Better Personality Assessments, Better Sales

Sales teams are absolutely critical to any business, but they also tend to be high-pressure environments. When things aren’t going well, not only will team morale drop and attrition increase, there will naturally be a direct hit on your revenue. Get things right, however, and there are few departments that will show as tangible a return on your bottom line.

Getting the right people into the right sales roles is critical to this.

At Saville Assessment, we are experts in using personality to predict workplace performance and potential. We have a track record in helping organisations better understand their sales talent and reaping the rewards of hiring and building more effective sales teams.

In this article, we will look at the importance of personality in sales positions and why you should ensure you are using the right tool to robustly assess it.

Why Does Personality Matter?

If we think of personality as a set of traits that are somewhat innate to us and stable over time, it stands to reason that these traits and intrinsic behaviours will have an influence on the way an individual works, as well as the type of roles that they enjoy doing.

These traits are likely to push an individual towards workplace activities and parts of the role they enjoy – and/or are suited to them – as well as making them shy away from the aspects that maybe don’t suit them as much. A simplistic example may be that your classic extrovert is likely to enjoy meetings and coffee catch-ups, but is less likely to enjoy solitary tasks such as end-of-month reporting or number-crunching spreadsheets. On the flipside, an introvert may enjoy getting stuck into these solitary activities but dread having to present in front of groups of people.

Another example may be a newly-promoted Sales Manager who leads by example in terms of sales and relishes motivating a target-driven team, but has to make a concerted effort to handle the more supportive side of the role and find the time to coach and develop the individuals within it.     

In essence, we all have our own unique style that stems from our personality and by understanding it better, we can focus on the areas that need prioritising and developing in order to do our job more effectively, targeting our next career goal.

25-30% annual turnover in sales pie chart

According to the Harvard Business Review, the average annual turnover in sales is 25-30%. That’s the equivalent of the entire sales team being hired and trained every four years! This can be incredibly costly, as well as time-consuming, for HR teams.

When there is stronger alignment between an individual’s personality traits and the key competencies of the role, not only will they perform better, they will also be happier and more motivated, which can help with job satisfaction and retention.

In summary, personality is what makes individuals unique and gives them their own selling style. By analysing it in a workplace context, you can both hire better sales people and help your current salesforce close any performance gaps, thereby setting your teams up better for success, driving your bottom line.

What Makes a Good Personality Assessment?

There are many personality questionnaires on the market, the majority of which are what are known as ‘self-report’, i.e. an individual answers questions about themselves and, from this, inferences about their personality are made. But how can you be certain that these inferences are correct? How can you be sure that these inferences are relevant to your hiring or development processes?

The key to considering any personality assessment is validity – i.e. do the results reflect reality? How accurately do they predict future sales performance? If, for example, an individual’s profile is demonstrating high potential for ‘communicating information,’ would this be evident when they enter the workplace? Would colleagues observe this individual to be a good communicator?

When designing our Wave® suite of personality assessments, we ensured validity from inception. We devised thousands of possible question items and tested them against external ratings of the relevant criteria (e.g. how well someone communicates) as well as overall performance and potential to whittle them down to the final set of question items that exist in the questionnaire today.

This has resulted in our Wave suite personality questionnaire being considered the most valid on the market, having received the highest ever rating – 27 out a possible 30 stars – in an independent review by the British Psychological Society.

BPS 27 out of 30 stars graphic

The report outputs are also key. You may see some reports out there where the narrative tends to be driven by ‘Barnum Statements’. These are statements that feel individualised to the reader but are actually vague and generalised, like horoscopes and fortune cookies. A classic example would be “sometimes you may act in line with how you think, and sometimes you may not”.

At Saville Assessment, we’ve put countless hours into ensuring every piece of narrative and advice in any of our reports is meaningful, tangible and actionable, so that not only are we getting the measurement right but that value is delivered to the end user.

The key thing to ensure when choosing any personality assessment is to not just take it at face value. Seek the body of evidence and research behind it. Better still, demo the assessment yourself and think critically about the valuable insights – if any – that it gives you.

If you’d like to demo any of our Wave assessments, and would like to understand the body of research that sits behind our questionnaires, please use the form at the end of the article to get in touch.

How Can Personality Assessments Drive Better Sales?

Just because a person has been successful in one sales role doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful in another. They need to match the key competencies of the role, as well as the culture and values of the organisation. For this, we need to go beyond CVs and gut instinct, and robustly assess an individual’s personality against key success criteria.

Powered by our flagship Wave personality questionnaire, our sales reports look at individuals against eight main selling areas:

Solving Problems


Understanding customer needs and analysing information.


Applying expertise and being creative.

Influencing People


Delivering rapport and building relationships.


Presenting information, changing views and overcoming objections.

Adapting Approaches


Handling pressure and being resilient to change.


Supporting people and working cooperatively.

Delivering Results


Being organised and maintaining standards.


Taking action and pursuing targets. 

Take two very different types of sales role. Someone suited to selling fast-moving consumer goods who needs to focus more on tough negotiation around tight margins (Being Disciplined, Staying Positive), may not be suited to more of a relationship-based sell required in selling bespoke technology to a large corporate client (Developing Leads, Developing Solutions).

Depending on your needs, our Wave tools can provide a profile of benchmarked scores against wider sales populations for each of these areas, or can be programmed to provide an overall ‘fit score’; ideal for when you assess large volumes of candidates and need to make quick and accurate decisions.

Finding the right balance and individuals for your sales team can have a real positive impact to your bottom line. According to McKinsey’s ‘War on Talent’ survey, high­ performers deliver 67% more revenue a year, every year, compared with average performers; it’s easy to see the effect this could have on your profits.

The Proof is in the Numbers

One of our clients, a global insurance company, was looking to enhance the selection process for their field sales representatives selling property and auto insurance. It was critical this organisation identified individuals who would be likely to sell more policies and help drive sales growth to maintain and increase its market position.

They used a suite of our tools – including one selection tool from our Wave suite – to rigorously assess applicants. Sales representatives who were successful in both assessments sold an extra $248,000 each per annum in policies, projecting a collective total of $86 million.

Graph showing an extra $248,000 sold

Originally posted by Saville Assessment

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