In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the sales team is continually expected to perform.
Nobody feels this pressure more than the sales manager. They are the ones expected to drive their sales force to quota-shattering greatness, quarter after quarter.
As your sales team begins to scale, it’s up to the sales team lead or the hiring manager to know what makes up the qualities of a good salesperson so they can hire top salespeople 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 successful 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.
In this article, we’re going to explain how to find and understand these traits and why they are important. We’ll also give 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.
We wrap up the article 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! So, what makes a good salesperson? Read on to find out...
Traits of those who take action (and action = sales)
1. Ambitious: You want someone who wants to grow in this position (as well as thrive in the sales world). Ask what they see themselves doing in one year, three years and five years – what does it look like?
2. Passionate: Passion sells, clients can feel it and you want your team members to genuinely believe in what they are selling. Ask why they want to sell your product and what it means 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 delivering 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: Salespeople 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!”. This answer showcases their communication skills, too, as you’ll get a preview of how they’d structure a sales pitch.
7. Motivated: You can forget about reaching quota without this. Ask “What is your WHY?”. Do they enjoy fulfilling clients’ needs by helping them find the right solution? Do they thrive off of talking to people and building relationships?
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 performers’ numbers and ask if they think they can beat them. After all, you’re looking to hire top salespeople that crave coming in first place, not average reps that settle for “just enough is good enough”.
Inner traits of an ethical salesperson
10. Courteous: This one gives you insights into their personality traits. 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: This helps you uncover their customer service skills. Ask what they did the last time one of their clients had a challenge with their product or service. This answer will shed light on how they manage customer needs and if they will be successful at overcoming challenges and building lasting relationships.
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. Individual wins are important, but collaboration is key to any successful sales process.
14. Healthy: Sales is stressful and you want someone who won’t break down and is capable of maintaining a positive attitude. Ask them what they do to reduce stress.
15. Caring: Empathy puts you on the same side of the table as the prospect. Ask if they’ve previously volunteered anywhere.
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 person? Read a room? Ask them a question about the person who walked them back to your office. If you’re a remote company, ask them about the person at your company they first spoke to on the phone or via video. Did they pay attention and can they answer?
19. Inquisitive: Inquisitive salespeople 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 them how they manage their time. What’s their system? Do they have a system? How do they handle multitasking?
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? Not only does this shed light on their problem-solving skills, but it also tests to see if they have good listening skills. How well did they understand your previous challenging sales story? Are they capable of active listening under pressure?
22. Learner: Great salespeople are always looking to improve and get better. Ask them about the last book they read or class they took. Top sales reps encompass adaptability and a hunger to constantly level up their skills.
23. Social IRL: Do they like people and are they known outside of their circle? What do they do in their community? Good relationships IRL often translate to strong customer relationships at work.
24. Social Online: Are they good at social selling? Ask what platforms they’re 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, successful salespeople remain positive.
A seminal study completed by psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman was produced on behalf of insurance company, Met Life in the 1980s 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 specialized in the study of optimism and positive psychology. He created an optimism screening test and followed around 1500 new Met Life sales professionals 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 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, keeping up with sales reports and 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, yet the hiring process remains a neglected area.
With this “cheat sheet” you will be able to 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 so that they achieve sales success at speed. One of the best ways to ramp up your new hire is to sign up for our free two-week email course called the 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.