What to Look for When Hiring a Salesperson: 5 Keys to Success

April 2, 2019
What to Look for When Hiring a Salesperson: 5 Keys to Success

Wondering what to look for when hiring a salesperson? Well, it all depends on your company and team.

First, let’s talk about the cliché sales rep, Chris. Chris is a hard-hitter and the master at pumping out sales calls faster than you can say “Criteria for Success.” Chris doesn’t have any regard for the prospect – he’s just trying to hit his quota at any cost. Chris is the reason there is a stigma around sales and selling.

Now that you understand what a cliché sales rep is like, you know who you don’t want on your team. Selling take a whole lot more than cold calling and emailing these days, and Chris won’t cut it. He also doesn’t exemplify your team’s great culture.

The modern-day sales rep is a completely different kind of person. In fact – there’s no right or wrong personality for a sales person. That’s why there are certain things that you can look for that are found across multiple types of people.

What to Look for When Hiring a Salesperson: 5 Keys to Success

1. Willingness to learn and grow

A great sales rep is always looking to learn better ways to relate to prospects and clients. They know that the landscape for selling is always changing. A great candidate shows willingness to grow by getting excited over the idea of having a mentor or a close-knit team.

They want to know more about the types of regular sales training that you do. They ask the interviewer questions about his or her growth within the company and how likely it is for them to experience the same.

A sales rep that is willing to grow is willing to elevate the rest of the team with them, and are a great addition to any team.

2. Passion for your industry

Notice I didn’t say company. Now, this is something that will happen with time – but for now, they may not know much about your company especially if it’s small(er) and private.

It’s a lot easier for interviewers to focus on industry passion. The truth is, you can’t expect a candidate to know everything there is to know about what you do or sell. Instead, see if they are passionate about the bigger picture.

3. Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving is another great way to see if a candidate will be able to sell your product or service. If you have already probed for their industry passion, this is the next thing to do.

You might be thinking, “how do I interview for problem solving skills?” Well, there’s a few ways you can do this. One option is to create deliverables for candidates to complete between interviews that relate to the position. This could be anything from creating a sales forecast, to writing some email templates.

4. Tenure in past positions

A candidates’ tenure at past positions says a lot about them. If they have a tendency to bounce around from job to job, it probably means that they aren’t looking for growth or that they haven’t been a fit at multiple companies.

It also says a lot about how long they are likely to stay with your company. Expect them to put their notice in a lot sooner than you’d like.

Want to mitigate the risk? It’s definitely a best practice to ask about their short spirts of employment.

5. Ability to build relationships

As a sales person, it’s so important to be able to relate to your prospects. Not only will this lead to happier clients, it will lead to happier sales reps and team members. How do you know if a candidate can build relationships?

Well, for one, they should be trying to sell you, the interviewer, on hiring them. If you feel disconnected to them, it’s probably because they aren’t a cultural fit.

A great way to find out if they value relationships is to ask the candidate about their best client relationship at a past position. If they light up and gush about a great account they had, they definitely value relationships. If they talk about how a relationship benefited them for monetary or selfish reasons, they probably don’t value client relationships.

What to look for when hiring a sales person isn’t set in stone. These five things can be adapted to fit the needs of your sales team. In fact, we recommend it.

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  • Rachel - Reply

    I found this list really interesting, Arianna as I think a lot of these are innate qualities and not something that can be “taught.” With the exception of problem-solving skills, which can easily be trained and practiced <a href=" enablement tools, all of the others are characteristics and personality traits. And while I agree with a lot of these, I think the point about tenure can go both ways. Sure, it can be a red flag, but it’s one of those topics that deserves an in-depth conversation. I’ve seen people quickly be disregarded because they had “short” tenures when in reality there were certain circumstances that the rep couldn’t control. My team had open and honest conversations when applicants like that came our way and now those same reps have become some of our highest performers. Just some food for thought—but I love that no two sales reps have to have the same qualities to be successful!

    • Arianna Miskel - Reply

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your comment! I agree about tenure, that’s why we suggest asking about any short tenures on a resume. A lot of times, companies aren’t a cultural fit or restructuring happened. It’s always important to have in-depth conversations about any red-flags on a resume. You can never assume the reason for short tenure or even an employment gap.


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