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5 Top Sales Skills to Look for When Hiring New Reps

To effectively compete in today's sales environment, you need to recruit and retain top sales talent. Here are 5 sales skills to look for when hiring new reps.

8 min read

Today's sales environment has grown increasingly competitive, and to effectively compete, you need to recruit and retain top sales reps. However, because sales is a highly saturated market, it can be extremely difficult to ensure you're hiring reps with the right sales skills.

The need to hire top performers only increases when you consider that the average quota attainment was only 54%, and according to the Salesforce State of Sales, 57% of sales reps are expected to miss their quota this year.

So what can you do to ensure you hire top performers and maintain high performance? The first step is nailing down processes within your organization that will help you bring in the right candidates to interview.

Recruiting Top Sales Talent

Before you can even begin interviewing candidates, you need to ensure your company is prepared to make new hires a competitive offer. This means your pay mix and sales commission structures must be competitive compared to other businesses. To do this effectively, you need access to data.

You first must understand your own historical pay data to uncover how your incentives and pay have impacted performance as well as identifying if pay or other factors have played a role in turnover. Using a data-driven tool can help you analyze this data more effectively and use it proactively for strategic sales planning and even sales rep attrition prediction.

Benchmarking your incentives against industry data can help you design competitive compensation plans. On top of competitive pay mix, incentives that are tailored to each role will further help drive performance and competitive recruitment.

To help you effectively recruit and retain top performers, here are five top sales skills to look for when hiring reps.

5 Top Sales Skills to Look For

1. Communication Skills

Sales is a communication-focused position. The strongest sales reps need strong communication skills to nurture prospect and customer relationships as well as to communicate internally amongst their team and with sales leadership.

When it comes to sales skills, communication is key in closing deals. A great communicator listens just as well as they speak. Further, they don't just talk to fill the silence; they present measured responses that teach the prospect or customer something new and drive the conversation forward. In an interview, they’re the people asking thoughtful questions and transforming your formal format into a conversation.

2. Self-Motivation

To be blunt, sales is definitely not a profession for the meek and mild. To be successful, the top reps must have proactiveness, self-starter mindsets, and go-getter attitudes on their list of sales skills. You should seek out self-motivated sales reps because they will take the initiative to progress deals. 

This sales skill is crucial for any role, but it is essential for roles doing a lot of prospecting. Your sales reps need to have self motivation and take the initiative to go after new prospects and go the extra mile to close a deal. 

3. Resilience and Determination

Sales isn't an easy job. In fact, sometimes as reps ramp up and learn, they'll see more failure than success. That's why you need to look for individuals who are resilient and determined to reach their goals. Unfortunately, sales rejection is a real part of the job, and reps must be able to bounce back after a lost deal and continue working towards their quota on the next opportunity.

4. Attention to Detail

When it comes to sales skills, attention to detail might not stand out as one of they key traits you’re searching for, but it is a valuable skill for reps to have. Individuals that pay attention to detail are stronger sales reps because as they listen, they'll pick up on key insights that will help them guide the conversation in the right direction.

For example, a rep may go into a prospect call expecting to talk about one product, but discover another problem the potential customer is encountering. This could help drive the conversation to a better product solution or potentially help build a deal that includes multiple products. 

5. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is an important sales skill for any role on your team. Reps that can think outside the box are able to problem solve more effectively, making them more proactive. On your sales enablement team, critical thinking can help you develop new ways to make information and content more accessible to sales.

For leadership, critical thinking helps identify different strategies and methodologies for coaching, inspiring rep performance, and giving performance feedback. It's a win-win skill for every person on your team.

Developing Sales Skills and Retaining Top Talent 

Recruiting top-performing sales reps is one part of the sales performance management (SPM) equation. You also have to consider what you need to do to develop key sales skills in your top performers and keep them from leaving for a competitor. First and foremost, adequate training and coaching is essential to creating a strong sales team and helping them develop sales skills that benefit them as well as your organization. 

Next, you need to ensure that reps have a clear career path to follow as they gain tenure. Along with competitive pay, career development is the second most important factor in retaining top reps. Then, once you have the foundation to recruit and retain top talent, you have the tools to succeed.

Want to learn more about how to drive top performance in reps at all stages in their career? Download the guide, " How to Build and Retain Sales Reps to Drive Top Performance."