Selling in the Consulting World – tackling the issues consultants currently face as they embrace the business development arena. Each month Lars Tewes, MD of SBR Consulting shares a challenge / issue he is working on with his clients, and looks at how it is being addressed.
Client Sales Challenge of the Month: Should we use Psychometric profiling to help identify who will be best moving into the business development role?
Many consulting firms are asking their staff, especially the senior ones to become more involved in the sales side of the business. The reaction can be everything from real desire to one of genuine fear and concern. Recently a number of clients have asked us to explain what these profiles are and whether they should use a profiling tool to help identify the most suitable types. Below I will summarise what they are, the advantages and disadvantages, and our opinions about their value so as to help you decide.
Firstly, you might ask “what is psychometric profiling?” The British Psychological Society defines psychometrics as ‘the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of educational and psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes and personality.’ In the workplace profiling tools are used to aid both recruitment and career progression.
What sort of things do psychometric tests measure?
• Your personality, preferences and abilities
• How well you work with other people
• How well you handle stress
• Best match of individual to an occupation and a work environment
• Whether you will be able to cope with the intellectual demands of the job
There are many psychometric profiles in use today the most common we come across are Myers Briggs, DiSC and Belbin I will use these 3 as examples of how they work:
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on the theories of Gustav Jung and is most widely used as a questionnaire based test. It looks at 4 bi-polar dimensions; Sensing / Intuition (S-N), Thinking / Feeling (T-F), Extraversion / Introversion (E-I) and Judging / Perceiving (J-P). From these 16 ‘Personality Profiles’ are developed.
MBTI is usually used for developmental areas such as; individual, management, team building and improving communication.
DiSC Personality Profile was developed in 1920’s to understand ‘why people do what they do’. It is also a simple questionnaire based tool that uses 4 human behavioural styles; ‘D’ for Dominance/Drive/Directness, ‘I’ for Influence, ‘S’ for Steadiness / Stability and ‘C’ for Compliant, Conscientious, Cautious. It provides 3 charts to predict, basic behaviour, work behaviour and behaviour under pressure.
DISC is usually used for; career development, training, coaching, mentoring and organisational performance
Belbin Team Role Inventory is used to place individuals in their most effective team roles. The categories for the team roles are given 3 orientations: Action-oriented roles, People-oriented roles, and Cerebral roles
Having now understood a little about them, are they worth it? There are numerous debates in this field and if you feel so inclined, just type it into Google and you could entertain yourself for a night! Keeping it simple, let’s look at the pros and cons:
The advantages of Personality Profiling:
1 – They help us identify people with the interpersonal traits required for certain jobs.
2 – They can facilitate the discovery of the intrinsic abilities within potential individuals.
3 – They can be an important tool for an overall assessment when used in conjunction with other assessment methods
4 – When used consistently across a team, they can show us if certain personality patterns appear to be more suited / successful than others in specific roles.
The disadvantages of Personality Profiling:
1. The result of a test may or may not reflect reality due to the fact that an individual may behave or respond to the questions in a way they think they should for the role.
2. If all individuals have the same personality traits it could lead to a lack of diversity
3. There are difficulties measuring some personality traits beyond those mentioned above
4. The cost and time to administer the tests may be high
Do many consulting firms use them to help technical consultants as their career progresses into a business development role? In our experience, not really, even though many firms do use them at the recruitment stage and sometimes only at graduate level, but not once the person is part of the company and changes roles. 75% of Times 100 companies use them in some way.
Do we recommend using them? The quick answer is ‘yes’, but it must be with caution. As long as they are used as part of the career progression and not as an isolated event. They must be administered by someone who understands the specific profiles as many people can jump to the wrong conclusion and put someone in a box for the wrong reasons.
One recent example of their effectiveness is described below:
A professional services client was using DiSC to profile its leaders who where moving into the business development space. Their role was now to be appraised around winning work! As you may expect many Technical Consultant’s ‘basic behaviour’ chart predicted High Compliance ‘C’. In the ‘behaviour under pressure’ charts many suggested that they would become even more perfectionist and reliant on accuracy. This could cause a real personal challenge when needing to become more comfortable with ‘grey’, the unknown world of ‘who will buy’ and ‘who wont’ and picking up the phone to a past client etc.
Even more interestingly, a number of the consultants ‘behaviour under pressure’ charts showed the opposite and predicted their compliance flips to losing interest in detail and almost becoming chaotic. This again could have a huge effect on how they respond to being held accountable to revenue targets etc.
The client was made aware of these factors and worked with each individual to coach them in the right skills and processes to make the learning journey more palatable. A number of the individuals that they at first thought would not make good business developers have proved them (and themselves) very wrong. Equally, some others have been able to stay more delivery focused. Neither is right or wrong and without the profiling tool this may not have been detected correctly.
In conclusion, we do believe that many Technical Consultants can make very good business developers as they have the knowledge and the credibility to win the right work. The bit that is often missing is helping them unlock their potential and working on the area we all find difficult, which is changing a habit. A profiling tool can go a long way to help someone adapt their behaviour as needed.
Managing Director of SBR Consulting