What to look for in a Successful Salesperson

how to be a successful salesperson

Table of Contents

If you asked a room full of people about what skills a successful salesperson would possess, you would probably hear things such as: confident, friendly, good at negotiating and other generic personality traits, as well as solid sales experience.

But this is the wrong approach.

Extensive worldwide research has shown that there are some very specific characteristics that salespeople need to possess in order to be successful. But if a hiring manager doesn’t have this knowledge, they will be unable to recruit the best people for their team. So what do you need to look for?


According to the Objective Management Group, there are four key things to identify in a candidate: desire, commitment, responsibility and outlook. Of course it can be extremely difficult to measure an individuals level of competencies in these four areas, so that is where having the right pre-hire sales assessment in place is critical.

There are also six, well-documented hidden weaknesses that impinge on a salespersons capability to succeed – in fact it can have up to a 50 per cent impact on an individual’s ability to execute. These are; money weakness, difficulty recovering from rejection, non supportive buy cycle, self-limiting beliefs, need for approval, and controlling emotions.

And here’s the clincher – these hidden weaknesses are very difficult and time-consuming to identify in salespeople without the right sales assessment in place.

The job requirements

It’s important to have a clear framework around what makes a successful salesperson in your organisation. Are you looking for a farmer or a hunter? Will they be cold calling or will they have warm leads to work with?

You need to be very specific around the daily tasks involved, because while the difference between cold calling and nurturing an established prospect might only seem minor, they each require a different set of capabilities.

Context of experience

Just because someone has a solid amount of sales experience, it doesn’t mean it is the right kind of experience for your business and your sales process. Sure, the individual might be a super star in their current role where they sell a high volume of low priced consumer products – but what if your organisation is B2B and sells small numbers of expense software? There would be a huge difference between the processes required for each sales pipeline, and it doesn’t automatically mean their skills would transfer well from one to the other.

It is ideal to have a profile in place to identify the best salesperson for your business, so you can benchmark candidates against it. This would include who your customers are (CEOs or less-senior positions), what your pricing strategy is and what your selling environment looks like – as these things will all require a certain type of experience for a salesperson to be successful and comfortable with the situations they are placed in.

This will also come in handy when it comes to phone screening and/or interview stage, as by having a clear picture around what you need, you can work out the right questions to ask.

Understand their motivators

Motivation is an interesting thing – as not everyone is driven by the same external and internal factors. So understanding what motivates a salesperson to achieve in their role can provide an extremely helpful head start for you as their manager. You need to know what will push them to succeed, and consider if that is something your organisation is able to provide for them – because if you can’t then they are unlikely to reach their full potential in your team.

Of course, the person themselves might not be too sure of what it is that they are actually motivated by, so finding this out might require an assessment.

Download a SAMPLE Sales Candidate Assessment and see for yourself the incredible insight that you can gain when assessing your next candidates.


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