How to Hire Sales Reps: 4 Must-Have Traits To Look For

by Staffer Team

The most successful salespeople think and act differently than your average sales rep.

What sets them apart?

They’ve discovered the traits that ensure selling success, and work incessantly to cultivate those traits in themselves.

Here are the 4 must-have traits of successful salespeople.


  • Conscientiousness means achievement and dependability
  • "Hard work until you get it done" mentality
  • The American Psychological Association found this as the most predictive indicator of sales rep success
  • Candidates who are conscientious are goal-oriented, hardworking, persistent and have high expectations for themselves
  • This salesperson will be able to work autonomously and work well with high data transparency - when they have access to their own sales performance data, they can track and adjust their efforts in real time

Testing for conscientiousness:

  • Ask the candidate to tell you about a time they set difficult goals. What did they do to stretch themselves and achieve these goals?
  • If the salesperson can show they're goal-oriented and results-driven, they will likely put in a lot of effort and do well on your sales team


  • Coachability refers to someone's willingness and ability to grow
  • It is often defined as the willingness to accept and incorporate feedback
  • Candidates should be open to new experiences, perspectives, methods, tools and ideas
  • The most successful sales candidates will find a healthy balance between the self-starter attitude and the ability to turn coaching into results
  • Well-coached sales teams consistently outperform the competition and improve forecasting accuracy

Testing for coachability:

  • Run a role-play. Ask the candidate to sell something simple to you. After, ask them to reflect on their efforts: what did they do well and what did they not do well?
  • Candidates who are open about and unafraid of their weaknesses tend to be the most open to coaching
  • Next, tell them what to do differently next time. If they receive feedback well without getting defensive or stressed this indicates higher coach ability.


  • In order to be coachable and smart about sales, a rep must be intelligent
  • Good indicators of intelligence include the candidate's academic and workplace experience and achievements, including GPA

Testing for intelligence:

  • Consider asking "In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?"
  • Their response will tell you not only how well they can comprehend complex subjects, but also how well they can articulate them to someone who doesn't know much about the subject
  • To succeed in sales, the candidate will need to explain your product/technology and ideology to people who are most unfamiliar
  • By asking this question in an interview, it will show you how naturally they are able to explain concepts


  • Obviously you want to hire candidates that have a passion for sales. You should also consider someone who is passionate about your company's mission to ensure person-organization fit and long term success of the salesperson.
  • Being passionate about you job means more than just working to meet quota
  • Truly passionate salespeople work towards higher goals, like personal excellence and building long-lasting relationships

Testing for passion for selling:

  • Ask the candidate why they want to go into sales and what excites them about it
  • Ask what books or blogs they've read about sales
  • People tend to succeed when doing things they really like. A passion of sales can be a good indicator of success.

Testing for passion for your company:

  • It's important to be up front about your company's mission, culture and purpose
  • Gauge their passion by what questions they ask you when given the change - are they well thought out, difficult questions?
  • This will give you a clue into whether they will maintain high interest in your organization over time.

Sometimes it is tempting to hire a candidate that looks fantastic on paper with tons of experience even if they don't possess the 4 traits above. But the cost of turnover is high and you don't want to screw it up. Hire the most conscientious, coachable, intelligent and passionate candidates you can to build the best sales force.

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