How to Hire the Best Salespeople

During interviews, it’s not always easy for recruiters to detect the difference between a great salesperson and a mediocre one. Resumes and interview performances are designed to persuade and do not paint the complete picture.

However, there are certain key traits that can signal to a recruiter that a candidate is a sales ace – or at least has the attributes to blossom into one with the right mentoring and training. Spot the following traits in a prospective hire, and you’ll likely spot a winner.

Sports a natural talent for sales

All the training in the world can’t make up for a person who has zero natural talent for sales. Some people have natural charisma — possessing the ability to capture attention, hold it, persuade and win over the hardest critic.  Natural sales talent goes beyond demeanor, however, and includes the wit and intelligence to understand the dynamics behind fulfilling desire and demand. They understand how to negotiate with people, zero in on psychological levers and figure out people’s true needs and motivations.

The best way to determine if a candidate possesses natural sales talent is to test for it. One of the popular tests used for this purposes is the Craft Personality Questionnaire. Renowned sales trainer John Asher of Asher Strategies uses it extensively as part of his company’s curriculum. He says, “Businesses may question why it is necessary to understand aptitude prior to hiring new employees. Simply put, excellent training is no substitute for ability…potential hires who already display an exceptional capacity for achievement and comprehension will be the leaders in their field.”

Think of it the same way scouts recruit players for sports teams. All candidates are tested physically and their performance statistics are checked as well. While scouts know they can bring someone with low scores up to a decent level with a lot of work, it is more productive for them to draft the players with the highest natural ability. The same goes for salespeople.

Has a background in people-facing positions

Not everyone is a “people person.” The sales profession, however, is a social one, and recruiters must make sure to hire those who are personable, who feel comfortable in social settings with strangers and who aren’t afraid or intimidated by face-to-face interaction. This is rather easy to spot in the conversations you have with prospects, both on the phone and in person.

Another clue is that the candidate has a history that includes at least one successful stint in a job with a high level of human interaction, such as a retail clerk, a school teacher, a receptionist or a bank teller. Many excellent salespeople never dreamed they would end up in sales — they simply liked dealing with people and providing solutions, so sales became a natural fit.

Don’t be afraid to hire someone with no sales experience if they possess the aptitude for it (determined via testing) and have a background in dealing with people. Just make sure you give them professional sales training!

Listens more than he or she talks

One stereotype about salespeople which is, sadly, often true is that they can’t stop talking and are relentlessly pitching to the point of being pushy. The hallmark of  good salespeople is their ability to listen to the prospect in order to truly discover how best to serve them. All salespeople make presentations, but the best make them so intimate and influential that they seem like conversations with a good friend. We all know that our best friends are great at simply listening to us.

Recruiters should assess whether candidates are effective listeners who can pause and appreciate the viewpoints and concerns of others during interviews, as well as follow up with probing and compelling questions. They should also look for a person whose speaking style is patient – not rushed. The interview style likely mirrors the conversational style a sales candidate will use with prospects.


Surviving in a job that includes daily rejection is tough. The best salespeople are self-motivators who can recover from failure quickly, stay optimistic, constantly set new goals and go after major accounts without prodding from a manager.

A reliable measure of this type of initiative is a history of being an entrepreneur or a community change agent. Look for people who independently teach themselves new skills and cultivate their own prospects. Candidates should give examples of past occasions where they have proven their go-getter skills by setting unusual or difficult goals and achieving them within an impressive time period.


  • Starting their own business (even if they failed)
  • Running a marathon
  • Missionary work in a foreign country
  • Starting a club in the community
  • Being actors and other performers (can take a lot of rejection and keep going)

With a little more care during the hiring process, and making sure you test for sales aptitude, you can greatly improve the caliber of your sales team. Add in some professional sales training and mentorship, and you have a formula for sky-rocketing your revenue while building sales superstars!