10 Key Traits to Look Out For in Your Next Sales Representative

Looking to hire your next sales representative? Watch out for these traits as cited by experts to make a stellar sales team.

When it comes to recruiting a sales representative, traits trump competencies. 

Traits are unique characteristics in a rep’s personality. Competencies or skills can be developed over time through training, mentoring or coaching.

However, the right traits take long periods of time to develop, and training or coaching might have very limited impact in enhancing them. 

For example, for a sales rep job, a candidate can learn skills such as “product knowledge,” “presentation skills” or “business writing” once hired. But traits such as “self motivation” or “accountability” might not be learned on the job. These are traits that need to be a current part of their personality.

Having the right set of competencies can be a great add-on. But having the right traits while hiring is non-negotiable.

When you hire for your sales reps, dive deep into their personalities to figure out their unique traits, and if they can translate to the sales environment. 

Let’s see what are the top traits you must look for when hiring a sales representative.

1. Hunger

Hunger refers to the burning desire to do anything that it takes to achieve one’s goals. This is a trait that needs to come from within the sales representative, and goes a long way in establishing relationships and closing deals.

Hunger is defined by the “why” of getting into sales. Is it just money, or is there a larger goal they want to achieve for themselves?

For some, it may be providing for their family, for others it may be financial stability. Whatever that end goal is, it will push them towards bringing their best version to work every single day. 

As Tony Robbins puts it, “Hunger will destroy that fear of failure.”

When sales reps have an innate hunger to make it in sales, they are always ready to hustle and roll up their sleeves to get the job done. Hunger offers that platform for ambition to take off from. 

If there is hunger in sales reps, they will be motivated to close more high-value deals, face obstacles head-on and walk that extra mile whenever needed.

2. Coachability

Coachability is a key contributor to the success of sales reps. A sales representative is coachable when they are open to being taught and trained as they progress at their jobs. 

Abhijeet Vijayverigiya, CEO at Nektar.ai says, “I look for a strong intent to learn. It’s very important for sales reps to have that learning ability. Even if you don’t know the product, domain or the solution, you can always pick it up, provided you have the learning intent. Whenever I see this as a negative, I tend to not go for the candidate.”

Top sales representatives are aware of their own performance, strengths and weaknesses. They use that awareness to continuously learn from their peers, seniors and their prospects and grow as professionals. 

This focus on continuous improvement to keep their skills sharp helps reps stay ahead of the curve and become “great” from “good.”

Coachable sales representatives are all ears for constructive feedback, and believe in the power of mentorship from their managers.

3. Confidence

Confident reps truly believe in what they sell, and most importantly the value that your product or service adds to the lives of customers.

Only when reps believe that their product is the absolute best in the market will they be able to genuinely and confidently showcase that to their prospects.

Along with the product, great sales reps believe in themselves and their vision. They can confidently explain how your product or service is going to solve a problem for the customer.

A great sales representative also instils decision confidence in their prospects by helping them see the true value of the product they stand for.

In today’s digital world, where B2B sales are happening online, the best sales reps confidently help their customers articulate the nuances of your product and differentiate it from the competition, leading to more sales.

4. Tenacity

Sales is hard. The number of rejections might be higher than approvals. And that’s okay. What’s important is to stay focused and determined on the goals and carry on. Being tenacious keeps reps focused on the larger picture.

Sales reps who are tenacious are always ahead of the curve. They are always trying to fill in their knowledge gaps and visualise scenarios from a customer’s perspective. They are constantly on the lookout for how they can solve their customer’s problems effectively.

Because of their constant pursuit to improve and learn, these candidates are not only open to feedback, but also willing to incorporate them in making themselves better. They are always open to learning and improving their work ethic.

They take accountability for their mistakes and always welcome constructive feedback. These reps demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence and they look at challenges as opportunities to learn, improve and grow.

5. Honesty

Authenticity, honesty and integrity are key traits to make a brand stand out in today’s world. 

The best sales reps are honest. They speak the truth, even when it is hard. They do not let their enthusiasm draw the wrong picture for their clients.  

They never bend the truth or exaggerate their offerings, just to close a sale. Building credibility takes time and honesty from the very beginning is what creates that level of trust among prospects. 

For example, if a solution does not meet the expectations of a prospect, a sales representative should not say otherwise. Giving a false timeline of deliverables without consulting the team or having certainty of outcomes can cost businesses their reputation.

Great sales reps always set realistic expectations for prospects and never put their reputation at risk. They are committed to their ethics and they always choose the establishment of trust over finding ways to manage short-term profit. They act as a reliable resource, rather than plain sellers. 

Make sure you hire reps who abide by the principles of honesty, in theory as well as in practice. Being trustworthy and honest in their interactions with prospects and colleagues will help in building long lasting relationships. 

6. Empathy

The best reps are empathetic. They always put themselves in their customers’ shoes before making a move. They are constantly asking questions that can help them serve their customers better.

Being empathetic allows reps to be mindful of what they say or do for their prospects. By looking at problems from the customer’s perspective, reps understand their pain points better and are able to suggest solutions that are not driven by just achieving quota. 

Your sales representative should be willing and able to understand their prospects, and keep customer success at the top of their minds. This kind of empathy for people will help create a trustworthy environment for all stakeholders that the rep interacts with.

A good sales representative not only knows their product inside out, but they are also well aware of what their customers feel and what they actually need. Empathy helps reps to become the guide that prospects look for, rather than someone who just reads out a script to sell a product or service. 

7. Team player

A great sales rep is one who can work cross functionally and leverage insights from different teams, rather than just being constricted to the people in sales.

Technology has connected marketing, sales and technology together, and the best in the business are companies that work together across departments.

A versatile sales rep should be willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved with any department. For example, your sales rep might have to partner with the content team to get a product document out. Or they might have to work with the admin to release any historical document.

Sales reps should enjoy working with people of various backgrounds. They should know how to communicate well with the people they collaborate with and make sure the best results are generated.

Your reps should be able to align different teams together and lead to collective success as a team. 

8. Adaptability

The kind of changes the world of sales has seen in the last two years has been unexpected and sudden. The shift to remote selling and heavy reliance on tech are some of the overnight changes that happened post the pandemic. 

Reps that took advantage of these shifts and sailed through continued to crush their targets and build lasting relationships with their prospects, even in the face of utmost adversity.

Sales as a function is dynamic and reps need to be flexible and adaptable to be able to not only survive, but also devise ways to thrive. 

Smart sales reps know that they need to be ready to deal with uncertainties, and alter their processes as needed. For example, if a sales rep is in the middle of a sales cycle and a new decision maker from another department enters the conversation, the rep should be able to pivot the conversation in accordance with what this stakeholder might expect. 

Similarly, sales reps need to be open to new technology that can help them do their jobs better, especially in the remote-working environment we are currently witnessing. This should be open-minded and willing to expand their knowledge horizons with changing time.

9. Creativity

Selling is an art that requires creativity. Sales reps should be able to look at things from unique perspectives. Creative and critical thinking enables them to come up with novel ways to help their customers.

Creativity helps reps to analyse situations and come up with ways to challenge customers to think differently. Their ability to think outside-of-the-box, be it while tackling a sudden objection or interacting with a new decision maker, sets them apart from the crowd. 

Creative reps are admired for their thinking and difference from the usual run-of-the-mill approaches to selling that prospects are used to experiencing.

Creative reps approach every prospect differently, and use their charm and wisdom to frame the right conversations that drive sales. Their interactions are unique and tailored to the clients needs. 

10. Active listener

Talking a lot is a part of the job profile for a sales rep. However, knowing when to stop and listen with intent is a less celebrated trait. 

Active listening helps reps to get into the mind of their prospects and figure out their exact needs. A good listener is humble and open to receiving feedback, comments and suggestions from clients as well as colleagues. 

People who listen genuinely care about what the other person has to say. Giving someone the time and space to express themselves can help build trust.

People who listen are always sought after as prospects feel like they can let their guard down and candidly discuss what’s on their mind. 

Be wary of sales reps who are more willing to dive into script mode, making most conversations a one-way street. Hire candidates who have the ability to pause when needed, and listen to what others have to say. It shows that you genuinely care about your customers. 

When reps truly listen, more prospects will be willing to talk to them, and overtime this trait will help them build a deep association and rapport with prospects. 


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