How to Hire the Best Sales Reps: 11 Must-Have Traits of High-Performers

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How to hire the best sales reps - Growbots blog

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According to a Gallup study, 25% of sales reps garner 57% of sales increases. Higher customer engagement rates also go to a fraction of those high performers. The bottom 25% of underperformers is selling less than they did the previous year.

As recruitment and training processes take a long time and absorb your resources, you want to higher those 25% of high performers. In this article, we will have a closer look at what defines a top-notch sales rep.

Jack Welch’s Quadrant

Jack Welch, CEO of General Electrics designed a quadrant where he put four types of employees that come to a job interview. He differentiated them by capability and willingness to act.

How to Hire the Best Sales Reps

Source: Right Attitudes 

The first group of sales reps you will meet at a job interview is capable and willing. They are the perfect fit for a salesperson in your organization.

These professionals find it easy to hit numbers and comply with the organizational culture. They are able to cooperate within a team and sustain a positive morale.

Incapable and unwilling who comprise the second group in the quadrant are those employees you don’t want to have onboard – they are a bad culture fit and also unable to deliver results.

The third group, incapable and willing are those who don’t have the necessary skill set to be great sales reps, but they are willing to learn fast. If you have time and money to invest in such assets, then get them onboard.

But bear in mind that there is also a risk they may be sluggish and won’t show expected results.

Last, but not least, the capable but unwilling have all the right skills and will become high-performers once hired. But they may behave inappropriately and disrupt the morale of your team being unable to accept organizational culture at the same time.

If you want to get the right people on board, especially those capable and willing, read what defines high-performers and create a sales candidate profile you are looking for.

How to Hire the Best Sales Reps: 11 Must-Have Traits of High-Performers

Hunger to progress

A sales rep that always pushes forward and extends their skills is a good company asset. Your choice should not necessarily fall onto the most skilled sales reps. Getting on board a rough diamond may be a significant advantage for the company.

Ability to leave their comfort zone fast

A comfort zone is the enemy of highly effective sales reps. Candidates who like challenging themselves by doing new things, experimenting and who are able to quickly adjust to a changing environment should definitely be noticed.

Ability to challenge you and engage in a discussion

Challenge your candidates, spark a heated discussion, contradict their opinion and see how they are going to react. If there is no disagreement, then how will a new sales rep be able to protect their stand during sales calls or meetings?

Look at their communication skills to check if they are the right fit for the position.

A CV doesn’t always matter

All sales talents have started somewhere. Even the most prominent didn’t have any experience when they started out. But someone saw something special in them and got them on board.

By providing rough diamonds with a fertile ground to develop and polish their skills, you will observe a positive ROI in a short time. Even if previous experience matters for getting a higher position, you still have to verify each candidate and give them a fair chance. Syed Asad Hussain from Prezly approaches everyone like if he had never seen their CVs.

Talents may come from anywhere.

They can point out flaws

If your candidate is able to identify where the leaks are in your sales process, they’re definitely the one you should consider hiring. Getting a fresh perspective on your company’s sales process is beneficial. Sometimes we just don’t notice the obvious mistakes.

This is also the reason why companies hire external consultants who can see things everyone else was blind to.

A sales rep who is highly engaged in helping your sales department do better will at least spot some elements on a sales page or in a sales process that need fixing.

Look at his social circle

What are their colleagues saying about them? What kind of people do they spend time with? What about their reputation? Social connections matter a lot, especially in the sales world.

A good candidate is investing in their social capital and understands the value of extending their social circle.

Look for a candidate who prefers quality over quantity

If your candidates invest time in understanding the needs of prospects they are about to call, they most definitely care about meaningful conversations with clients and building long-term relations.

Such an approach to selling helps sustain a high LTV of clients after onboarding. While interviewing a candidate, try to understand how they approach sales calls – with a considerable dose of preparation or no preparation at all.

A great salesperson is not afraid to hear a “NO”

Each month sales goals are reset. Each day sales reps hear a “no” and lose deals. A determined sales person never gives up and is not afraid of being rejected.

Steli Efti, CEO of believes you shouldn’t teach tolerating rejection but look for people who already have a high emotional tolerance to rejection.

Assess culture fit

The LeaderShipIQ study shows that 46% of new hires fail within 18 months. The main reason, which accounts for 89% of cases is a poor culture fit.

Identify your candidate’s main values and ask detailed questions to get them talking about specific situations. Observe how emotional they get while talking. Try to verify if their story is credible.

Enjoy competitive sports

It’s obvious that salespeople are competitive – sales reps compare their sales numbers with the results of their colleagues.

If candidates do competitive sports like running or boxing, they will most probably enjoy competing and will want to achieve better results. Such people would want to be the number one on a leaderboard.

Great sales reps are compassionate

Each sales rep should understand their customers and believe in the product they sell. They should also comprehend how the product helps customers solve their problems.

They need to be passionate about what they do and encompass the mission to motivate their colleagues.  

Would you add something to this list? Share your observations in a comment and let’s start a fruitful discussion.

By Margo Ovsienko, Growth Marketer at Callpage and Growth Forge.

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