What is the secret of success in sales? Is it a matter of mastering and applying specific skills, of gaining expertise about a product or service, of getting to know a company and its clients – or is it dependent on possessing certain traits and aptitudes, discernible through psychometric testing?
Certainly the personality traits we have will impact upon our approach to our job, our willingness to learn new skills and our ability to build successful relationships. But just how important are those traits as predictors of sales success?
What is psychometric testing?
Psychometric testing has become a booming business in recent years. Used in the context of sales recruitment, and also training – where investment can be tailored to the psychological profile of an organisation and to particular individuals within it – psychometric tests 'measure behavioural styles, attitudes and personality characteristics… found to impact people’s performance in a workplace.' (Institute of Psychometric Coaching)
The Institute of Psychometric Coaching provides a list of typical personality characteristics that employers seek for those in sales roles. They include:
- Self-motivated, driven for achievement
- Taking charge
- Influencing customers’ opinions and activities
- Social astuteness (ability to interpret social cues and use them to attain the desired outcome)
- Interpersonal and rapport-building skills
The idea is that these traits and skills can be discerned in candidates through well-designed questionnaires and other kinds of scientific test.
The appeal of a more objective, scientific approach to sales training and recruitment is obvious. It may for instance be helpful for HR to have more information available when recruiting, especially in an age where formal qualifications are not treated with the same degree of trust.
Moreover, in the context of training, psychometric testing can tell a company which of its salespeople need training – as well as pointing out those who are simply wrong for the job. As Sales Team Focus put it, 'not everyone has what it takes to be successful in sales, including many people already in sales roles!'
Psychometric testing offers a range of possibilities to organisations looking to build sales success. Large organisations in particular – and above all those with a specialised HR team – may benefit from a systematic incorporation of psychometric testing methods into their sales recruitment, review and training processes.
However, there are many factors which may diminish the perceived benefits of psychometric testing. Questions have been raised for example about the validity of personality tests, which are only as reliable as the people who take them. And this is not to mention the costs involved, which are substantial – including training for staff to be able to utilise the tests properly, as well as annual license fees (for more popular providers).
Psychometric tests have much to recommend them to the sales profession. But as with all technologies, it is vital to blend insight with instinct, and not to rely on one at the expense of the other.
What is important is not replicating any single type of personality that works in the role, but getting the right blend of personalities across your teams. It’s that blend which is key, between old and young, passion and detail, experience and risk, a tension of different perspectives that makes for a much more agile and engaging team.
If psychometric testing can help you with that, great. But it may not work for everyone. What do you think? Would you consider using psychometric testing methods in your recruitment or training process? Do you already use these tests?