What I should I have known before I did my first sales hire : The Ten Essential traits of a Sales Star

The average sales person is like a window to your company. He gives a peek into what lies inside. A great sales person, on the other hand, is like a door. He invites you in, shows you around and engages you enough to stay back for the Martinis. Call him/her a “sales superstar“, “Hustler”, “Sales maverick” or whatever suits your fancy. The truth is, if you’re an employer, you want such people to play for your team.

Now, the mother of all questions — “How do you, as a new employer/hiring manager, spot that hustler?”

Asking a standard set of questions is passé. People today are smart and know how to navigate through interview questions. It’s when they begin to work, that the capability gap becomes clear, but by then it’s too late, with time and money lost.

It is imperative to be on a constant lookout for the essential traits, core to a good sales or business development professional. The following is the list of 10 Key traits I look for in my sales dream team.

Selling skills

1. Natural networker- Networking, as we know, is the backbone of sales. A great salesperson is someone who can chat up a manager with as much ease as he can charm a security guard to find out what the market buzz is. That kind of person, if motivated to remain loyal, is a keeper.

2. Persuasive communicator: Closely allied to networking is communication — this is the ability to persuade and convince once you’ve struck up a conversation. Strong communication enables great salespeople to rally resources around their larger goals and achieve targets.

3. Keen observer of people: A great salesperson needs to be highly observant in interactions with others. He/she must be able to note and interpret small gestures to develop a real-time understanding of the other party’s response. This could be the customer’s casual remarks or body language.

4. Comfort with technical details: A sales person should ideally have a fair understanding of how the company’s products are made and developed, and be self-driven to learn as much about the product as he can by using it. This makes him/her sound more credible and smart when describing features and benefits to clients.

Working style

5. Strategic Thinker: The corporate world places a premium on strategic thinkers, and rightly should — someone who can structure his thoughts and approach to a problem at a micro and macro level with equal ease is an asset to any team. He/she would generally be one who has a Plan A, Plan B, and probably even a Plan C.

6. Collaborative: A salesperson should ideally have a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) and be adept at conflict management. He must be willing to contribute and share his knowledge and also to learn from his peers, mentors and juniors. He/ She must also be comfortable and open to share inputs about a prospect to help a team mate achieve his/her targets. This is essential for the long-term success of the company.

Character traits

7. Process-oriented: Process-oriented people make sales repeatable and scalable, because they use the prescribed process and can help identify ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness. They ensure that the sales funnel is always filled. If the person is process-oriented, he/she will know what might go wrong before things start to go south. In contrast, a maverick might get results one month, but bomb the next, and it is almost impossible to post-mortem the reasons for failure because no structured process was followed. Until your sales is predictable, you can never ever scale fast.

8. Detail-oriented: The ability to spot an error or anomaly is invaluable to a sales person. If a sales person can identify things not being right or something amiss at an early stage, one can save hundreds of man hours from working on a faulty process or idea. These inputs from a sales team will always help refine processes and make the product better.

9. Data fluency: When you want to scale, nothing helps more than data. Sales people should understand this at two levels. At one level, data will help identify bottlenecks in processes or opportunities created by certain anomalies. At another level, fluency with data (and logic) while negotiating deals is valued and respected by a prospect, and can be crucial to close more technical product sales.

10. Grit: Grit is vital if one wants to have a long and successful career in sales. When nothing goes right, it’s grit that will help you through the storm — and a career in sales is basically a series of storms.

These are ten timeless traits which I have found to be essential to my sales team, and many of them apply broadly across geographies and industries. However, as you’ve no doubt experienced, testing for these ten traits is difficult in a single interview.

In fact, in my next post I will share the process I developed to find our company’s sales stars. The process, though unconventional, has worked exceedingly well for me, and I am confident it will do the same for you.

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