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David Jacoby

By: David Jacoby on October 20th, 2010

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Hire Effective Sales People By Looking for These Key Attributes

Sales Management | Recruitment & Selection


One of the most frequent questions I hear from sales leaders is what are the key attributes I should look for when I hire an effective new sales person? Like many subjective questions, I respond that “it depends on what you are looking for that person to accomplish”. All too often, sales leaders find themselves hiring sales people who appear to have the right background and experience only to see them underperform in the sales role they’ve been hired for.

The problem with hiring sales people is that more often than not the hiring decision is based on the following:

  • Educational background
  • Prior experience
  • Prior performance
  • Personality
  • Subjective view of how they will fit in with the rest of the sales team

While these are important pre-requisites to making a hire, they ignore the key behaviors or competencies that drive success. It seems that unlike other positions within a company (e.g. cost accountant, or software engineer), when it comes to sales positions companies fail to take the time to identify and understand what competencies are most important. And, even when they have identified the right competencies, they don’t probe deep enough to discern whether a candidate really possesses these attributes.

As an example, if you are looking for an effective field sales representative to sell into a brand new territory where they will work from a home office, you should probably identify candidates who possess these attributes.

  • Work ethic
  • Planning & organization skills
  • Motivation
  • Integrity
  • Confidence
  • Interpersonal skills

Of course, if you were to ask any applicant whether they possess these qualities you would probably get an emphatic “yes”. While this is to be expected, as sales leaders it is essential that we probe further and ask them to describe situations where they have demonstrated the skill or behavior, the specific actions they took, and the results they achieved.

Ultimately, making the right hire goes well beyond personality and fit. We need to recruit and hire effective sales people who demonstrate the skills and behaviors that best align with the position. While this may take more time than your current hiring process, I can assure you that it is far more less time consuming and costly than making the wrong hire.

Sales Training Research Report by Sales Readiness Group

About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.