Hire Sales Reps — And Keep Them — With Employment Personality Tests

by | Apr 28, 2022

CEOs, board members, executive staff, and investors consistently report that hiring great salespeople presents unique challenges. 

The reasons for the dread and results are many. First, sales and B2B services turnover rates are the highest of any industry at above 30%, as reported by multiple sources. High turnover rates are heavily influenced by filling the position with the wrong candidate.

Well, why was the wrong candidate chosen? Some likely suspects:

  • Incorrect candidate profile or job description. Few understand what is really needed in a candidate to succeed in the role. The most common reply is, “I’ll know it when I meet them.”
  • Bad interview process. Interviewers tend to treat sales hires with a “Do I like them, would I buy from them” perspective combined with a few ‘how and why were you successful at Acme Widgets.’

When it comes down to it, getting the wrong candidate and performing a lousy interview is caused by missing the personality match

It’s not about what salesperson you personally like, which one you imagine would do well, or that special feeling you get when they interview; a successful hire has a personality that fits well into your team and with your clients.

This article is about what we have found to be the most effective change to the hiring process for sales: testing if they have the personality to be effective in your culture, your stage, your market, and your transaction type.

Hiring Sales Reps With The Right Personalities

Really good personality testing can give your existing team an accurate view of how a candidate would function in your work environment and whether their attributes would be additive to the diversity of views you are looking for or just drama in waiting.

Personality testing can also solve for unconscious bias or the temptation to just add more salespeople that look exactly like the ones you’ve already got. We all know that a diversity of viewpoints is the right setup if you want to mirror your clients and thereby increase their potential to engage, but actually looking beyond our comfort zones can be challenging.

There are real benefits to personality tests for employment:

  • Get a better idea of the potential hire’s personality than the interview process alone
  • Solve unconscious (and conscious) bias by hiring who fits the profile rather than who the interviewer “likes”
  • Increase client engagement by increasing diversity
  • Avoid extra costs and loss of time associated with hiring the wrong person

If you use solid personality testing when hiring salespeople, you can actually verify if they really have the chops you’re looking for to fill the role in your sales team. You can also create a scatter chart to see how the new person fits in with your existing team.

Altus Puts Employment Personality Tests to The Test

At Altus, we recently put the theory to the test. We wanted to see if we could differentiate between proven and consistent engagement partners compared to those that just didn’t work out. 

We asked Motis and their Cambridge Ph. D-types to run a group of people through the process and see if they could identify what we were looking for. Motis specializes in workplace leadership, workplace culture, talent development, and performance management, and has recently adopted a leading personality framework into specific department types like sales groups. 

To give a little backstory, Altus from its academic days with Mark Leslie, Stanford, and “The Sales Learning Curve,” really put a lot of weight on being “renaissance” sales executives rather than being “coin-operated.” We believe the choice between the two sales types is critical to success depending on your stage of development and maturity as an organization, product or market.

Renaissance sales execs are motivated by intellectual curiosity; they like to solve puzzles and crack codes. Renaissance salespeople are terrific consultants, and better for earlier stage companies, while coin-operated salespeople crush their quota and hit their number, year after year in mature and proven environments. 

For our internal test and validation, we sprinkled in some coin-operated salespeople, some renaissance salespeople, and some people who had nothing to do with any of it — and asked Motis to do their thing. We were interested in seeing if the personality test could separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

They nailed it with 100% accuracy based on the personality results alone. Combine this with your other interview and hiring practices and you will certainly improve your results.

When you think about it, the ability to really understand someone before making an important hire is a game-changer.

Rick Beaton, the Motis CEO, explained that while there are versions of personality testing, from “What Color is Your Parachute?” to Myers-Briggs type, it is only recently that science and technology have come together to yield these super-accurate results. In fact, Myers-Briggs is based on methodologies developed in the thirties, well before the advent of the fMRI or any modern understanding of the brain, and it has not evolved since. 

It is somewhat shocking to think that organizations are still hiring, developing people and systems using an understanding of humanity that was created before the second world war.

Great Sales Reps Can Be Trained—But Personalities Can’t

To be clear, hiring based on personalities has nothing to do with skill sets. Skills can be developed and nurtured and largely come from sales experience. Sales roles require both the right personality as well as the right skill sets.

For the most part, personality traits are hard-wired in everyone. If you hire someone thinking that they will change, you will likely be disappointed.

The good news is that the personality test data is a great management tool. Personality test data enables a manager to understand how a given employee is likely to react in any given situation, where they will thrive, and how they will mix with the others on the team.

So, How are Personality Tests and Employment Linked?

If you want to know how to hire sales reps more efficiently, we recommend you look deeper into their personality with professional tools. Tools that are scoring 100% accuracy ratings vs. you relying on your ‘good judge of people’ skills (especially with salespeople).  

You can avoid huge losses of momentum, morale, costs, time, and churn that often follow a less than perfect hire. It is stressful and expensive for both the organization and the individual when mistakes are made. Not to mention revenue impact and the ultimate audience… your customers.  

Hiring based on a pre-employment personality test can help sales managers with predicting job performance and making beneficial hiring decisions. And having those personality profiles across the team can make ongoing management way more effective.

Rather than getting bogged down in trying to suss out what makes someone tick, you can use an accurate personality test to know exactly what you are getting in a candidate.