In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the sales team is continually expected to perform.
Nobody feels this pressure more than the the sales manager. They are the ones expected to drive the sales team to quota-shattering greatness - quarter after quarter.
As your sales team begins to scale, its up to the sales team lead or the hiring manager to know what qualities make a good salesperson so they can make the best possible hire for their team.
When evaluating sales talent, you need to assess the candidate’s cultural fit. The decision will ultimately be made by taking into account more than just the skills of a salesperson and their record of hitting targets - you want to make sure they have the right attitude and character traits for your company so they will mesh well with your team.
I want to explain how to find and understand these traits - and why they are important - as well as giving you some practical interview ideas to help streamline your hiring process. This list of 25 qualities to search for in your next sales hire will make your final decisions so much easier.
(I also want to finish by sharing the absolute number one character trait you need to prioritize for all of your future sales hires, so stick around for number 25!)
Traits of those who take action ( and action = sales)
1. Ambitious: You want someone who wants to grow in this position - ask what they see themselves doing in 1 year 3 years and 5 years, what does it look like?
2. Passionate: Passion sells, clients can feel it and you want them to genuinely believe in what they are selling - ask why they want to sell your product and what does it mean to them.
3. Bold: Find a salesperson who isn’t afraid to make the call, hit the C-suite or get on stage - ask them how they would feel about getting up on stage to deliver an elevator speech to the entire sales team. Do they jump on it?
4. Tenacious: You want an optimist who won't back down and won't take no for an answer - tell them why you don't think they are a good fit for the job, and see if they fight to change your mind.
5. Assertive: Salesmen can't be shrinking violets. - ask how they would handle returning a meal that wasn’t good.
6. Confident: Attitude is everything - ask them to sell you something on the spot by handing them a pen and saying “sell me this pen!”
7. Motivated: You can forget about reaching quota without this - ask “What is your WHY?”
8. Driven: This is what puts motivation into action - after asking them their ‘WHY’ ask them what they DID once they determined their purpose. What pushed them to action?
9. Competitive: Competition is what drives people to greatness - Tell them the top reps numbers and ask if they think they can beat them.
Inner traits of an ethical salesperson
10. Courteous: Customer service related - see if they thank you right after the interview (extra points for a handwritten letter).
11. Honest: You want people you can trust with your firm and your clients - ask what they would do in a ‘grey area’ scenario, where they could get away with fudging the numbers on a small deal. (If they can't be trusted in small things, can they be trusted with big things?)
12. Helpful: Shades of customer service - Ask what they did the last time one of their clients had a challenge with their product or service.
13. Humble: Egomaniacs can destroy a sales team and karma usually has a way of catching up with them - ask them about previous team accomplishments and if they give credit to others.
14. Healthy: Sales is stressful and you want someone who won't break down - ask them what they do to reduce stress.
15. Caring: Empathy puts you on the same side of the table as the prospect - ask where have they volunteered?
Traits of a good deal-closer
16. Intelligence “book smarts": The smart take from the strong - ask what their greatest educational achievement was and why.
17. Intelligence “street smarts”: Make sure they have common sense. You don't want pushovers - tell them an obviously fabricated story and see if they pick up on it. Play it off if they do. Run if they don’t!
18. Awareness: Are they able to take the measure of a man? Read a room? - Ask them a question about the person who walked them back to your office, did they pay attention and can they answer?
19. Inquisitive: Inquisitive salesmen uncover needs and pain points - do they ask more than just cursory questions about the position? See if they ask about your career track with the firm.
20. Organized: Cluttered workspace = cluttered mind = distractions = no sales - Ask how do you manage your time? What's your system? Do they have a system?
21. Analytical: Very helpful for complex sales - Question them about a challenging sale you worked on. Do they ask for more info or more data to help determine an answer?
22. Learner: You want someone who is always looking to improve, get better - ask what's the last book they read or class they took.
23. Social IRL: Do they like people and are they known outside of their circle?- What do you do in your community?
24. Social Online: Are they good at social selling? - ask what platforms are they on? How often do they post and engage with followers/connections?
The number 1 most important trait the best salespeople share
No clickbait here, let’s get straight to the point.
The best salespeople almost exclusively share one key trait.
Regardless of the situation - the best salespeople remain positive.
A seminal study completed by psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman was produced on behalf of insurance company, Met Life in the 1980’s to help them improve their hiring processes. They were spending huge sums training new salespeople, but over half of their agents quit within their first year.
Dr. Seligman specialised in the study of optimism and positive psychology. He created an optimism screening test and followed around 1500 new Met Life salespeople over a 12 month period.
Those with an optimistic outlook outsold pessimists by as much as 21% in the first year and 57% in the second. Those with rankings in the top 10% of scores sold 88% more insurance than those in the bottom 10%.
Make sure you hire an optimistic salesperson
Does your candidate believe that no matter what happened on the last call or pitch or meeting, that the next one will be better?
Do they truly believe in themselves and their ability against all odds?
A salesperson without a fierce optimism is someone who is defeated after their first inevitable failure. You want someone who will dust off the rejection, pick themselves up, and attack their next target with a positive outlook.
Failure is part of sales - how your salesperson reacts to that failure is critically linked to your long term success.
A more efficient hiring process gives you more precious time
Your job is tough enough, monitoring your CRM to track daily numbers and keeping up with sales reports, making sure your reps have a healthy pipeline - especially if they are working remote or in the field.
Sales managers live in an increasingly metrics-driven environment where there’s never-ending pressure to be more efficient - the hiring process remains a neglected area.
With this ‘cheat sheet’ you will be able to keep save time during the interview process - and make sure you make the right hiring decision for your company. The costs and lost time associated with making the wrong hire can be a serious productivity clamp. Instead of driving more leads, sales and profits - you’ll find yourself stuck managing internal HR problems.
Use this list to trigger your candidate to open up and share their thoughts so you can determine if they’ve got the makings of the next sales superstar for your growing sales team.
Once you’ve added new sales reps to your team, you’re going to want to make sure they are well trained. One of the best ways to ramp up your new hire is to sign up for our free two week email course called “Sales Pipeline Course” where our co-founder Timo Rein teaches you a series of simple, practical and actionable lessons on how to make more sales.
Want to learn more sales skills? Why not read some of our guides on sales dashboards, sales email follow ups and cold calling scripts.
They’ve got the winning traits - now give them the winning tools. Start your free two week email course with the Sales Pipeline Course today.