Sales skill assessments are an essential part of the hiring and recruitment process at sales organizations. But if you’re a sales manager or a hiring manager who has been tasked with creating an assessment, you might not know how or where to begin.
If you create an easy assessment, you might risk hiring people who are a poor fit for the role. But if you make it too difficult, you might miss candidates who have high potential of becoming top salespeople in your team.
Below, I’ll break down what your sales talent assessment should look like for candidates at each stage of the interview process. Let’s get started.
What is a sales skill assessment?
A sales skill assessment, also called a sales talent assessment, is a test that demonstrates how well a sales job candidate can complete the tasks required of them in the role. Candidates might be asked to role-play a client phone call, submit a writing sample, conduct client research, and more.
Sales skill assessments should be a part of your hiring process. You’ll be able to disqualify candidates who are a poor fit and find exceptional additions to your team.
You wouldn’t hire an engineer without seeing their code, right? So why would you hire a salesperson without seeing them sell? Even if candidates don’t have formal sales experience, you can give them sales skill assessment tests to evaluate a candidate’s current skill set and true potential.
(Are you a candidate interviewing for a sales position? Check out tips for passing your sales assessment test.)
An effective sales skill assessment ensures candidates haven’t exaggerated their skill level and demonstrates how well they think on their feet. The right test can signal the potential of a candidate to succeed in a sales role, even if they have limited experience.
Sales Talent Assessment Tools
As a sales or hiring manager, you have a few tools at your disposal to assess sales candidates for acumen and agility. You can use sales scorecards, formal tests, and take-home assessments to help you find top talent.
Here are the tools you can use during the interview process.
The simplest way to begin testing for sales ability is by using a sales scorecard at every stage of the interview process. Downloadable in an editable Google Docs format, this free scorecard from HubSpot can be customized for any sales role at any seniority level. You can change and even remove list items as you see fit, then print it out for filling by hand.
This scorecard is ideal for testing general aspects of the candidate, such as their level of adaptability and tenacity. After, you’ll be able to expand on your assessment by listing out the strengths and gaps in the interview in a bullet-point-friendly questionnaire.
The Caliper Profile is a sales assessment that allows you to test different skill sets depending on the role you’re hiring for, such as a consultative sales executive or a technical sales representative. Delivered either online or in person, this test can be used as a take-home assessment or a proctored assignment. You can deliver it during the interview process and wait for the candidate to finish it right then and there.
This assessment evaluates 280 behaviors, 56 competencies, and 21 behavioral traits, ensuring that you miss nothing about your candidates. However, this thoroughness comes at a premium cost, and you’d have to inquire with Caliper to find out the exact fee per candidate. For that reason, we recommend using it in the middle or final rounds, when your candidate pool has whittled down to fewer than ten people.
If you’re looking for a free sales talent assessment that candidates can complete at home, look no further than the free SalesDNA assessment by MTD Training Specialists. While not as comprehensive as the Caliper Profile, this test looks at 64 key sales skills, which will effectively give you an understanding of how likely candidates are to succeed in the role.
Because of its high level of specificity, it’s ideal for intermediate-to-advanced sales candidates with at least 1-2 years of experience in sales. The questions right away assess a candidate’s ability to identify buying signals and handle objections, which is not a good fit for recent graduates or new entrants to the field.
Once your candidate has completed the questionnaire, the results will be sent to their email, at which point they can then forward them to you. Just make sure to instruct them to check the box that reads “I give you permission to email my personalised report” on the initial screen.
The DriveTest is a sales talent assessment that includes 42 questions and takes no more than a half-hour to complete. For that reason, it’s ideal for delivering to candidates during the interview process and receiving their responses right then. However, if you’d like to give it as a take-home test, you can easily do so using SalesDrive’s portal.
The assessment gives you an overview of a candidate’s level of drive, which is broken down into three categories: Need for achievement, competitiveness, and optimism. It also tells you whether the candidate is more of a “hunter” or a “farmer”. This is critical for understanding the candidate’s chances of being successful in your specific sales culture.
The SalesGenomix skill assessment allows you to test candidates for 14 potential sales roles, including inbound sales, outbound sales, indirect sales, account management, territory sales, and even customer service. This makes it one of the most versatile skill assessments on this list.
You can order a test at $249 per candidate using the company‘s self-service portal, making it ideal for small businesses whose hiring processes don’t require a large, enterprise partnership with a sales test issuing authority. However, if you are an enterprise firm, you can partner with SalesGenomix to consistently issue these assessments to your talent pool.
In the results report, SalesGenomix gives you a recommendation for hiring and a score for specific success factors in sales. You can then read a more comprehensive evaluation of each of these factors.
Now that you have a few tests you can use to assess your sales talent, how do you carry out the sales skill assessment cycle? Because it’s not just delivering the test.
Here are the steps you should take in your next hiring process.
Sales Skill Assessment Template
The following sales talent assessment template begins with the emailing phase of the recruitment process up until a field day at your company. At every stage, you’ll be measuring up the potential of a candidate, even without necessarily giving them an assessment to complete.
1. Initial Written Communication Assessment
Most sales representatives use email for the majority of their communication. So, one of the first things you should test is a candidate’s ability to write clear, concise messages. Starting with initial outreach, be aware of their communication style and possible red flags.
Exercise: Examine the way your candidate responds to written communication without explicitly saying you’re examining them.
What to Look For: A candidate is likely emailing you the same way they’d write to a prospect, so evaluate their skills from the viewpoint of a potential customer. Look for prompt, courteous responses and a tone that strikes the right balance between formal and friendly.
Red Flags: Delayed replies, grammatical errors, or overly casual tones signals a candidate who doesn’t understand how critical it is to make a great impression over email.
2. Initial Verbal Communication Skill Assessment
While most communication happens via email, deals are ultimately closed on the phone. For sales reps to be successful, they’ll need to be comfortable and confident during phone calls.
Exercise: Treat your initial phone screen as if the candidate is giving you a demo of themselves. Ask a few tough questions, and you might even throw in a few objections to see how they respond.
What to Look For: Confidence is key in any sales role. Look for a firm tone of voice, ability to endure silence without awkwardness, and keen listening skills.
Red Flags: If a candidate has a difficult time aligning their experience to the job requirements during the phone screen, imagine how tough it will be to sell a product they know little about. If they sound hesitant and shaky, take it as a sign that they may not do well speaking to strangers on the phone.
3. Take-Home or In-Person Assessment
Once you’ve moved a candidate to the middle stages of your interview process, evaluate the specific skills needed for the role.
Depending on the role, it might make sense to start with an exercise they can do at home. For example, if you’re hiring a business development representative who will spend most of their time prospecting and emailing, give them a written exercise to show their potential.
Here’s an example of an exercise you can give a potential BDR:
“You work at a B2B IT retailer who is launching their newest addition to their catalog: EnterpriseLaptop Pro with 128 GB of RAM and 3 TB of storage. Develop an idea client profile for the product, create a list of five companies that fit the ICP, find a stakeholder at a prospect company to reach out to, and write a prospecting email to that stakeholder.”
Exercise: You can either create a custom question, as exemplified by the BDR test above, or you can use a premade assessment like SalesGenomix or the Caliper Test.
What to Look For: If you’ve written a custom question, look for attention to detail and comprehension. If you’ve delivered a premade test, look for a score that signals a high aptitude for sales.
Red Flags: Missing items or incomplete responses shows that the candidate isn’t especially driven to finish something they start. This is the deathbed of any sales deal in the works.
4. Role Play
For reps who will spend a lot of time on the phone — especially reps in a closing position — include role play in the interview process. A rapid succession of tough (or unique) objections demonstrate how the candidate will handle edge cases.
Exercise: A successful role play role exercise incorporates the following tips:
- Role-play in a comfortable setting, potentially over the phone, or in a conference room.
- Give the candidate a scenario and agenda to review beforehand.
- Act like a typical prospect and offer reasonable objections.
- Pause in the middle, provide feedback, and run the exercise again to see if they incorporated the feedback.
What to Look For: First, watch how the candidate composes themselves under pressure. When the role play is over, ask the candidate how it went before providing feedback. This shows how self-aware they’re likely to be with prospects — and with you as their manager. In addition, look for indicators of how coachable they are, and how quickly you’ll be able to train them on your productand sales process.
Red Flags: Keep in mind no candidate will be perfect, and that this role play scenario is about showing openness to learning — not about responding flawlessly each time. If candidates seem resistant to feedback or like they’re set in their sales techniques without potential for growth, then it’s wise to move on.
5. Mock Pitch
A mock pitch can be a fun activity to do with candidates you’re interviewing for a closing role. Experienced sales reps should enjoy the challenge of presenting in front of the hiring team.
To make things fair, ask them to pitch something other than your product. The subject of their pitch could be imaginary or a well-known brand. And, make sure to schedule it in advance so your candidate has a few days to review the product and the prospect (i.e., you and your team).
Exercise: Test a candidate’s presentation and closing ability by having them present a mock pitch to a team of stakeholders in your office. Use a made-up product to remain as impartial as possible.
What to Look For: The mock pitch should demonstrate the candidates’ in-person presentation skills, their ability to present in a room full of people, and how passionate they are about joining your company, since this exercise will take time to prepare for.
Red Flags: An unenthusiastic, poorly researched mock pitch is a sure sign that the candidate is a poor fit for a sales role or is not enthusiastic at working for your company.
6. Field Day
During the very final stage of the interview process, ask candidates to spend a few hours shadowing one of your reps. This doubles as an opportunity to judge culture fit as well. Having a “day in the field” gives your team a chance to meet the candidate and get a feel for how they’d contribute to the team.
Exercise: Invite your most desired candidates for a day at the office. Create controlled environments for them to speak to real prospects, giving you a window into their estimated ramp time.
What to Look For: A sense of camaraderie with your team and a willingness to participate shows that the candidate is engaging with your business at a deeper level.
Red Flags: Poor culture-fit and shyness around prospects may be a sign that your candidate is not comfortable in the common situations their new sales role will put them in.
Keep in mind that not all candidates will agree to this, as some might be currently employed or uncomfortable being thrown into a prospect conversation, so this type of interview should be reserved for the most competitive candidates.
It’s Time to Assess Your Sales Talent Pool
As you structure your interviews, remember that competition for top sales talent is fierce. It’s important to balance interview diligence with moving candidates through the process efficiently. Use these skill assessment exercises, and you’re sure to streamline your hiring process and attract top talent.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.