Top 5 Attributes You Should Look for in Sales Professionals

March 24, 2014

recruit sales people

I recently saw the movie the Wolf of Wall Street and amidst all its grandeur there was one scene that completely captivated me. In the first act of the movie the real life character, Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, walks into the C-rated investment shop in Long Island, NY and gets a job selling penny stocks.

He picks up the phone, calls someone on a list and weaves together poetry in a pitch to sell a penny stock to an uneducated investor… and man was it special! It had all the rebuttals and “ABCs” anyone can ask for. The other employees close in on Leo like zombies seeking the last remaining human. Leo closes the deal, hangs up the phone and says something along the lines of "that's how it's done!". "Teach us!" the zombies say.

Have you ever had a sales candidate captivate you with their interview? I know I have, but we as recruiters are paid to be skeptical and ask questions. Sometimes being captivated with their story is the candidate’s lone tool. How can we make sure to ask the RIGHT questions so we are not backfilling that role again in 6 months?

As a sales recruiter here at LinkedIn I have compiled many "must haves" from hiring managers over the years. I recently collected some data around the top five attributes sales managers look for in their sales people and the best questions you can ask in an interview to uncover those skills.

1. Ability to Listen:

Historically sales people have been hired for their ability to speak, but in order to build a great relationship with a client, one must listen. What are the problems that clients actually have?  I screen for this in a few ways including analyzing how the candidate is answering the questions I am asking specifically throughout the interview, but most importantly I want them to walk me through a real-life deal in granular detail including the players, objections, outcomes and rewards.

2. Self-Motivation:

Most sales professionals have to run their book of business as though they are running their own company. How do they prioritize? How do they stay motivated in difficult times? As a sales person does your passion lie in closing deals, building relationships or creating new ways to penetrate difficult accounts?

3. Intellectual Curiosity:

The great sales professionals I have encountered in my recruiting career are the ones that immerse themselves in the business of their clients. What do they do to prepare for a client meeting? What resources do they use to gain leverage with an account? How much do they know about their competitors?

4. Self-Awareness:

We all know what we struggle with, but how is your candidate verbalizing it? Have they asked for help when things get difficult? Have they provided guidance to those around them for a skill they have mastered?

5. Humor:

As recruiters we want to see how a potential sales professional will culturally adapt to the team internally and externally. Selling is stressful; do they have fun with their job? Clients can sense a lack of passion no matter how wonderful the product. Do they enjoy what they do and relate with their peers on this level? A healthy bit of humor goes a long way so long as it is appropriate and timely.

These are five examples of what hiring managers at LinkedIn believe to be the most important attributes in their people. It pays to know the teams you recruit for exceptionally well, because I guarantee the top five sales attributes are different at every company. Let us know your top 5 sales people attributes on Twitter at @hireonlinkedin.

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