10 Key Skills You Must Look for When Hiring a Sales Person

To build a strong sales organization it’s important to find people who are capable of hitting the quota, handle rejection, and be persistent without turning aggressive.

In sales “You just can’t just hire anyone”. I’m sure most of the sales recruiters will have a similar opinion.

Any wrong hire can keep your company from meeting its business goals.

We’ve been hiring salespeople for 7+ years, and have found that there are several skills and traits a sales representative needs to have if they’re going to be successful.

This applies to salespeople looking for their first jobs just as much as it does to professionals with decades of experience. 

Hiring sales talent is hard. There are a lot of salespeople out there currently looking for an opportunity, and you’ll get inundated with the number of resumes coming in as soon as you put out a job ad.

So, how do you pick the best sales rep for your company? What should you look when hiring a candidate? How can you know if they’re going to be successful? Or if they’re just good at talking themselves up in the interview?

While every company would look for different skillsets based on their requirements, business dynamics, product/ service. There are some important skillsets that remains constant and applied for any type of salesperson


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Below are the traits or skills we look for when we are hiring a salesperson — and keeping them in mind has helped us hire some phenomenal salespeople for our clients.

Soft Skills

1. Adaptability

One of the most important traits you want to see in a salesperson is their ability to adapt to the situation in hand.

Being adaptable goes hand-in-hand with a willingness to learn, because often times adapting to new environment, sales techniques and technologies requires an open mindset towards learning and development.

2. Growth Mindset

Top sales performers take responsibility for their own sales success.

They do this by setting goals that are personally important and don’t rely on someone or something else to inspire their action, which helps them maintain the momentum.

Salespeople who make themselves accountable for success are the ones who will hit their targets consistently every month, build trust with their customers and managers, and will ultimately be much more satisfied with their job because they’ve created a personal connection to achieving professional success.

3. Curiosity & Willingness to Learn

Sales requires constant curiosity about the industry you’re in, the clients and verticals you’re selling to, the latest tools, technologies, and trends.

A sales person who demonstrates the willingness to learn is someone who will succeed in achieving their numbers because of their ability to be curious, ask questions, and actively listen.

They will also likely be able to develop a more creative and compelling solution because they’ll be open to researching and exploring new ideas.

Learning leads to understanding, which ultimately helps solve a client’s problem and deliver the right solution.

Hard Skills

4. Product Knowledge Specific to Customer Needs

It’s important to assess whether the candidate can effectively explain to someone the product or service they are selling in alignment with the customer’s needs.

Someone who is working in that domain will understand the technologies behind the product.

It depicts the relevancy and the consultative sales approach.

5. Industry and Target Market Knowledge

While interviewing a candidate you should test his knowledge about the industry you’re in and your target market.

Even if the target market of their previous role is completely different from the one they’re interviewing for, this will show their ability to research and keep the updates and trends.

Having an idea about prospect’s events will help in having tailored communication.

Dig deeper and ask for a recent piece of information they’ve learned from their research. It will give clarity about his connections in the market.

6. Track Record of Achievement in Previous Roles

Getting information like previous sales quota and attainment from it, key account connects, awards and recognitions will surely help you evaluate the candidate better.

Also beware of someone who claims they’ve never experienced a downturn. Nothing’s wrong with a temporary slump as long as the candidate learned from it.

7. YoY % Growth in the Targets Assigned

Good sales people who achieve 100% of the targets will definitely have a % YoY increase in their sales quota for next year.

It will give a clarity about the company’s dependency on him and his capability to match the employer’s expectations. Also growth in the deal sizes/segments give an idea about his achievement graph.

8. Upselling & Cross-selling / Ability to Retain Existing Customers

New business development is definitely important for any organization to grow in terms of revenue/client base, but it’s equally important to retain your existing customers and get business from them as the trust is already built and it depicts your customer service skills and how much the customer means to you.

The salesperson should have the capability to build strong relationships with their clients. For that you need to win the trust of your customer.

You don’t want to hire someone who puts their solution first instead of understanding the client and their requirements.

Behavioral Skills

9. Approach to Handling Customer Objection

This skill shows how they approach difficult prospects and whether they can put aside their pride to move a deal forward for the greater good of the company.

While assessing the candidate you need to understand if he/she is capable of thinking from customer’s point of view, understand their situation and then react.

Listen for a clear explanation of the situation, the steps they took to fix it, and the results of their actions.

A salesperson who takes the time to learn from both their successes and their failures will be a valuable addition to your team.

10. Ability to Ask Questions

Good salespeople spend more time asking questions than pitching.

Asking questions in sales process helps seller better understand the customer’s needs and challenges.

But asking questions doesn’t mean asking it just for the sake of it.

We’ve seen salespeople preparing a list of questions they want to ask the prospect and then asking those same set of questions to all the prospect. Not knowing weather its relevant in that situation or no

Asking the right questions at the right time is the skill you want to look for.

Put the candidates in a live sales situation and see what kind of questions they would ask to uncover important information from the prospects.

Look out for open-ended questions that will help a rep thoroughly understand a prospect’s needs.

Though there are many other skills or traits you may want to assess the salesperson. And there are various skills that can be developed through training and coaching.

Hiring someone who possess the above-mentioned skills can be a good starting point.

To find someone who’s knowledgeable of the industry, passionate, and can communicate that enthusiasm to the customer, will improve your team as it grows.

Bring on the Right Talent in Your Next Sales Hire


About the Author

Picture of Sakshi Joshi
Sakshi Joshi
Strongly dedicated and resourceful Talent Acquisition Specialist with an excellent record of identifying and placing superior candidates. Mail id: sakshi.joshi@salesprofit.in
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