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Why Your Sales Hires Should Be Assessed Like Elite Athletes

November 22, 2019


Why do some athletes with superior physical tools fail? Sometimes it’s injuries, but often it’s because of attitude and personality. Andrew McCutchen of the Philadelphia Phillies and Usain Bolt, world champion sprinter, are examples of supreme talents with great work ethics and drives to succeed. Boy, it would be wonderful if a major league or Olympic team could just have some indication early in their career whether an athlete has these traits and attributes...oh, wait – they do!

There are specific tools created by psychologists designed to measure the extent to which individuals possess the desirable mental characteristics of elite athletes. Professional athletic teams who value talent and performance above all else use them extensively. Such tools are used with elite level Olympic-style athletes and professional sports teams.

Still skeptical? Let's take baseball, for example. The shortstop for your favorite team likely took a behavioral assessment to help his team evaluate his potential and understand how to develop him. That’s right, in addition to measuring speed, strength, batting average, etc., major league teams use very specific behavioral assessments to understand player-prospects. Just as PSI always recommends the right assessment for the right situation and the right role. We would not, for instance, recommend using the Meyers-Briggs, Disc, or Predictive Index (all fine tools when used for the right purpose) to choose a sales leader, and baseball teams would get nothing from general personality tests like these. 

Often the difference is about what we call intangibles in sports, and what we call behavioral competencies in the talent world. Baseball teams realize that all the physical tools in the world don’t guarantee success...behavioral skills play a huge role. Does the player have the necessary drive? How will he respond to pressure? To coaching? What about work ethic? Discipline? These are organizations where the ability to identify and develop talent determines success or failure. Accordingly, they don’t leave this to chance. They use – surprise – valid and specific behavioral assessments.

Similarly, we can use sales-specific and role-specific assessments to understand which behavioral traits will predict success for salespeople, which is critical to driving a sales transformation at your organization. I still find it interesting when sales recruiters and talent professionals question the value or predictive nature of well-designed behavioral assessments. Clinical psychologists use assessments to understand and treat patients. The military has used behavioral assessments for decades and law enforcement uses psychological profiling.

Psychology is a science and patterns of behavior are real. Expert psychologists can predict behavior based on assessments. We have reams of studies showing, for instance, that PSI's tools improve the odds of selecting candidates with the attributes you desire. Need to convince someone in your organization? Point to his or her favorite center fielder or shortstop and tell them that the team didn’t leave that player’s behavior to chance – they used a sport-specific behavioral assessment!

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.