Hiring a Salesperson: A Few Questions to Ask Before Making a Decision

Hiring a salesperson? Here are a few questions to ask before sealing the deal. And we go far beyond the usual interview questions!


Catherine Dulude

Corporate Coach and Business Happiness Consultant

Monday, April 27, 2015


Here are 3 facts:

  • Good salespersons are rare;
  • Hiring a salesperson is no easy task;
  • Hiring mistakes are excessively costly.

But what do you do when confronted with these facts? A solution is to seek out the new generation of workers (be they internal or external) and hire candidates who show strong potential and have natural reflexes suited for sales. These said reflexes are personal traits acquired at an early age that remain stable throughout a person’s lifetime, remaining relatively immune to external influences and the social environment.

My suggestion is as follows: favour personality traits over experience (of course, experience as an addition is great!). Here are 8 personality traits that are worth looking for when hiring a salesperson.

 1 – Are They Ambitious and Do They Have a Thirst for Success?

The best sales representatives are action-oriented and seek to attain the goals they set for themselves. However, these traits should never manifest to the detriment of the quality of service offered to the client. There is a fine balance that must be achieved.

If a salesperson sells but makes you lose clients at the same time through an overly aggressive approach, the end result is worse than if no sales were made in the first place.

2 – Do They Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is in fact a combination of different verbal and non-verbal skills that allow an individual to manage, recognize, express, understand and evaluate their own emotions as well as those of others. Based on this input, they are then able to orient their actions and thoughts so as to deal with the demands and pressures of the environment in the most optimal way.

If one wants to excel in the domain of sales, it is fundamental for them to be able to create a bond with the client, to understand their feelings and to show empathy.

In order to be able to share another’s emotions, the first step is to be in touch with one’s own. Why is that? Simply because a person who is deaf toward what they feel remains fully at the mercy of these emotions. A sound understanding of one’s emotions is essential to prevent them from taking over, under which circumstances reading the emotions of others becomes extremely challenging.

Hence, when you are seeking to hire a salesperson, it is important to determine whether they know themselves well. Are they conscious of their strengths and weaknesses, of their potential, of their limits? Do they learn from their mistakes? Are they open to criticism or do they quickly turn defensive? Are they receptive when told about what they lack?

3 – Do They Have Professional Ethics?

A good salesperson should be honest and have commendable professional ethics – that is most essential in order to be able to gain clients’ trust.

Do they go the extra mile to do their work well (but without excess, in order to avoid damaging short-term objectives)? Do they have a tendency to cut corners and dodge rules? Do they hold true to their promises?

A bond of trust always was, and still is, the key to successful professional relationships that are made to last and be profitable.

Do not forget that the salesperson is often the client’s first point of contact with your company. They are its very face, its first impression – and that is reflected in the opinion that the client will have of your organization; it is therefore essential that the salesperson be the very embodiment of your corporate values!

4 – Are They Capable of Dealing with Critique and Rejection?

Let’s be honest: sales are a difficult domain to be in. Someone who has a career in this field must to be able to accept rejection and defeat repeatedly and remain motivated nevertheless.

Critique must also be absorbed in a constructive rather than destructive way, since there are no perfect products or services!

Conduct a little test during the interview: critique the candidate and take note of their reaction.

5 – Are They Capable of Withstanding Pressure?

In addition to everything else, the domain of sales is also competitive! There is often much pressure applied in order to reach goals and get results.

In the life of a salesperson, there will inevitably be highs and lows, and stress will surely be present at every turn. It is easier when business goes smoothly, but in the rougher times, when competition is fierce or when required results are sky-high, the competencies of the sales representative are intensely challenged.

So measure your candidates’ capacity to withstand pressure – it is essential!

 6 – What Is Their Degree of Introversion/Extroversion?

You probably wonder whether your salesperson should be extroverted or introverted.

A classical sales stereotype is the belief that the best salespersons are extroverted and that, inversely, introverts are quite weak when it comes to selling.

It is certainly true that an extrovert has an easier time initiating first contact and entertaining larger groups. However, an introvert has stronger listening skills, which is just as essential in this context.

In fact, the best salespersons often have a near-perfect balance between the two extremes; they are ambiverts. They are at ease in social conditions without necessarily having a need to be the center of attention, all the while having an ability to listen.

In sales, the attention should be focused on the client and not necessarily on the salesperson. If your candidate takes up all the space during the interview and speaks only of themselves, chances are, they are not the best fit for this job opening.

Do they listen to you? Do they ask questions? Do they show interest in you, in the company? Are they capable of reading your non-verbal language? (Test them: express an emotion non-verbally and see if they catch on.)

7 – Are they Humble and Modest?

Any long-term relationship with a client is built on trust.  Remember that trust is the result of a relationship and not its starting point – it gets constructed with time.

An excellent way of developing trust is through humility: by knowing how to recognize one’s faults and lacks, by admitting that one is not without flaws, being honest, and respecting the point of view of others. It is pretty hard to trust someone who is never wrong!

Ideally, your candidate would have an average level of modesty and humility. Ask them some questions about their failures. If they do not have any response or if others are always guilty, then it is a very bad sign!

8 – How Do They Use Their Influence?

The power to influence is contained within the art of negotiation and persuasion. In sales, it is important to know how to sway the client, but the way in which it is done is also crucial.

The best salesperson is able to influence the outcome of a sale and to close it, but they must also have a desire to collaborate with the client and respond to their needs. Sales for sales’ sake are not good enough. You would not want a salesperson who could sell glasses to a blind person!

Hiring a salesperson is not an easy feat, especially when you don’t stumble upon a good one as often as you’d like, so choosing the next generation of workers for this role is an interesting solution. In order to better target and hire this contingent, the use of personality tests is recommended since they help you easily avoid hiring mistakes. That being said, never forget that you are dealing with salespersons! And since they are good at what they do, it is doubly important to have a look at what hides beneath the tip of the iceberg!

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