The 10 Traits Every Good Salesperson Has in Common
What you need to look out for when hiring your next salesperson.
The success of any business comes down to a cross-functional team effort, but customer-facing sales might be the most critical role. Salespeople are responsible for growing revenue by winning new customer accounts, differentiating their products against the competition and nurturing existing accounts to ensure they purchase repeatedly.
Depending on the type of product or service, this may be a one-person effort or a team of salespeople and other functions working together. Because we need to hire the best of the best to crush it out in the field, we must be picky when hiring. There is no benefit to hire people we think could be successful; we need to hire those we know will be successful. Here's what to look for when hiring.
We are all more successful when we are working with people we enjoy. First impressions are hugely important when meeting a potential salesperson. Not every personality needs to be big and gregarious, but we want to feel impressed by a person’s composure, eye contact, sense of style, body language, speaking ability and ability to listen. They must appear confident, eager and authentic.
We want to hire people who have extensive experience in the industry and who have an idea of what we require of them. We want fresh-eyed candidates, but not green ones. When people are experienced, it will show itself through how knowledgeable and calm they are when communicating what they know.
Knowledge is power, and that power is largely gained through experience. When we sense a potential candidates experience is solid, we can feel confident in hiring them; knowing they will be a great asset to our team.
It is always good to get another point of view from someone who has had direct experience working with the individual we are interested in hiring. When talking to referrals, consider what is positive, but then dig to discover potential areas of improvement.
Gaining knowledge about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses helps us determine where we will need to assist their growth to be even more successful on our team. Strong references should also include the reputation, success and quality of the companies the potential candidate worked for before interviewing with ours.
We want to hire people who are eager for a change. When we pursue salespeople who are happy where they are, and have no reason to leave their current company, we are not likely to find the eagerness and drive we’re looking for. We want to pursue and hire salespeople who are knowledgeable in the industry and who have done the research to be knowledgeable about our specific company. We want those who feel and eager and driven for a change, and who want to land in a company where they have the potential for growth, both personally and financially.
When we hire people, we want to stay away from hiring the show off or know-it-all. We must know the difference been charisma and ego. The bigger the ego, the more difficult to coach.
It is impossible to guide someone who knows it all. We want to hire candidates who will be able to receive constructive feedback and be flexible to pivot and change direction when necessary. We want to hire people hungry for guidance and new learning experiences. When this open quality is present, we can feel confident that our influence can only help them become more successful.
6. Problem solving
A large part of being successful in a sales position boils down to being a great problem solver and negotiator. When we are interviewing a potential sales candidate, it is crucial we ask about their problem-solving abilities.
Request candidates to provide examples of past problems they were successful in negotiating to resolution, and what their direct role was in the discovery process. It is also helpful if we stage an example challenge they may face in our company and inquire as to what they would do to bring resolution to that imaginary but realistic challenge.
7. Proven success
We want to see that a potential sales candidate can recreate their success in a similar role. We inquire about specific wins and earnings they have incurred over the past few years. We want to see their earnings were substantial in a previous commissioned sales role. This shows us, and them, what their potential with our company could be if they come aboard.
8. Staying power
It is hard to build a winning team with high turnover among team members. We want to be sure potential sales candidates have a minimum of two to three years (or more) in the past few jobs they have held. It is a waste of our time, investment and money to hire a person who doesn’t have proven staying power. Past staying power shows us that a potential candidate can tolerate the ups and downs of the job and put equal effort into their role whether things are ebbing or flowing. Consistency and effort are strong markers of a good hire.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
9. High activity
It takes a unique person to succeed in sales. We want to hire candidates who thrive in high-activity and high-pressure environments. It is important we ask them to describe a typical day or week in their current job before we explain the expectations of the role we are considering them for. We want to see that they can handle the non-stop activity of what will be necessary for them to thrive in our company. We want a self-driven candidate.
10. Social media presence
A great way to get an idea of the true character of a potential candidate is to dig into their social media. We are not going to want someone representing our company who is half-naked, shirtless, drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana in nearly every photo.
Also, look out for selfies. A handful of selfies is appropriate, but too many could indicate a self-centered person. Language is important, too. Look for profanity, or if they have posted negative comments about their job, peers, hours they work or other things that are otherwise disparaging. We do not want someone putting the integrity of our company on blast. We also don't want them blasting other companies such as airlines or other service providers publicly, as that could lead to later trouble for us.
Bottom line: We want to hire people who have integrity inside and outside of work.
Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Her new book, Success Equations: A Path to an Emotionally Wealthy Life, is available for pre-order.