What are the top qualities of a good sales professional?

I asked this question to a select set of 12 leaders who hold positions such as Sales Managers, Business Unit heads, VP of Business Development, and Heads of Channels & Alliances. Between them, they had a total of ~200+ years of work experience and they had hired 100s of Sales Executives and Sales Account Managers during their tenure, so far.

While there was a bunch of answers that varied based on the Industry they were operating in or based on the products and services their company sold there were 3 common themes that distantly stood out from their answers.

Let’s get started to understand what they are.

Quality #1: Do they take 100% ownership?

This came out on top of the list – the fact about taking ownership of the role given to them and feeling responsible for meeting the monthly and quarterly goals.

“Whether they are reaching out to prospects via the phone, social media, email, or other means, business development reps need to take ownership of their results. Their goal is to get more prospects to a sales appointment or opportunity. They need to own it.” – said a VP of Sales.

“They have to be willing to improvise and adjust their approach based on feedback and results.” – opined one of the Business Unit heads.

“I do look for an entrepreneurial mindset. What we’re trying to find here is someone who has shown initiative as a problem solver and owns up to their results and their approach to improving them” – was the comment from a Sales Manager.

Quality #2: Do they know their audience inside and out?

Today, there is information disparity in favor of the buyer where he or she could find most of the information about solutions or competing products online, the key differentiator comes in the form of knowing your customers well and also about the industry they operate in.

That builds the foundation of trust and credibility of the Sales rep in front of the prospect. This was the second theme that had the highest weightage.

“Obviously the more experience they have with the types of people or companies that you are selling to the better, but can they demonstrate their research habits effectively? Where do they go to stay in the know?” – said a VP of Sales.

“Who or what publications are they likely to follow to get inside the mind of your prospects to understand what they are dealing with?” – commented the Head of Channels and Alliances.

So how would you test for it during the selection or hiring process?

“Having a candidate complete a short research project and analysis of your target market isn’t a bad idea to both gauge what steps they took to get familiar with your audience (and what other solutions they’re being pitched) and how well they comprehend the information.” – was the answer from a Business Unit head.

Quality #3: Are they self-motivated?

You have heard this term multiple times and have also read about this aspect in all the JDs published for most of the recruitments. It’s become a bit cliche perhaps.

But with the increasing complexity involved in the buying process and also the number of people involved in any B2B purchase of a minimum size and value, the Sales role has become tougher. And the Sales leaders, while they do block time for coaching their team members, they hardly have the required bandwidth for “babysitting” a sulking Sales rep.

“Rejection is more than common. You need to be able to see how this candidate deals with rejection. Are they able to learn from it, brush it off and get back to the task at hand? Or not?” – said the VP of Sales.

Hence the typical probing question in an interview: ‘Can you tell me about a time you had failed or you realized you were wrong. And how did it affect you going forward.?’  And you could add variations of that Q.

A more insightful one would be to have an exercise with the candidate – ie ‘Leave a short voicemail script to sell me on why I should hire you.’ Then once that’s complete ‘Great! Now let’s imagine I never call or message you back. What’s your next step? What would you change for your next outreach? And why?’. The responses would share more insights into his/her approach.

What are the other important qualities?

Also, there was a handful of other standard qualities that leaders look for in a Sales development Rep that came out in the discussions:

•  Strong Communication Skills: Sales rep is expected to share ideas, solutions, challenges with prospects, clients, and colleagues.

•  Collaborative Work Ethic: While they may be an expert in their field and will have individual goals, they require the business development rep to collaborate effectively with their team members.

•   People Skills: They need to know how to talk to people, read people, and sell to people. Whether they’re getting people on the phone, or closing deals, they are selling your approach, your company values, and methods.

•   Asks Great Questions and Listens Intently: The hidden part of “people skills” and having strong communication skills, listening to clients and prospects is a major skill any Sales Rep should demonstrate continuously

•  Sets Goals and Develops Action Plans: Again, you’re looking for a go-getter and someone with an entrepreneurial spirit. They need to be able to stay motivated and form a plan to meet their goals and the company’s goals.

•  Possesses a High Curiosity Quotient: This is key to being able to work with people, make plans to meet goals, and be a successful team member. Curiosity will allow them to search for understanding when talking to people and it will allow them to think creatively and strategically when making and adjusting goal-oriented plans.

• Understands the Value of Relationships: Other people skill if they understand and know how to manage prospect and client relationships, they will automatically have more success within your company.

So, there you have it – the 3 great qualities and habits (along with some of the key standards) that Sales leaders look for in any Sales or Business development rep.

“What are your thoughts on this topic?
If you are a Sales Manager is there any particular quality that you look out for when you hire?
Or If you are a Sales Rep what is that one or two qualities that have always helped you stay ahead in the game?
It would be highly valuable to get your perspectives.”


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