Top 10 Outstanding Traits to Look for When Hiring Sales Reps

BY C. Lee Smith
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When hiring sales reps, you know what you want. But do you understand which traits really matter when interviewing candidates for these positions?

Everyone has an opinion on this topic. Sales reps have their own ideas, which differ from what their managers think.  We also know that psychometric assessments reveal the traits commonly found in rainmakers.

10 Traits Shared by The Best Sales Reps

The Reps’ Perspective

Ask any group of sales reps how they succeed, and they’ll list familiar traits. In our Voice of the Sales Rep study, around half of the surveyed sales professionals claimed the following factors matter.

Confidence – Reps believe they must be confident to succeed. When they pitch their solution to prospects, they believe what they are saying.

Self-​motivation – The profession requires the ability to continue working hard after hearing many negative responses. In addition, a significant percentage of the sales reps’ compensation packages is variable. Reps who work harder and smarter have the opportunity to earn more. 

Problem solver – Most prospects will only buy a solution when they encounter a problem. The best sales reps understand how to consider a problem from many angles. They then position their product or service as the optimal solution.

The Sales Managers’ Perspective

The sales managers we surveyed in our Voice of the Sales Manager study agreed with salespeople regarding important traits for success. But we also noticed a few differences, especially when decision-​makers are hiring sales reps.

Time management – A key sales rep responsibility is managing work time well. This talent is critical, because time literally is money.

Optimism – Prospects and clients appreciate optimism in their sales contacts. Their jobs present challenges on a daily basis. When an optimistic sales rep presents solutions to help them solve problems, they listen.

According to salesman​.com, prospects appreciate positive energy. In addition, research shows that optimistic reps sell more than other reps.

Sales managers will always notice the outside sales reps who bring in more clients.

Takes initiative – Sales managers must keep their team focused and productive. They are busy assigning sales rep duties. But they can’t always keep up with the work.

That’s why they appreciate reps who take the initiative to close a deal instead complaining. Managers recognize that reps who possess this trait will succeed.

Overlooked Traits

I maintain a list of go-​to interview questions for sales reps. 

However, I also utilize data from personalized questions based on the results of psychometric assessments candidates complete. In the interview, these  questions give me insights into the following aspects of a candidate’s work behavior.

Curiosity – Many sales professionals feel comfortable following a standard script when they start a discovery session. But successful selling today requires reps to think out of the box. Prospects notice when a rep asks questions that clearly show thorough and detailed prep work.

In my experience, a curious sales reps will deliver excellent results and become a trendsetter.

Coachability – Stories of cold calls that lead nowhere have caused people to turn away from the sales profession. Today’s sales reps are more apt to serve as experts in leading prospects to the most effective solutions. Because it remains challenging to attract people to the profession, I actively seek out candidates with a sales background.

If they appear to be coachable, I will consider them for my open sales rep job. 

Hustle – In our global always-​on economy, slackers often find themselves far behind the competition. Of course, it’s important to maintain a work-​life balance. But when a rep engages, their level of hustle matters.

Creativity – Managers often believe a trait such as creativity belongs in the advertising department. The ability to look at a situation from a different perspective can yield startling results. This trait leads to unique approaches to problem-solving.

The ideas from your creative reps may also be the start of a new line of product or services.

Are 10 traits too many to consider when you’re hiring sales reps? I don’t think so. They reduce the risk of making a bad hire.

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.