Why You Fail with Your Current Selling Aptitude Test

September 29, 2015


A selling aptitude test is one of the best ways to filter out incompetent sales people and find those who have the potential to be great performers. We have seen companies completely turn around their sales divisions when aptitude tests were employed to screen out incoming candidates rather than use a revolving door “let’s see who sticks” methodology.

We have also seen companies who resist aptitude testing because they’ve “done it already” and the results were unimpressive. When looking into them, we discovered a few reasons why they were not successful. We share them with you here, so you can avoid the same mistakes.

You use a general test, not one specifically designed for selling.

The number one failure in using a selling aptitude test (apart from not using one at all) is choosing the wrong test.

There are cheap generic tests on the market which are not much better than one of those silly “Test Your IQ” or “Who Were You in a Past Life?” quizzes seen on Facebook. The questions are simply not probing enough nor is the analysis of the answers detailed enough to accurately gauge aptitude for selling.

It is best to choose a test made specifically to measure natural ability for sales jobs only, like the CPQ, as this will be the most accurate.

You explain away the results.

The next thing we discovered that people do is explain away the results of a selling aptitude test when they don’t like or disagree with them.

If Joe is our friendly, bright outside sales hunter candidate from a rival firm who looks great on paper and talks a good talk, we may be reluctant to accept test results which suggest Joe would be a bad hire — especially if we were counting on a big bonus for recruiting him off a competitor.

While our gut instinct serves a purpose, the best policy is to trust the test results and take them at face value rather than take a chance hiring a dud — which can be very expensive in sales.

You don’t have a plan.

After you test, what’s next? Gather everyone in a room and say “Based on these test results, Peg, Bob and Lisa are now external sales people, Natasha and Mike are now inside sales, and Doug — well, sorry but you’ve got to go?” That won’t go over very well.

You need a plan to shift people around without causing too much disruption. This means face-to-face talks, meetings with HR, and group powwows. Also, it is often better just to leave someone in their position despite the test results if they are doing well enough and moving them would leave a hole in the lineup or cause too much drama.

To sum up, a selling aptitude test is a must-have sales tool for every sales manager and executive, but it should be sales-specific, its results trusted by your leaders, and be backed by a strategic plan.