days we were known as Acuity Psychometrics, a name that tended to be a little scary to some. Fast forward to 2001, taking our business online and registering a great domain name, hence SalesTestOnline.com. I’m obviously biased, but given the nature of our business I think our domain name is awesome because it says exactly what we do, but there’s a problem; our name conceals the fact that we do a great deal of testing for management roles and other non-sales positions. The focus of this article is about the testing we do to identify potential in candidates for these other roles.

Our system can be used to test candidates for any position.  This becomes abundantly clear to clients just as soon as their account is set up and have access to the system at our client web site. Here is where they view applicant test results, but along with various other actions they can also add in other jobs for which they would like to evaluate candidates. While it is true that most clients start by testing for sales, eventually they almost all begin testing for various non-sales roles as well.  As with any hiring situation, it is difficult to get an accurate read on the candidate due to the role-playing that typically occurs during interviews. Our evaluations put you back in control by giving you a clear and accurate picture of the ‘real’ person and their suitability and job fit.

It is important to understand that, just as we do for sales, we measure underlying temperament and motivational style rather than learned skills, training and experience.

Here you can view a sample of our non-sales report format. As you can see the format is consistent with and structured in the same way as our sales reports. And of course, just like the sales test reports our non-sales report format is thorough but blunt and to the point. After reading the results, you will have a clear understanding of strengths and weaknesses and of most importance whether the candidate has high potential, or not.  Our evaluations make it easier to arrive at the right hiring decisions.

Typical Areas Measured
  • Decision-making style
  • Communication Style
  • Attention to Detail and Organization
  • Analytical Ability
  • Turnover Propensity
  • Teamwork
  • Deadline Orientation
  • Multi-tasking
  • Need for Direction
  • Response to policies and rules
  • Response to Incentives
  • Sense of Urgency

When testing a management candidate you’ll have a complete picture of how they will operate if hired, for example, style of communication with subordinates, decision-making style, organizational abilities and attention to detail. In addition, how he or she deals with deadlines and whether he or she can multi-task. For other roles you’ll get insight into whether the person is a team player, their likelihood of job turnover and response to policies and rules. And of course in all cases we will identify red flags and other areas of concern that you can delve into in your reference checking and in subsequent interviews.

As mentioned above, our assessments measure the candidate’s underlying temperament and motivational style and therefore are to be used as an adjunct to your other vetting tools. These would typically identify educational qualifications, training, experience and professional credentials, where applicable. A manager’s effectiveness has more to do with his or her underlying temperament and motivational style than his or her credentials and education. One’s motivational style determines how the learned skills are applied in practice. It is critical to understand this area to make the best and most profitable decisions.

I do hope you have found this article useful. As always I would be more than pleased to speak with you to learn about your hiring challenges. I promise to be very forthright in my comments and am very pleased to share what I can.

Benchmarking top Sales People – Realities and Pitfalls!

images-1I often hear hiring managers express the desire to ‘benchmark my top sales reps’. We’ve done this a lot of over the years and continue to do so frequently.

The thing is, when said out loud, ‘I want to identify the strengths of my top performers so I can hire more reps like them going forward’ it sounds like it should be a pretty straightforward task.

I wouldn’t suggest it is rocket science or that it can’t be done properly in a few simple steps but, in my experience, when I get down to the ‘mechanics’ of the project such as the specifics of who is a top rep, why they are a top rep and the pros and cons of managing those reps it gets a little ‘messy’. Why? Well, there are numerous potential problems and pitfalls about the process. My intent with this article is to identify them and to describe how we work around them. The bottom line is that, if done properly, you’ll have in place benchmarks, (hereafter referred to as Target Profiles) that are highly predictive of sales success, which of course means you’ll hire more A players.

Nobody is Perfect

Top sales people rarely have it all! Really good maybe, excellent in most respects perhaps, but there is always room for improvement. This is no great revelation, but my point is, that a Target Profile is meant to be the ideal to aim for when hiring.

As an example, a common situation with clients who hire hunters is that a lot of top hunters are scattered, disorganized and weak with the details. In this situation the Target Profiles keep the traits that are desirable while adding in the traits that are also desirable but lacking in your top people. Hence, the aim is to hire a hunter that is somewhat organized and at least reasonably good with the details.

Another example of this comes up when we have to ‘blend’ the traits of a couple of top performers. It sounds a bit like Dr. Frankenstein’s work but, in essence, this sometimes entails building a Target Profile that is based on one rep’s sociability and sense of urgency combined with another’s drive and work habits. In effect, we are combining the best qualities of both as the style we are aiming to hire.

Target Profiles Must Be Realistic

Target Profiles cannot be based on an unrealistic laundry list of traits. It still surprises me that many managers operate under the delusion that they can have everything wrapped up in one person. Traits are like two-edged swords, so for each strength there is often a corresponding weakness: Independent people are not good with rules, extroverts cannot be expected to be analytical, assertive self starters are hard-headed and hard to manage, sales farmers don’t make good sales hunters, and so it goes! Target Profiles must be a reflection of real combinations of trait drives since it is real people who are being measured against them.

Your Top Performers Vary

Often clients will talk about establishing a ‘benchmark’ and to do so will want to test their top performer so that we can use him or her as ‘the benchmark’. This is all well and good but the reality is that in any given sales role the top people get the job done in different ways, yet they are all successful. This is why it is important to think in terms of the plural-benchmarks and is therefore why we typically have up to three Target Profiles for each role.

Outliers and Exceptions

Despite the previous point about variability in the top performers, there are always outliers in any group of top reps. When profiling a large group, similarities and trends become very clear. What also becomes quite obvious is the identity of the outliers. When we are profiling a very small group it can be very uncomfortable for a hiring manager to accept that one of his top reps, or perhaps even his very top rep, is an anomaly relative to the type he wants to hire in the future. This is one of those situations that illustrate the benefits of having humans doing the analysis of the top performers. What I mean by this is that at SalesTestOnline.com we bring to the table many years of experience with benchmarking. We have likely profiled many sales positions that are identical or if not, very similar to yours. This gives us a much broader perspective on the role than that of the typical hiring managers with whom we are working.

Typical Benchmarking Process

In order to benchmark a sales role and have us build your Target Profiles your first task is to identify and test your top performers. Once again, this sounds pretty clear but your top performers might not necessarily be those that have the highest sales numbers. For example, if you are looking to hire sales hunters you may have a group of veterans whose numbers are great but who do not ‘hunt’ for one reason or another. And of course you may have a relative newcomer whose numbers may not show it yet but who by all other measures is just exactly the type you want to hire more of. So this is where your judgment is critical in deciding just who is a top performer. Prior to analyzing their test results we first look at the job description and what information you have supplied in our online Job Profile Form. It is important that we look at this information in order to see how it matches up with the top performer’s test results. If there is a big difference between what you are saying you want and the test results of the top performers then we will need to get clarification. Now let us suppose that you have tested your ten best. Putting it simply, what we measure is where, as a group, they predominantly fall on our primary trait drive scales-Assertiveness, Sociability, Patience and Dependence. Why these? Because it is from these four trait drives that we can determine their work tendencies such as prospecting, closing, response to incentives, in short, their overall sales strengths and weaknesses. So let us assume that in our hypothetical example we find the following:

  • 8 score high on Assertiveness
  • 9 score high on Sociability
  • 8 score low on Patience
  • 7 score low on Dependence

Please note that for purposes of explanation I am showing a very simple example but from this result you can conclude that your Target Profiles, and therefore the type who should be most successful for this role, are Highly Assertive, Highly Extroverted, Very Impatient and Very Independent. In short the classic sales hunter style. Going forward, job candidates who match these Target Profiles have a much higher likelihood of success.

Playing the Odds

Please note that last sentence …job candidates who match these Target Profiles have a much higher likelihood of success. Just in case you are thinking that candidates who match the profiles are guaranteed to succeed, let me take this opportunity to dispel that notion. People are very complicated creatures and, as such, there are many reasons for success or failure. Nevertheless, when you hire without using Target Profiles there are inevitably sales people who get hired who never had a chance of success in the first place. So, as this article nicely explains, the idea is to improve the odds of success by hiring sales people who are a good match. In other words, it is all about putting the odds in your favor.

Predictive of Sales Success

Is benchmarking your top sales people worth the trouble? If you are a hiring manager you certainly do not need me to advise you of the benefits of making better hiring decisions. The reason for going through the minimal effort required to benchmark your top performers is to hire more successes and fewer failures. The question is whether, at the end of the process, you are better able to predict sales success in job candidates.  If you are, then the answer is obvious!

I do hope you have found this article useful. As always I would be more than pleased to speak with you in order to learn about your sales hiring challenges. I promise to be very forthright in my comments and I am very pleased to share what I can, having worked in the sales testing field for nearly 40 years.