As your company grows, you will inevitably need to add sales people to your team. You'll create the job ad, get tons of applications, screen lots of resumes, and start interviewing. But now, the big question is, "what are you looking for in a sales candidate?" There are a multitude of attributes that may be leading indicators to success in sales. Sales leaders will have differing opinions on what those may be but there is one simple rule that you should always follow when hiring.
Hire for skills that you can't teach or coach.
The theory behind this is pretty simple. If you hire for innate traits that can't be easily taught, then you can round out the skills of the "ideal candidate profile" with trained attributes like industry experience, CRM experience, etc. If you don't plan on making a commitment to train and grow your new hires, then look for trainable skills that a candidate already has. Too often recruiters look for these trainable skills as more valuable than innate skills.
Here are 6 sales skills that you can't coach or train.
Curiosity - If a candidate is not naturally curious, it is nearly impossible to teach. This is actually fairly easy to identify in an interview. A curious candidate will ask lots of questions. They will ask follow up questions. They will make assumptions and ask if they were correct.
Integrity - This is the idea that a person does what they say they will do. I think it's obvious why it's is important in sales but it can be difficult to uncover in an interview. For me, this can be more of a gut feeling. Does it feel like the candidate is being genuine and honest? or does it feel like they are putting on a show to try to get a job? You can also get some insights into integrity from the candidates behavior before and after the interview. Do they show up on time, do they cancel last minute, do they follow up, etc.
Humility - This probably isn't a characteristic you typically think about when you think "sales person" but here is why its extremely important. If a sales person tells you they always crush their quota, they never miss a deadline, they always close the deal, etc. then they are not being truthful. If they can't be truthful about these things then they won't be truthful to your customers. Being able to deal with success and failure with humility is key. Humility is also a key indicator of whether or not someone is coachable, and that is one of the most important things to long term success in sales.
Emotional Awareness - Being able to read a room in a sales situation is huge. It's even more important for inside sales reps because you don't get the benefit of picking up on visual queues. It's really difficult to teach emotional awareness. Obviously, there are actual assessments for EQ that you can use but if you don't have access to one, you can get some info from an interview. Do they make eye contact? Does the conversation flow nicely? Do they curse, and how did you feel about it?
Perseverance - Without question, this is an important skill for sales. You can't train for perseverance. The candidate has to have had gone through adversity and come out the other side. So, you can determine the level of perseverance in your candidate by asking some fairly direct questions. You can ask questions about how they overcame a difficult situation or about a time they failed and how they bounced back from it. Having a big failure on their resume is not a bad thing, actually its quite the opposite, as long as it is isolated and they can prove that they have bounced back.
Positivity - It is really difficult to train or coach a mindset. Being positive is one of the most impactful things you can do to influence your own performance and those around you. One thing that can be really telling on a candidate's positive mindset is how they talk about their former (or current) company, boss, or product. A pointed question about how things are going in their current role and what has them interviewing can uncover a lot of dirt about how the person really feels.