Personality Assessments for Sales - The Definitive Case Study

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:01 AM

Nearly two years ago, we began development of an exciting new way to evaluate Executive Management Teams.  We brainstormed, conducted surveys, performed research and identified 16 qualities which CEO's wanted their Executive Managers to possess, along with 9 Styles crucial to a Management Team's ability to grow their companies.  These Qualities and Styles are not presented in any other assessment on the market today.

Over a period of eighteen months, a team of PHD's, whose primary expertise is in testing, worked with us to map the formulas, measures and research of a very well-researched, personality instrument (the basis for many familiar personality tests) to our new Management Assessment.  When we were ready to have a small test group take the assessment, the results of round one were not impressive.  The scores were very inconsistent with the findings which we wanted to present.  I was extremely disappointed with our progress.

The project was escalated to two PHD's with even more expertise.  After six more months of understanding the findings which we wanted to provide and the formulas which they had in their "vault", the second round of testing yielded results which were no closer than in the first round.  We were failing to get accurate results, running out of patience and running out of time.

I've had many occasions to speak and write about how personality tests, behavioral-styles tests and psychometric tests (which are all very similar) differ from Objective Management Group's Sales Force Evaluations and Assessments.  As a matter of fact, you can read four such articles right here:

I always have said that personality tests, although they contain several elements which are important for sales, weren't built to predict sales success and, even when modified, can't go wide enough or deep enough to predict likely challenges or diagnose why salespeople get the results they get.  As a result, they cannot be used as development tools and they're very risky and inconsistent as hiring tools.

So, how did we come to go down this path where we were going to use a personality assessment as the instrument behind our new Management Assessment?  After all, weren't we being hypocritical?

We were convinced by a PHD/testing expert that the research existed to map to our findings.

Well, the research does exist, except their findings aren't the same as what we wanted to provide.  As with a sales assessment, they're identifying findings which they can measure (like emotional steadiness) and saying that they can provide a score for that.  Well, they can, except like nearly all findings from personality tests, the findings were out of context.  The questions have nothing to do with selling or managing, and someone, who might control their emotions quite well socially, might not be equally effective in a sales or business setting.  This example holds true over nearly every finding and the questions which they target to drive those findings.  And so, the findings which show up in most personality assessments are not necessarily what you need to know.  They are simply what these assessments are capable of measuring!

So back to the story.

We realized that we had gotten away from one of our core competencies - our ability to identify the right questions to uncover the data which would provide accurate, predictive, job-specific findings.  So, we wrote the questions, resumed the beta and went about the engineering required to complete the development of this very powerful, very different assessment.  As I reviewed the descriptors (the specific traits which we would "measure" to reveal our findings), I realized that over the last several months, the PHD's at the personality testing company had gradually and subtly modified the descriptors enough so that we too would report what they were capable of measuring, rather than what we wanted to measure.

Believe it or not, our in-house team was able to accomplish in about one week of intensive work, what the team of PHD's couldn't complete in the last year and a half!  Test answers in our third round appeared to be coming in exactly where they should have been and all questions were accurately driving the desired findings.  Exciting stuff!

So now, when I explain why a personality assessment (which wasn't built for sales), isn't predictive or sales-specific enough (even when modified for sales), I can now say that we have an eighteen-month research project which details, demonstrates and proves, once and for all, that a personality assessment doesn't measure much more than the various dimensions of personality or predict much more than some basic human behaviors.  They just don't measure the concrete, job-specific skills, competencies, capabilities and behaviors which we really need to understand about a salesperson's, sales manager's or Executive Manager's abilities.

Final Word - stay tuned for the March launch of what will be the most useful assessment to date for your Executive Management Team.  I think you'll love it as much as I do.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


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Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales evaluation, Management Assessment, dave kurlan sales force profile, personality test, personality assessment

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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