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We all sell something – products, services or our skills. But is the audience of our offerings the same? No. Is the process of selling similar? Not really!
Selling requires specific skills, some universal, some highly specific to the context of the offering. So, when we talk about hiring salespeople or assessing them through a sales skills test, we first need to take a step back and understand an organization’s unique sales context. This understanding will form the bedrock of who should be assessed, what should be assessed and how he/she should be evaluated.
I talked about creating a solid sales hiring strategy in my previous blog, taking you through a step-by-step process. In this blog, I will focus on the most important aspect of sales hiring – sales assessments. Sales assessments are used to screen sales candidates and enable your organization to hire the right person best suited to your organization.
Sales assessments are used to assess the sales competencies of candidates. Sales assessment tests are a combination of aptitude, domain and personality tests that determine whether a candidate possesses qualities to succeed in a sales role. Sales candidate assessments are used in the hiring process to screen and shortlist candidates. Some sales assessment tools that organizations commonly use include roleplays, situation judgment tests, case studies, etc.
Sales hiring assessments measure the aptitude, attitude, behavior, values and skills to help your organization hire the best sales talent.
Sales assessments are the ‘you have to see it to believe it’ of the sales screening process. They help organizations:
Your sales team is the backbone of your organization and a significant contributor to its growth and revenue. Your sales team should be aligned with your organizational goals and values; sales assessments can help you gauge candidates on essential competencies such as drive, resilience, motivation, etc.Pre-employment sales assessment tests help organizations to objectively screen and compare candidates to make better hiring decisions.
Sales ability assessments can help you build a high-performing sales team, leading to sustainable growth and higher sales.
A wrong hire affects the team’s culture and impacts your bottom line and your relationships with clients.
Sales assessment tests help dig deeper to find relevant insights about a candidate, enabling an interviewer to ask more effective questions.
Resumes and interviews can be misleading. The sales assessment test acts as a fact-checker for everything that a resume mentions and a foundation for building a series of effective interview techniques.
Now that you’ve created a sales competency framework, you can map sales competency assessments to hire the right salespeople for the sales context of your organization.
Sales competencies are an ideal combination of skills and competencies an individual needs to excel in a sales role. Sales competencies may refer to personality attributes, interpersonal skills and cognitive skills, depending on an organization’s requirements. Sales competencies can be defined as a combination of basic sales aptitude and your organization’s specific sales context. Together, they help create a sales competency framework that works for your organization.
Sales aptitude refers to the basic or core skills needed to succeed in a sales role. These are broadly generic and not contextual to your organization. For example, rudimentary communication skills or numeracy skills, without which it is challenging to make any sales. Sales aptitude has evolved over time. A basic level of computer knowledge and other such skills are now considered part of sales aptitude.
The sales context of an organization lays down the more specific requirements of a sales role – what is the product or service that needs to be sold? To whom is the salesperson selling? Is the sale happening in person, via a call, or through a digital medium? Are you selling to repeat buyers or first-time buyers?
Understanding the sales context helps shortlist competencies that help design a sales assessment that holistically assesses sales candidates on all fronts.
What your organization sells tells you the complexity of your offering. This, in turn, determines the level of product knowledge that your salespeople need to possess and who the end-user of your products or services would be.
An FMCG product doesn’t need high-order thinking; it already has an established need. Selling a textile or jewelry might need some persuasion skills. Selling an automobile needs you to connect with the customer, understand his/her precise requirement, and suggest a model that ticks all the boxes. Selling an IT solution to an organization requires the salesperson to have extensive domain knowledge.
This is how the complexity of your offering feeds into the sales competency framework of your organization.
A customer walks into a store and buys what he/she came to buy, or the salesperson gave a better product, and he/she bought the product. This encounter is quite transactional; the customer didn’t have to consult anyone to make a decision. The salesperson doesn’t need to build a long-term relationship with a customer to make the sale. Basic sales aptitude and a pleasant personality were enough to make the sale.
However, think about taking a loan. It is a multi-stage process; the salesperson needs to be more tactical because he/she will have to deal with the customer more than once. It is important for the salesperson to patiently and proactively answer all the customer’s questions and help with documentation.
Now imagine that your organization is selling CRM software to another organization. Your sales representative makes the first level contact- it is a cumulative process. Your organization’s sales team is asked to present its product to a team of decision-makers. The process requires the salesperson to have very high knowledge of the product and the industry. Once your sales executives have convinced the first group of decision-makers, the proposal goes through another round of decision-makers who need to be convinced on price, process, USP, turnaround time, support, etc. This consultative sales process is long-drawn and needs networking and relationship-building skills at every level.
Sales interactions can vary with the buyer persona, and so can the competencies required by your salespeople to succeed in their roles. A buyer’s persona can be defined by their purchasing power, educational background, and socioeconomic status, amongst other factors.
Buyer persona directly impacts the level of service, product knowledge and customer experience expected from the salesperson.
Every organization defines success differently. Thus sales competencies are the sum of universal aptitude skills along with unique personality and behavioral skills that define an ideal salesperson for your organization. The sales context points to those very specific skills that align a sales candidate to your organization’s culture, mission, vision, and goals. Sales competencies are defined keeping in mind the job role, the job level, the nature of the product or service, the target audience, etc.
While sales competencies are specific to your organization, we’ve discovered an exhaustive list of top sales competencies that contribute to the success factor in a sales role, according to Demystifying Sales Hiring, a collaborative study by Mercer | Mettl and SHRM:
Ensuring that you have a list of sales competencies before starting the sales hiring process is an indispensable part of putting your organization up for success.
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, it is time to see the kind of sales competency assessments available in the market and how to choose the best one for your organization.
I’m sure you’ve experienced that a person you thought was a promising candidate wasn’t able to perform up to the expectations during the interview.
An underperforming sales team can be deeply detrimental to the growth of your organization. So, here are some sales assessment tools that you can add to your sales screening process:
Sales aptitude tests gauge the core sales skills of a role. The level of skills required might differ from business to business, but the broad categories stay the same. Numerical ability, product and market understanding, verbal reasoning, analytical skills, problem-solving, and decision-making are some skills that a sales aptitude test measures.
Critical competencies that are measured through Mercer | Mettl’s sales aptitude test:
The sales context of your organization helps establish whether your salespeople need a higher level of computer knowledge, basic analytical skills, advanced communication skills, high-order problem-solving skills, etc.
Whether your organization is selling shoes, houses, or IT solutions, every sales job requires certain personality attributes and behaviors to succeed. Sales personality tests gauge a candidate’s attitude, how they work with stakeholders, how they cope up with stressful situations, their decision-making process, their creative process, how they adapt to change, etc.
While there are many personality tests available in the market, like MBTI, disc sales assessment, and others, sales personality tests that use the Big Five Model of Personality have proven to be the most credible in predicting candidate performance.
Personality and behavior can be gauged through written sales candidate assessments. However, many organizations use interactive sales assessment tools in the sales screening process:
I have found role plays led by colleagues to be a great way to see how the candidate responds to clients and interacts with them. This along with a case study can be very effective to allow the candidate to demonstrate their relationship building skills. Another key is to have the candidate talk to you over the phone since most relationships start on the phone, you can then assess their communication skills.”
– Mary Sullivan,
Co-founder, Sweet but Fearless.
Combining aptitude and personality assessments, sales psychometric tests are designed to weed out candidates early in the process so that your organization only interviews salespeople with potential. The results from the sales skills tests can assist you in framing the right interview questions to better understand your sales candidates.
When looking for a sales assessment tool, pick the one that aligns with your company’s sales context. A sales assessment test should be modeled after the sales context of your organization. The sales context of your organization underlines the competencies that are critical to your organization’s sales success. Sales competency assessments can gauge the desired competencies and skills in your candidates.
When choosing a sales assessment for your organization, here are some things to keep in mind:
Choose a sales assessment that aligns with your company’s needs and requirements. If you have a sales competency framework, find a sales competency assessment that ticks all the boxes. If not, don’t hesitate to reach out to an organization that can help you first create a forward-looking sales competency framework and then customize sales tests based on that.
Have an upfront, watertight sales hiring strategy to help you align assessments and interviews to it. A combination of the right sales assessment tools and interview techniques can guarantee long-term success.
Sales assessments, like all assessments, should be valid and reliable. They significantly contribute to the decision-making process of who to hire and thus need to be objective and standardized according to accepted assessment criteria.
Whether you hire a candidate or not, you would want every stakeholder to have a good experience when associating with your organization. Pick sales assessments that are easy-to-use, simple to understand, easy to administer, and engaging for all parties involved.
One of the USPs of online sales candidate assessments is their instant results. Choose a sales assessment partner that has a team of subject matter experts to help your organization navigate the process. Ensure that the sales assessment tools you choose can show or hide the necessary information that will help you make the right sales hiring decisions.
Mercer | Mettl’s sales assessment tests and tools are a combination of the expertise and execution that help your organization build a winning sales team. Mercer Mettl’s subject matter experts help your organization identify the critical behavioral and cognitive competencies for your unique organizational requirements. Mercer Mettl’s library of sales assessment tools makes it possible to evaluate a salesperson’s true potential for any job level or role. Mercer Mettl addresses your organization’s critical priorities with data-backed insights, helping you save time and make better business decisions.
Mercer | Mettl’s sales skills assessment tests are designed keeping your organization’s sales context in mind. It can help you screen candidates of varying profiles, such as:
Mettl’s sales manager assessments help you screen and select the right sales manager who focuses on the actions and skills, significantly making a difference in your organization’s sales success. The test helps you assess candidates on five core competencies: self-management, managing the sales process, managing the customer relationship, business acumen and managerial skills.
Mettl Channel Sales Executive Assessment is specially crafted to identify the behavioral and cognitive capabilities that match the skills needed for this role. Dealing with channel partners from time to time, presenting and positioning the product and enabling them to sell the same in an effective manner would require a blend of the right personality traits and aptitude skills that can aid in carrying out successful sales through such indirect modes.
Psychometric tests for inside sales executives involve situational judgment assessment, aptitude test, and personality profiling that offer valuable insights into the job aspirant’s skills, knowledge, and behavioral traits.
Retail sales assessments are good predictors of character and performance, suggesting how sales-centric and productive a candidate will be on the job. A retail/in-store sales specialist has a healthy blend of personality traits and the right aptitude skills to deal with the high level of complexity required for the role. Essential skills such as operational excellence, customer-focused approach, business acumen are must-haves for retail sales professionals.
The role of a field salesperson is a highly client-facing one, involving frequent traveling rounds to hold meetings with potential and long-term customers. This would require managing accounts, handling customer relationships as well as maintaining a confident image as an accountable and approachable representative of the organization and its products and services.
Mercer Mettl’s sales hiring tests and tools can be used in the form of an interactive assessment center to scale your sales screening process.
One of our FMCG clients – Modern Foods – was unable to meet its sales target. They needed an efficient, accurate, and scalable sales screening strategy to hire the right salespeople to meet its growing business needs.
Mercer | Mettl accurately analyzed the competencies needed by Modern Foods for its employees and created a one-of-its-kind sales profiler, carefully mapped to each competency specific and critical to the role. Mercer | Mettl’s VADC toolkit helped Modern Foods simulate real sales situations to identify high-performing and high-potential sales candidates for their team.
This battery of sales hiring assessments evaluated candidates broadly on:
Here’s what Sonal Kapur Sinha, CHRO, of Modern Foods, has to say about Mercer | Mettl’s sales assessment tools:
You can test a salesperson using a combination of sales ability test and sales personality test. Sales ability test, or sales aptitude test, measures the core skills needed by a candidate to succeed in a sales role. Sales personality test measures the specific competencies that make a candidate an ideal candidate for your sales profile or organizational context.Every sales role has different competencies and requirements. Mercer Mettl’s battery of sales assessments are designed to help you assess candidates according to your needs, roles, and levels, whether it is to assess sales managers, field salesperson, retail salesperson, b2c and b2b salespeople (entry-level and experienced), or specific competencies like customer centricity: Area/territory sales manager,Channel sales manager,Inside salesperson,In-store salesperson (B2C sales),Field salesperson,B2B Experience,B2C Experienced,B2B Entry-level,B2C Entry-level,Customer-orientation skills.
A sales aptitude test is a screening tool used in the sales hiring process to assess the skills needed by a salesperson to succeed at their job -for example, numerical ability, communication or verbal aptitude, analytical skills, problem-solving, decision-making, etc.
Here is a list of the top 25 good sales skills and competencies to look for in your salespeople:Accountability,Networking,Numerical ability,Strategic thinking,Proactiveness,Coaching & mentoring,Resilience,Planning & organizing,Understanding customer needs,Leveraging technology,Self-confidence,Self-awareness,Problem-solving,Learning agility,Decision-making,Drive for results,Collaboration,Active listening,Establish trust,Oral & written communication,Negotiation,Effective presentation,Product & market understanding,Empathy,Customer-centricity.
A sales competency framework is a combination of the right kind of personality attributes, work orientation, interpersonal skills, sales knowledge and aptitude, and eventually leadership skills required by a salesperson to grow in the sales team in your organization. A sales competency framework is the blueprint on which your sales team is built and developed. Each organization has a unique competency framework based on its unique sales context and requirements.
Originally published June 14 2021, Updated June 15 2021
Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.
Sales hiring is a talent acquisition process through which organizations build winning sales teams. Using standardized sales assessments, situational tests and role-plays can elevate your sales hiring and help you hire the best sales talent.