The qualities you want in hiring sales representatives

We've had a lot of experience in hiring sales representatives. Sales Force Europe has been on the hunt for great local sales reps since 2003. Our teammates have been making that search even longer. So we know what works for us. You should know what works for you. We're just here to offer some ideas that may help your verbalize what works for your hiring processes.

When hiring sales representatives, you don't only want someone who is good at sales — that's a given. You want someone who fits well within your whole sales team and your organizational culture as a whole. We already talked about those more measurable qualities in our last sales rep interview question: What is one question you ask a prospective sales rep in a job interview? Those 30 questions hopefully gave you new ways of testing technical sales chops, learning their on-the-ground experience, seeing how they perform under fire, and if they focus on the customer or just talk about themselves a lot.

Today's question that we asked more than 60 tech sales leaders is more about getting a feel for who they are, which drives what they do. And makes it easier — or not — to work with them.

Just remember these aren't checkboxes or true-or-false questions. And just because these sales managers want these things, doesn't mean you will or should. In order to open up for more diversity, equity and inclusion, you have to go into an interview with an open mind. You never know which need you had that you never knew you had.

One thing is for sure, a lot about hiring sales representatives comes down to personality. Not just theirs, but yours too. As a sales manager, keep an open mind and remember to have fun — this could be your next colleague!

What qualities are you looking for in a sales rep?

One respondent, managing director Mohamed Alawiyat, had a such a thoughtful response that we thought we'd bring it out at the start:

"It all depends on the position and industry, but many companies are looking for sales reps who are persuasive, intelligent, creative, hard-working, and know how to build good relationships.

Generally speaking:

1. Passionate - driven by internal reasons as opposed to external ones

2. KPI-driven - knows what methods of success produce results. Their focus is about what will bring them closer to that goal rather than taking wild shots into the air, assuming one day it will land near it

3. Committed - does not give up no matter how hard something gets

I look for a rep with the drive to take on a challenge and grow within the company. Just as important, though, are certain personality traits such as even-tempered and patience.

In a typical sales situation, you'll need to be able to convince the other person of your point of view (persuasive), understand their perspective (intelligent), communicate your ideas in a way that's easy for them to understand (creative) and engage in friendly dialogue about solutions to their problem or have enough determination to find an alternate solution (hard-working.)

Knowing how people operate is also essential when it comes time for negotiating prices with customers. You will want this knowledge whether you're working on B2B or B2C transactions."

Drive and empathy top the list

There's no doubt that drive — that don't take no attitude — and empathy — the ability to understand where people are coming from — can seem diametrically opposed. Still, those are the two most common traits our network is looking for when hiring sales representatives. And you really could be driven toward learning customer needs and finding the right technology to pair with them.

Plus there was one important overlap in both being driven and persistent and being empathetic, which is actually quite easy to ascertain from an interview: Do they ask great questions?

"They will be comfortable with ambiguity, be able to adapt quickly, and enjoy working in a fast-paced environment. They must have strong soft skills and business acumen and coupled with an insatiable appetite for growth and development. This person will be fearless and self-less and able to navigate customer challenges easily."

Allison Buenemann, industry principal, Seeq Corporation

"Active listening, trustworthiness, ability to understand customer needs, able to quickly understand new opportunities, communication skills"

Albrecht von der Recke, CCO and co-founder, fonYOU

"Technical understanding of the solution, ability to connect with customer and his/her challenges, and relate that to our products"

Axel Kloth, CEO, Abacus Semiconductor Corporation

"Absolute impeccable business ethics."

René Weilharter, member of the management board, Nexus Telecom Switzerland AG

"Articulate, resilient, process-oriented, gutsy, ask great questions"

David Davies, CRO, Sandler Training

"Communication skills. Actionable steps. Fast learners."

Adrienne Alterman, sales and business development manager, Eero by Amazon

"Proactivity, reliability, accountability, ownership, communication"

Fabien Spitz, Business Development Manager Retail France, SumUp

"Enthusiasm, flexibility, charismatic personality, easy going, proactive, energetic"

Lorena Smit, CEO, Golden Goose Events

"High EQ [emotional intelligence] and good questioning skills. Structure and an ability to work through a process but not to the detriment of adaptability and being able to think out of the box."

Gavin Page, CRO, Sales Force Europe

"Being solution-oriented and able to catch the customer on a deeper and personal level."

Dario Di Cerbo, senior business developer, Swisscom

"Authentic, listener, ability to steer the conversation, confidence, understands the subject, ability to find a solution to the problem, sets and keeps commitments (professional), takes pride in their work."

Paul Solski, international business development specialist

"Empathy. Value orientation. Teamwork. Empathy. Creativity. Resilience. Humility."

Miguel Rosado Boulet, professional services sales account executive, Adobe Digital Experience Cloud

"The ability to roll up their sleeves and take initiative in a fast-paced environment. Self-motivated, curious, well-organized and with the ability to prioritize in a fast moving environment."

Robb Miller, VP of sales, Algonomy (formerly Richrelevance)

Newbie or seasoned sales rep?

Qualities for sales representatives will vary by role and seniority. For us, our field sales reps need at least ten years' experience selling tech locally, but our inside sales reps only need about five years. Of course the inside sales reps are in a space with their sales coaches and managers right there providing regular guidance, while our field sales executives have a lot more autonomy, though still have to report regularly to their regional managers and you, their tech clients.

It's good to start your hiring process by understanding what levels of experience you need, especially when leveraging sales reps to expand abroad. Of course budget often drives seniority, as does local competition both for hiring and for the product to be sold. But when you're hiring abroad, certainly domain and local market insight is also a must-have.

"Depends what type of rep — if we are talking about an entry level SDR [sales development representative] I want a hungry, passionate, and smart individual. If we are talking about enterprise sales the requirements are quite different. A track record that can be clearly demonstrated is imperative here."

Julian Marcuzzi, VP of revenue, Predictable Revenue

"Minimum ten years of sales experience in a business-to-business, large and strategic customer segment. Excellent English, verbal, written and presentation skills. Self-motivated with the ability to work under pressure. Diplomatic and positive approach to problem solving."

Paul Inglesby, ICT Technology & Business Analyst

"Intelligence, energy, excitement, integrity, market knowledge, experience in sales"

Rick Pizzoli, CEO and founder, Sales Force Europe

"Identification with the brand and the products, persistance, professional and always friendly attitude towards customers, integrity."

Fulvio Innocente, sales manager of distribution, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy

"Their network and understanding of the product matters first."

Johannes Durstberger, sales representative, Austria

"Good and possibly strong relationship with the potential main customers as well as proven past successful experience."

Roberto De Filippi, key account manager, Italy

"Understanding the value of our product, understanding our audience, resilience to NO."

Hauke Holtkamp, CEO,

"Method, empathy, preparation before the commercial visit"

Sergio Di Nunzio, sales manager, Yesssit

"Ability to listen. Proper planning. Adaptability. Knowledge of the market and target clients. Ability to work with a multi level target audience."

Nick Howard, CEO, Klaatu IT Security Ltd.

"Good listener and capability to understand the clients problems and adapt our solutions and messaging to the client's problem."

Jose L. Sastre, managing partner, Meetel

Self-starter or team player?

Especially when starting your expansion to a new country or just when you're growing from founder-led sales to a sales team, your first sales representative may be alone. And that's OK. In other situations, sales is really a team effort. Try to understand which personality type is needed ahead in order to make sure you are asking the right questions to find the right person.

"Ability to work in a team, honesty, reliability, strength of conclusion, persuasiveness, hunter mentality, proven success."

Jens Herrmann, business development head, Guidewire Software

"Sense of urgency, attention to detail, teamwork, integrity, communication, going above and beyond, organisational skills."

Nick Adams, VP EMEA, Globalization Partners

"Positive attitude, resilience, entrepreneur, leadership, team-player, qualify for value, discipline and consistent."

Bennie Peleman, sales manager, Westpole Belgium

"Passion for cooperation with people and the ability to find solutions."

Marek Grzegorzewski, business development manager, Sales Force Europe

"Be positive and collaborative. Have an open mind to get away from the standard schemes to develop new sales approaches due to changes, like due to Covid. Availability to help and to be supported by colleagues and, especially, an open mind to work in a team."

Leonardo Maimone, sales and marketing account director, Sales Force Europe, Italy

Do you have more qualities for hiring sales representatives? Find us on LinkedIn or Twitter and tell us!

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