The Most Important Qualities to Look for When Hiring Sales Talent

The Most Important Qualities to Look for When Hiring Sales Talent

When interviewing sales professionals, recruiters look beyond charm and interesting anecdotes to determine an applicant’s potential fit. A diligent recruiter will always remain objective and ask relevant, probing questions to avoid hiring someone who seems capable on the surface but is really not suitable for the position.

According to Evan Klein, sales recruiter at LinkedIn, hiring managers should pursue candidates demonstrating the following key attributes in their search for top-tier sales professionals.

1. Self-Motivation

When it comes to sales, the ability to overcome rejection and retain focus and determination to tackle obstacles is vital. Persistence and tenacity are critical attributes for any person in sales, as it enables them to bounce back from rejection and retain a positive, energized outlook.

Self-motivation, in a way, helps businesses thrive. Self-motivated employees go above and beyond, striving to identify more efficient ways of getting things done. They do not require handholding or prompts to complete basic tasks. Further, they require less supervision, enabling managers to concentrate their efforts elsewhere.

A self-motivated workforce is good for business. They meet or exceed goals and even set new ones. Studies show that increased engagement is a powerful tool for boosting employee retention—and it improves sales, productivity, and overall profitability.

2. The Ability to Listen

Customer centricity is critical to business success, regardless of industry. In sales, it is paramount. Good salespeople listen to their customers, identifying their needs and how the business can meet them while responding and communicating effectively.

Empathy and humility are important traits for successful sales personnel, as is the ability to instigate and maintain strong network relationships. Therefore, recruiters need to analyze each candidate’s listening abilities. Although salespeople may have been hired in the past for their ability to “talk the talk,” to build lasting relationships with clients, they need to excel at listening.

3. Humor

People often connect sales professionals with high-pressure cold calling tactics. But in this day and age, high-pressure situations and guilt trips seldom lead to sales. Instead, an effective sales professional concentrates on establishing and building trust, forging meaningful relationships, and, essentially, providing value. Providing value elicits trust, the backbone of any meaningful business relationship.

However, humor is an asset that should not be overlooked. Successful salespeople connect with their target audience on a deeper, more personal level than most business professionals. Humor helps us forge connections. Put simply, we like people who make us laugh.

In high-stakes situations, humor breaks uncomfortable silences, alleviates tension, and puts others at ease. Humor is an effective tool for those seeking to connect with an individual or group and elicit a rapport.

Though it is often overlooked in sales, humor can make a massive difference in terms of winning or losing a deal. As Marilyn Monroe once said, you can make a prospect buy anything if you can just make them laugh.

4. Self-Awareness

In sales, self-awareness helps salespeople understand how they come across to existing and potential customers. When a person comes to understand how their actions can impact the outcome of a sale, and ultimately the future of a business, they can avoid potential triggers that hamper their success.

Self-aware salespeople align their view with that of the buyer—if their perspectives are at odds, it can cause a disconnect, resulting in discomfort and distrust. When a prospective buyer feels uncomfortable with a sales professional, it is unlikely to end in a positive outcome.

As Anthony K. Tjan explains in an article published by the Harvard Business Review, the one quality that trumps everything is the quality of self-awareness. Without it, a person cannot identify their weaknesses and make moves to address them.

5. Intellectual Curiosity

The ability to create value for clients hinges on a salesperson’s intellectual curiosity. Intellectually curious individuals want to understand how things work and what motivates others. They want to identify what others want and help them make sense of the actions they take.

It is vital to ask clients questions. An effective salesperson creates greater value for clients by learning about them in depth, uncovering what issues keep them up at night and trying to identify solutions.

Intellectual curiosity helps sales professionals understand how things work so they can better serve individuals and businesses. Effective salespeople are never afraid to ask how or why, which enables them to better understand client needs and meet expectations. For any individual seeking to improve their professional skills, whether in sales or leadership, accepting that they do not know it all and adopting an intellectually curious mindset is an important first step.

About the Author

Joanna RileyJoanna (Jo) Riley is an entrepreneur, investor, and advocate in technology, and is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Censia. Jo has a highly experienced background in building and scaling companies, which she attributes to her deep passion for people and building technologies that allow people to be their best selves. She brings her wide knowledge of the industry to better transform the way enterprise companies hire talent. You can connect with Joanna Riley at @joannakiddriley on Twitter or on Linkedin. Read her full bio here.