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How to Hire a Sales Person

Riddle me this, what makes a good sales person?

Just think about the typical sales person that you interact with, either during the course of your work day or at home. They seem to be very persistent in their approach and don’t take no for an answer. Off hand many say a sales person needs to be aggressive, a self-motivator, persistent, hard-working and experienced. But is that what makes a good sales person and how do you determine what does?

how to hire a salesperson | hiring sales people | hiring a salespersonBig data allows the smart people of this world to assess candidate in all kinds of  new ways; assessments range from personality to psychometric to aptitude to industry specific skills, and much more. Wouldn’t you know it – I’ve found some surprising information about hiring sales people that you may find useful in your search.

Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte did some impressive work on what does and does not drive sales success. At a large service provider, Bersin helped increase sales by $4.5 million within six months after an analysis of turnover, sales performance and productivity. Interestingly, they found that the sales person’s type of degree earned, university grades and references “did not matter” to sales success.

How to Hire a Sales Person

Bersin found that these 6 most common criteria of high performing sales people were:

1. No typos or grammatical errors on their resume.

2. Obtained a college degree.  (The actual degree did not matter.)

3. Experience selling real-estate or autos.

4. Demonstrated success making quota and achieving success.

5. Able to perform under “vague instructions” (tested through assessment and interviews)

6. Excellent at multi-tasking and following up on tasks.


And, I’ve learned from Sue Barrett’s Barrett Sales Blog, who’s been using assessment tools for several years that in addition to the 6 key criteria above, she adds that a sales person should also have the following.

1. Ability to Build Relationships

2. Strong Reasoning Skills


Notice the sales person stereotypes that are missing from these lists: aggressive, a self- motivator, fast talker, persistent or even have a sales certification.

When hiring a sales person resist the urge to hire based on gut feelings, some sales people can be fast and slick talkers, they say things like, “I can sell snow to an eskimo.” Cute but means nothing.

Consider that new market trends and customer values have changed.  We don’t sell items the same way we sold them 15-20 years ago, we don’t even use currency the same way either. Thanks to technology we have bigger networks, bigger audiences, and a good sales person figures out ways to use websites, social media, apps and other technology to acquire and nuture more customers and increase sales.

While these market wide findings of what makes a great sales person are a bit surprising, always remember that you are hiring for your company. Make sure to take into consideration your product/s, target market, and geographical location because what you need is someone who can relate to your diverse customer base.


chris fieldsChris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work. Connect with Chris via email at [email protected].

To find great sales people post job openings to SalesGravy, SalesHead, and LinkedIn through SmartRecruiters – everything you need to source talent, manage candidates, and make the right hires.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work & ResumeCrusade.