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13 Traits of an Outstanding Salesperson

When you're hiring salespeople, you're hiring the future of your company. Here are qualities young start-up founders say they look for in new sales hires.
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We asked 13 founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council to identify which single quality they feel guarantees a potential sales hire's success--tenacity? Likability? ...Laziness? Some of their answers, below, might surprise you.

1. A Hunter's Mentality

We want someone who is going to get excited about "the big fish"--someone who will prepare endlessly and wade through a lot of information, contacts and leads in order to put themselves in a position to land as many big accounts as possible. That kind of drive pushes them to never rest on their laurels and always look for the next big thing. --Alex Lorton, Cater2.me

2. Laziness!

I look for the laziest people I can find that have a history of great sales. Amazing salespeople are lazy, and seem to be predisposed to ADD. You basically just have to let them do their own thing and hope for the best in combination with their ability to never take take no as an answer. Best quick test: Tell them they didn't make the cut and if they argue with you, you've got a winner. --Liam Martin, Staff.com

3. The Discipline to Follow Up

I've found consistent follow-ups to be one of the most valuable acts a salesperson can do. My team has gained many sales by having a strategic follow-up strategy for our salespeople to follow. When they don't follow it, I can usually tell about two months later. Other skills can be learned through training, but follow-up is mostly about discipline. --Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

4. Charisma

Any salesperson I'm considering hiring needs to have me--and anyone else she meets while with me--eating out of the palm of her hand very quickly. A salesperson can always learn about a new product, but it's much harder to teach a person to get other people to like them. And if a salesperson isn't likable, well, it's hard to make any sales. --Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

5. Is He/She an Intelligent Fighter?

No matter what type of sales role you hire for, the one common trait every salesperson needs is pure motivation. I look for an intelligent fighter--someone who doesn't take no for an answer, who knows how to be politely persistent, and who is quick on his or her feet. Without motivation and a strong work ethic, no amount or training or high compensation will make a person successful at selling. --Ben Rubenstein, Yodle


6. The Trifecta: Intelligence, Personality and Drive

Unlike other roles within an organization where a single specialized skill is good enough, great salespeople need to be intelligent, personable and driven. This mix of personalities will ensure that they can not only get themselves in front of buyers but also close the deal--and ultimately create relationships that pay dividends over time. --Christopher Kelly, Sentry Conference Centers

7. Resilience

Rejection is a very real part of selling a product, especially when focusing on cold leads. A great salesperson isn't easily discouraged, and doesn't take the rejection on a personal level. --Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics



8. Empathy

Salespeople have to relate to the customer and support them in choosing the right solutions, so personal empathy is an essential quality. It shows up as listening more than talking, relating to the other people in conversation and genuine care for others. The lifetime value of an ideal client is much more important to us than the quick sale, so empathy from the sales team is crucial. --Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems

9. I Don't Look for a Salesperson--I Look for a Consultant

I look for someone who sees his role not as a "salesperson" who can sell ice to an Eskimo, but someone who understands his role is more like a consultant's. He seeks to understand prospects' unique problems to determine the best fit for their needs. --Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits


10. Existing Relationships and Product Knowledge

Relationship selling starts with ability to build and manage relationships. For a technology startup to sell software to an enterprise that to some degree changes how people within a company collaborate requires relationship selling at its best. I look for salespeople who can show an existing portfolio of relationships, understand our product, and are able to articulate its value. --Raheel Retiwalla, Fuzed

11. People Skills

A salesperson needs to have what my dad always called "people skills." In short, that means he or she must be easy to converse with, respectful, patient, and pick up on social hints. It sounds simple, but I don't want a salesperson that can't listen. A typical salesman will be a talker. I want a listener. I want someone who can connect the real needs of a client to the solutions of our offers. --Brian Moran, Get 10,000 Fans

12. Tenacity

I test a salesperson in every way possible before I hire them: I miss our scheduled phone call to see what he does; I ask him to give a presentation and sell our product during our interview; I email him and use an incorrect name to see how he responds; I reject him to see how he responds to rejection. My goal is to find out if the salesperson is truly tenacious and willing to close the deal. --Jun Loayza, www.JunLoayza.com

13. Confidence (and a Touch of Arrogance)

Confidence with a touch of arrogance! The best salespeople I have met are the ones who have great personality, are confident in what they do and never let go of opportunities. They grab the leg and don't let go. --Adam DeGraide, Astonish










IMAGE: Getty Image
Last updated: Mar 8, 2013




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