As a hiring manager, what do the best sales candidates have in common?
Great question and something I love talking to (and sometimes 'debating') our leaders about - the idea behind 'what's the characteristic (or two) of your best seller you would want to clone?' For me, at the top of the list are 2 attributes I look for in potential sales team members:
1) 'Customer first' mindset: I don't want to lead or support a team of 'vendors' who are only interested in selling 'licenses'. I want to enable a team of 'consultants' or 'trusted advisors' that are not interested in selling 'licenses', but providing 'customer solutions' built on value. I want sales teams built on the belief that they can differentiate themselves by showing up to a prospect/customer meeting with curiosity and a perspective on what is happening in the particular industry and company...prospects will pick up on the fact that you seem genuinely interested in understanding their reality.
2) The ability to be a master customer storyteller...something I call 'storyselling'. To me this is an important attribute if you are hoping your sellers show up like 'consultants' and sell on value. Think of how you like to be sold to...most want to partner with someone who understands their current situation, and desired future state. You typically buy from someone you trust, and that trust is typically built out of 'experience' or 'subject matter expertise'. Finally, you want someone who can paint a picture of the future, to get you excited about the 'art of the possible' and nothing means more and comes off as 'authentic' than hearing stories of how other customers, of a similar size and industry, or facing the same challenge, have transformed their business in the way you are looking to do so.
In my experience, the best sales candidates are not necessarily people with the most years of sales experience. I've noticed the best sales candidates all have these qualities in common:
- Insanely Driven and Hard-Working (folks who are intrinsically motivated to double down on KPIs to exceed their goals if that's what it takes)
- Adaptable (people who can think on their feet, and adjust their sales motion/process to best hit their sales targets)
- Inquisitive (excellent salespeople know that the key to selling is listening, not talking. So people who are naturally curious about their clients' pain points are generally much better at prescribing solutions and highlighting impact for the client)
- Self-Sufficient with Outbound (the top 1% sales talent I've seen will always find ways to exceed their number beyond what's given to them. They know how to go creatively source for leads and go outbound to feed themselves, and not just rely on an inbound pipeline)
This is a very important question and one that not everyone will see eye to eye with me on this. But personally, it has never failed me up until now. There are a few elements that are common to candidates that have been proven to be successful:
The first is tenacity. It is that inner hunger to learn new topics or master new skill sets. One who always finds ways to be proactive and push boundaries. When talking to candidates, I always look for a potential team member whom I will need to restrain rather than one I will need to nudge forward.
The second is communication skills. A great seller is someone who you talk to and immediately comes off as connectable and relatable. Someone who has a clear understanding of the person in front of them.
The third aspect would have to be very strong social and emotional intelligence. This goes hand in hand with having a client first mentality. A great candidate is one who will give the client the true sense that he puts their interest above anything. Earning that trust is key to building a long-term, healthy relationship.
As a hiring manager, the best sales candidates have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They come prepared with questions about the organization, sales team structure and prospects you sell into. They aren't afraid to ask for next steps in the interview process while standing out from the crowd of interviews that might be in your calendar. This might sound old school, but in a candidate heavy market, it's important to write a cover letter as to why you would be a great fit for the company long-term.
I'd say the one thing that winning candidates have in common is based on how easy they are to talk to.
When an interview goes right its.
- Flows well
So, the best candidates tend to have enough knowledge about me or my business that they are dropping references to things that are familiar and show a genuine curiosity that helps me visualize them on a call with a prospect.
The best candidates typically have the following in common:
- Executive presence
- Creative in their thinking/problem solving/story telling
- Positive, Excited
Good question! I evaluate every sales candidate who is interviewing to join my team on the same 3 criteria:
1. Sales Skills & Knowledge - key expertise & skills required to be an effective salesperson (ex. conversation generation, discovery, relationship building, business case construction, managing a closing process, etc.)
2. Core Behavioral Competencies - the characteristics that can contribute to success as a salesperson (ex. motivation, presence, adaptability, coachability, etc.)
3. Alignment to Company Values - the main values we expect to be shared by all employees within the organization
That said, there are aspects that tend to separate the GREAT from the BEST sales candidates. As a I reflect back on the VERY BEST salespeople I've worked alongside and had the opportunity to lead throughout my career, each of them also embodies the following:
1. Intellectual Curiosity - an innate curiosity of the world. Individuals who are deeply facinated by people & relationships, the problems or challenges they may be facing, and have a perpetual hunger to continue learning from others. These individuals tend to be the best at truly understanding a customer's objectives/pain points which enables them to provide the best solutions.
2. Resilience - formed through tremendously challenging experiences outside of their career. Each of the best people I've worked with has done something incredible in their lives before I met them. They've had success in the face of adversity. By being able to acheive their goals amidst chaos, they learned how to maintain focus on the most critical behaviors, keep themselves above the line, and weather the headwinds. These individuals tend to be the best at managing through the biggest downsturns of a life in sales.
3. Leadership - not operating behind a title, these indvidiuals embody the truest aspects of Leadership. Always putting the team's development & success above their own self-interest, these individuals find opportunities to innovate within their sales motion, and go out of their way to share their learnings & best practices with the team.