4 Attributes of Successful Salespeople

Last decade, all of us Inside Sales leaders pretty much had the same hiring profile:

  • College degree
  • 2 years sales experience
  • Played a competitive sport

Then we’d do a few more interview questions and pick the candidate we felt was the best fit.

Ahhh…how times have changed. So, how do you hire the best sales reps today? The secret is to look for competencies and behaviors, not skills and experience.

Look For Competencies And Behaviors

Instead of looking for and hiring people who fit a generic profile, look for competencies and behaviors. To do this, begin by listing the most important attributes of a top-fit and top-performing rep at your company. Do take company culture into account. Are you “win at all costs” or “we want the whole team to cross the line together” kind of place? List it. Here are some of my top attributes:

Curious

I want a rep who will do some research and actively seek out learning for herself and her clients. Try questions about something they’re passionate about or the last thing they researched and why.

Proactive

Unless you’re hiring for inbound, your future superstar needs to be able to jump in picking up the phone and taking action. I want driven, leaning-in initiative takers. Try questions about how the experienced projects at school. Were they were in charge of the team? If they weren’t in charge, do they recall cringing because they had to sit on their hands and wait for others to act?

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Coachable

We are going to teach and then coach this rep how to sell our products to our customers, and any level of a chip on a shoulder about being molded from the get-go is going to make everyone’s life difficult. I also find in life as well as work that defensiveness is the antidote to growth.

To test this, I do a mock call (I can also test sales instincts and natural behaviors), then I give him coaching on the call and ask him to do it again immediately. More than half your candidates will tank here, either because they start to defend their performance or mistakes or because they can’t internalize and then apply the coaching. 

Capacity to learn

Reps today have 10x more information and tools to master on the job than a decade ago, and a shorter time to do it. You need people who have the capacity and desire to come in and learn quickly. 

A final note 

If you’re hiring for competence and attributes rather than experience and skills, make damn sure your onboarding program is teaching this. Go look for specific phone sales skills, detailed product case studies, some business and customer acumen. With a solid program, your hiring pool can stretch further than your competition’s pool…and that will make all the difference this decade.