Measuring Sales Potential with Personality and Aptitude Tests

Sales is one of the most vital functions of any company as it maintains inward cash flow, without which a business cannot survive for long. That is why it can be not only extremely disappointing but also financially detrimental to hire someone that turns out to be unable to close a sale. Unfortunately, 75% of sales force does not meet the quotas set by their employers. These under-performing sales representatives mean that the companies are losing on their potential profit and they have to look for better salespeople at the same time, which is not an enviable situation to be in.

Hiring the right candidates straight away is, therefore, essential for improving the company’s performance. Traditional recruitment interview is often not sufficient enough to discover the truly talented salespeople with great potential. The hiring managers can only go off two things: resumes and the answers to their questions. Candidates’ CVs are often inflated and even if the candidate has previous sales experience, this does not mean that they are any good at actually closing sales successfully. Moreover, focusing solely on candidates with previous experience in sales might result in missing out on someone with great sales potential that is only starting out. The questions asked during the interview itself are often chosen and interpreted in a very subjective matter with managers’ biases, thus might not be the most reliable method for predicting long-term sales potential. So how can employers reliably identify the candidates with the greatest sales potential? Firstly, it is important to establish what exactly the sales potential is.

What is the candidate’s sales potential, and can it be learned?

There is a saying that a good salesperson can sell ice to an Eskimo. A good salesperson would probably choose a more viable career path than selling ice on the North Pole, but the meaning behind the saying stands – a good salesperson has the traits and the skills to sell anything to anyone, regardless of the field they are in. The right combination of traits and skills is what predisposes certain people to succeed in sales (gives them great sales potential) while prevents others from meeting their potential sales goals.

Certain teachable skills are necessary for every amazing salesperson. These, for instance, include relationship skills, persuasiveness, and confidence. Sales positions require employees to be in direct contact with customers and form professional relationships with them, which means that great communication and listening skills are a must. Naturally, some people have better communication skills than others right from their childhood. It is, however, probably more the result of their upbringing, socioeconomic status, and early childhood experiences, rather than something engraved in their genes and personality. People from more affluent families are usually given better education which results also in better vocabulary or a more polite demeanor which are both important aspects of great communicators. People that lack these skills can, however, learn them later in their life and get to the level necessary for a professional sales pitch.

The same principle applies to persuasiveness and confidence. Both are extremely necessary for sales positions, as salespeople persuade customers that they need what they are selling and when they do so confidently, they usually have better results and more success. Some people are more confident/persuasive than others because of how they were brought up and what they were taught by their surroundings. If a person’s parents were highly supportive of them their whole lives and lead them to believe in themselves, they probably end up being more confident than someone whose parents were never satisfied regardless of how many good grades they received. The fact that someone has not been brought up to be confident, however, does not mean that they never will be. Confidence can also be taught or obtained through success or relationships later in life. Persuasiveness is, to a large extent, related to language and communication skills and the ability to use them in order to convince someone of a message. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, communication can be learned. So can be persuasiveness. If sales potential depended only on these skills, anyone with enough will power and mental capacity to become a great salesperson would be able to do so.

But there are some aspects of the greatest salespeople that can be categorized as non-teachable traits. These are personality traits, like drive, competitiveness, or optimism, that are partially hereditary and relatively stable over the person’s lifespan. Because they are not teachable, finding the sales talent that has these traits is extremely important.

Optimism and drive are vital for any salesperson. “No” is something every salesperson hears daily in the world of sales, so getting discouraged by rejection is unacceptable for anyone striving to be the best. The ones that really are the best take the “no” and turn it into opportunity. They do not take the rejection personally or definitively, but they look at the reason behind the negative answer and try to look for solutions. And if there are none at the moment, they stay in touch with the customer and try to close the sale when the timing is right. However, not everyone is able to smile and be polite and energetic after a whole day of rejection. Some might try to do so, but after a while, it will become exhausting and their personality traits will shine through. Only truly upbeat, optimistic, and driven people can be rejected 10 times a day and still try for the 11th time. Oftentimes, the last try is the one that is successful, but only a small number of people will get there. And those are exactly the people that you want to hire as the sales talent.

Competitiveness is another non-teachable trait that all best salespeople possess. While in other types of interaction between people, cooperation is often the desired and more acceptable behavior, in sales, competitiveness is needed because sales are a “win or go home” world. Either you close the deal or someone else will. However, competitiveness is not just wanting to win. Everyone wants to win. Competitive salespeople actively do everything in their power to get the outcome they want. Of course, even the best salesperson has a bad day and will not be able to close every deal, but you can be sure that they will always try their best and never settle if there is only a slight chance of getting what they want.

Sales potential is, however, not comprised only of teachable skills and non-teachable traits. To be a great salesperson, one must also master sales strategy and sales tactics. Knowing the marketing game plan for the sold products or services, which also includes knowing the consumer market, competition, advantages, or disadvantages of the products, and knowing what exact steps to take to put the sales strategy into action, are aspects of sales just as important as the individual characteristics and skills. The strategy and tactics are often dynamic, analytical, and number-focused, so to understand these, salespeople need a certain level of intelligence, numerical and verbal reasoning, effective problem-solving, and logical thinking. The combination of these abilities can collectively be called sales aptitude and it is an aspect of sales potential as important as previously mentioned skills and traits.

Tools for objectively measuring sales potential

Assessing the sales potential of candidates in the recruitment process before hiring them is vital for securing that the employees will meet their sales goals and bring in the projected revenue for the whole company. Knowing that sales potential is such a complex concept comprised of many different aspects, figuring out this potential reliably and objectively for each candidate might seem like an unattainable goal. Some candidates might seem perfect for the position based on phone or in-person interviews because of their communication skills and persuasiveness, just to later find out that they seriously lack drive or the ability to adapt to and comprehend a new sales strategy. Others might have all the drive and competitiveness a salesperson would need, but do not know how to deal with people in stressful situations and might get the company into unfavorable situations by being rude to customers.

Complex concepts require complex assessments and sales personality and aptitude tests are just that. These types of tests have been developed specifically to address all of the individual characteristics and abilities that are the most important for great sales potential and thus can provide employers with a comprehensive look at how the candidates will perform in sales positions. These assessments have also been scientifically validated directly on people in the sales positions and their results and metrics, which means that employers get reliable and objective measures based on which they can make informed decisions.

The personality part of the assessment focuses on uncovering candidate’s drive, ego, competitiveness, or customer service attitude. It can tell employers how each of the candidates will be able to deal with customers in stressful situations, or whether they will be able to handle rejection by trying to find unconventional solutions or by getting discouraged and negative after hearing “no.” Employers can know whether the candidate will get intimidated by strong-willed customers, whether they are assertive enough for the world of sales, or what kind of reward motivates them to perform the best. Sales personality assessment can also alert employers of any kind of issues that might arise if they decide to hire the candidate. If the candidate does not really possess the desire to meet customer needs and will only try to push their own ideas on someone that clearly states why these ideas will not work for them, the employers and the hiring managers will know this information and can base their decisions with this information in mind.

The aptitude part of the assessment, on the other hand, will tell employers how quickly the candidate will be able to learn and adapt to new situations, and also whether they will be able to make decisions in an efficient and informed manner. The employer will know how fast the candidate can learn sales strategy and tactics, and whether they will be able to deal with unexpected situations logically and with a cool head.

Collectively, sales personality and aptitude assessment will provide employers or the hiring managers with a comprehensive insight into all sales-related aspects of human personality, abilities, and behavior and can help them objectively identify and hire sales force with the greatest potential for sales success long-term. Test Center, for instance, offers sales personality and aptitude tests for various sales positions to provide employers with an extremely specific and reliable assessment of candidates. Part of the results also includes suggested questions and topics for the interview process to ensure that the employers can get a complete picture of all related personality and competency aspects of every candidate.

Why is it important to use sales personality and aptitude tests in recruitment?

We have established that sales personality and aptitude assessment is a great tool to objectively predict the sales potential of candidates, but why exactly is it necessary to include it in the hiring process? There are several reasons why it can be the greatest addition to the recruitment process.

Firstly, it helps increase sales. This is probably the reason why most employers might consider using this kind of assessment. Sales personality and aptitude tests help ensure that only the best salespeople get into your workforce, which means more closed deals and much more success and revenue for the company. Moreover, success and accomplishments can be contagious in a work team, so hiring a few exceptionally talented salespeople can help mobilize your current employees to perform better. Failure is, however, also contagious, so sales personality and aptitude tests will help you make sure not to spread it in your sales team by bringing on someone incompetent.

Such an assessment also speeds up the hiring process. Incorporating personality and aptitude testing before inviting candidates for an in-person interview will help identify only the most suitable ones on which to focus. The hiring managers, thus, do not have to lose time and money on scheduling meetings and interviewing candidates that lack the most important features of successful salespeople. The assessment also provides employers with suggested questions for the interview part, which means that employers can get to the vital information on which to base their hiring decision quickly and with no additional complicated analysis of the candidates needed from their side.

Sales personality and aptitude tests can also help identify sales talent with no previous experience in sales. It is in the nature of people to assess others based on their past experiences, and it often makes sense as with experience comes knowledge. Success in sales, however, lies mostly in the underlying traits and abilities of the salesperson, and someone who has just finished school or decided to change career paths might possess greater sales potential than an average salesperson that has been doing it halfheartedly for 10 years. Personality and aptitude assessment will find people with this raw potential, while a standard interview would probably not uncover this hidden talent.


The quality of salespeople can make or break a business. Salespeople are usually the money makers for companies, so investing in finding the right sales talent can pay off and bring the highest return on investment possible. The predisposition to be successful in sales, or the sales potential, is a broad term containing a wide variety of personality traits, skills, abilities, and other individual characteristics that are needed to perform well in sales. Some of these can be learned through hard work and experience, but others cannot. Some people have drive and competitiveness while others do not have these characteristics, and the task of the hiring managers is to identify the people that possess all of the needed aspects of sales potential. Taking into account that less than 20% of people have the core aptitude to succeed in sales, finding the right candidates is not an easy job. Moreover, this potential cannot just be seen from the outside or asked about during the hiring interview, making this task even more difficult.

Fortunately, sales personality and aptitude assessment tests have been developed just for this purpose. They can help employers identify candidates with the greatest potential for long-term success in sales. It is not necessary to only look for candidates that tick all the boxes when it comes to sales potential, but it is important to focus on those who possess all the necessary non-teachable traits (e.g. competitiveness and optimism). Teachable skills, like persuasiveness, can be further developed with focused training, but the drive cannot be taught even in the best training plans. Such tests can, therefore, also be used for current sales employees to help identify their biggest weaknesses and areas needing growth (within the teachable skills aspect of sales potential). Incorporating personality and aptitude assessment into the hiring process (and development) of sales force has many advantages while not posing any additional risk for companies. It can be the best decision bringing in revenue, success, and the best new sales talent.

Last Updated on October 14, 2020