Can Personality Tests Lead to Stronger Sales?

Tests evaluate your salespeople's strengths and weaknesses.

December 1, 2001

As new business models challenge the real estate industry, one of the questions yet to be answered by corporate leaders is how personnel can best be utilized. Can they be more productive? Can salaried employees make it as contract laborers and vice versa? Should certain salespeople be trained as e-salespeople, and if so, which ones? A tool as simple and complex as a personality test could answer these questions and many more, resulting in larger sales for your business.

When Janet Thuringer, vice president of marketing and sales, joined the executive staff of Sivage Thomas Homes of Arizona in July 2000, the sales force was selling 18 to 32 homes per month. By the following spring, that number had jumped to 95 homes per month. What made such a difference? The company had not increased its sales force, nor salaries or incentives. Only one thing had changed, according to Thuringer. The company began utilizing a personality survey called the Predictive Index to evaluate the work styles of its sales representatives--information that Thuringer says enabled her to better manage and place people into positions that fostered sales success.

"By using the Predictive Index I came to understand my salespeople better. I understand where they are strong and where their challenges lie, and I'm better able to direct them into areas where they capitalize on their personality strengths and capabilities," said Thuringer.

Based on a behavioral science called "cluster theory,” the Predictive Index started in 1955. The theory is based on the assumption people who share similar traits tend to check off similar clusters of words. Here’s how it works. Management gives a personality survey to potential or existing employees to ascertain their suitability for certain kinds of jobs. Applicants take a two-page survey composed of lists of words with a checkmark space by each one. One page says to describe the way others see you and the other page says to describe yourself, checking off the words you believe apply. Each page has identical words.

If you were to check off that others expect you to be "convincing," "compelling," and "responsive," but you didn't apply those same characteristics when rating yourself, it could signal that you'd be happier in something other than sales. That's where a skilled interpretation of the results comes in. The test’s unique feature is reconciling the natural self with the self we show in a business environment. The closer they resemble each other, the more likely it is that the person is in the right job.

The words themselves don't matter, it's all in the clusters, says Dinah Daniels, president of Praendex, Inc. "There are three graphs of profiles that we look at: the self, self-concept and synthesis," explains Daniels. "Self is your natural behavior. Self-concept is your adjustments and adaptations to an environment. Are you changing, and what is motivating you? The motivation can be different than what is natural. It can be what you are hearing from your senior management. Synthesis is the person I am meeting."

Thuringer's challenge lay in keeping her company competitive in a market where several large home building companies capture a full range of buyers. Some of them average 2000 home sales per year. To stay viable and competitive, Sivage Thomas Homes had to capture its share of both the first-time homebuyer market and the upper end luxury market.

Each of these markets attracts a very different buyer who has different levels of experience, needs and expectations. The company's hiring process, however, was not accounting for this distinction, and the company found that it lost sales by not identifying the right salespeople to work with each subset of buyers.

"It was determined that the strongest hire for entry-level community sales is a person who derives satisfaction from helping people and possesses natural people skills of empathy and understanding," explains Thuringer. "These are the people who are going to be better at hand-holding the first-time buyer.

"Conversely, a sales representative for the higher-end luxury home market would need to relish a high level of process and detail and be able to handle an informed buyer who is a more pro-active decision-maker." The result for Sivage Homes has been higher sales, as well as employee retention, says Thuringer.

"Take the raw talent and what you pay to train people, and unless you know what the raw talent is, you don't have a clue to utilize it," says Daniels. "If you can't keep them happy, they won't stay with you. But if you can look at the people you have and motivate their own natural talent, that is what the
Predictive Index does."

(c) Copyright 2001 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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