Startup Sales Hiring: 6 Traits to Look for When Hiring Top Sales Talent

If you manage a startup sales team, you’re in constant hiring mode. You’ve probably lost some top performers to competing offers, and you’ve probably had to let go a few promising hires that simply didn’t deliver. Startup sales hiring is tough!

Startups and small businesses can’t afford to make costly hiring mistakes. To make sure you’re hiring the best reps for your team, you might need to reevaluate your interview process and ideal candidate profile. Even if you can’t afford an experienced rep, you can look for a few key traits to help identify future success.

Here are six traits to look to help you identify and recruit top sales talent.

1. Process driven and highly organized

Sales is all about timing, and good sales reps need to have a system to keep a check on their performance. Your sales cycle already has several uncontrollable factors, and the highest performing reps are the ones who can effectively manage what’s in their control.

2. Strong problem-solving skills

Sales reps constantly face difficult questions – it’s part of the job. One of the key tasks of your sales reps is solving your customers’ problems. Therefore you need reps who can attack those problems and are ready to answer tough questions. If you hire a sales rep who doesn’t handle problems well, they’ll have a tough time closing deals.

3. Ability to embrace change

Reps who can handle some ambiguity are going to end up being better hires. They’ll be able to learn with little formal sales training because they’re willing to figure it out on their own. Between changing comp plans, new sales processes, you name it – all sales reps face change. Look for candidates who embrace change, rather than merely adapt to them.

4. Loves to win more than hates to lose

A rep who is trying to avoid looking bad won’t be as motivated to excel as the sales reps with a “love to win” mindset. A desire to win is actually a much more consistent driver of success as it motivates a rep in both good and bad performance. They won’t simply be content with being #2, but the candidate who doesn’t like to lose may be content as long as they aren’t at the bottom.

5. Self-reflective

Self-reflective reps improve at a faster rate. They will always question their individual behavior and your team’s sales strategies because they already understand what’s going well and what isn’t. These reps will be the best additions to your team since they naturally take a scientific approach to their surroundings. A reflective rep with less experience is normally more valuable than an experienced rep who is less reflective – reflection means improvement.

6. Shows empathy

Reps who show empathy are usually better at understanding how their messages are being perceived. Your reps will always be in communication with many stakeholders, and a rep who has the ability to see themselves from the perspective of the prospect will be more effective at communicating. They’ll have more insightful sales messages and make stronger connections with clients.

While these qualities are found in a great sales hire, they’re difficult to quantify. At CloserIQ we encourage early-stage startups to create their own system for evaluation. Having a grading rubric will help your hiring team learn whether the interview evaluations are consistent with a candidate’s performance.

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