Want to increase your chances of landing a top-flight account manager (AM) for 2018?  Two words: personality testing. The operative words here are “increase your chances” not “guarantee” them.

That’s because, there’s a lively debate among experts as to the usefulness of personality testing in the business world, even as that particular industry remains popular with business owners and continues to grow. (More than 2.5 million people annually take the Myers-Briggs test, the most popular example in this space.)

Longtime industry consultant Kevin Kehoe is a believer in personality testing and suggested it, with qualifications, to a room packed with contractors at this past October’s LANDSCAPES 2017 in Louisville.

What is personality testing? In a sentence, it’s testing that uses a standardized series of questions or tasks (usually questions) that seek to identify and evaluate the test taker’s personality traits or predispositions. In the business and sales world, job applicants are sometimes asked to take such a test, which consists of a long list of questions, which purports to reveal and assess their unique personality style to potential employers.

In the landscape business, for example, the mindset required of a production manager would be very different from the mindset required of an AM. Their responsibilities within a company, while complimentary, are very different.

By it’s nature, personality testing is subjective. Even so, many employers view it as a valuable tool for judging the suitability of prospects usually for high-pay and high-stress positions. Kehoe advised having AM candidates undergo the testing to “get them through the first gate” even before launching into the interviewing process.

“Recruit for personality and train for ability. You must have a system to do that,” Kehoe says. Assessing a candidate’s personality style pre-employment reduces but does not negate the likelihood that an owner “will fall in love in with a person for the wrong reasons,” he added. This includes a job prospect with strong horticultural skills.

“The first thing that I want to qualify people for is what I call ‘the life of an account manager.’ That’s because you are in front of people all day. The people are either satisfied or dissatisfied. And you will have to deal with it every day because things change all the time and plans go out the window.”

The AM’s many responsibilities

Consider that the AM is the primary customer contact for the company they work for: the face of the company with its grounds management clients. To rack up win­-win-wins (for the individual, the company and the client), the AM must work seamlessly with his firm’s production and maintenance crews to ensure that services sold and promised are delivered according to specifications — and profitably too.

Beyond that, an AM’s duties extend to making sure that clients are so pleased with their landscape company’s performance that they renew their contracts at a very high rate. This requires strong communication skills, which are also needed to sell additional property maintenance services to clients, which, of course, bring additional revenue to the AM’s company. In this role, an AM must function as a troubleshooter, which means conducting site audits to suggest new services to improve properties’ appearance and/or safety. Safety (improving sight lines, removing large dying branches, etc.) is a big issue with many clients.

In the end, the following numbers measure the success of an AM:

  1. Revenue growth
  2. Profitability
  3. Sales to budgeted goals
  4. Percentage of contracts retained
  5. Management of satisfied/repeat/referral customer base
  6. Close ratio on proposals presented
  7. Ratio of proposals submitted to backlog goals and objectives

“As an account manager you will have to deal with this, put it all together and do it again the next day” that’s the life. That will either make you or break you,” Kehoe says.

Given the many different responsibilities that an AM must shoulder, the metrics by which they’re judged and their importance to the financial health of the company they work for, it’s little wonder an employer might want to invest in personality testing. But even a good test taker (some prospects are good at answering what they feel an employer might be looking for), doesn’t necessary translate into a good AM.

“Hiring is dicey,” Kehoe cautions. “You will never make the perfect hire.”