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How to identify top sales professionals.


Meredith Stack


Sales are vital to the health and wealth of businesses. To hit your sales goals, you need a high performing sales team. It takes a specific type of person to build trust and turn prospects into customers. So, filling your sales roles with the right people is critical. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done! It’s hard to find talent, and it’s even harder to assess if they're a good fit for your culture and have what it takes to close the deal.

Understand the skills and abilities of closers.

To provide guidelines on the skills needed to succeed in sales, the Department of Labor (DOL), in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, sponsored the creation of the Occupational Network (O*NET). This online resource contains hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors in a database of 974 occupations. Some of the skills which sales professionals should have, according to O*NET include, but are not limited to:

  • Active Listening
  • Speaking and Persuasion
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Critical Thinking
  • Reading Comprehension

Some of the abilities are:

  • Oral Comprehension and Expression
  • Originality
  • Fluency of Ideas
  • Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

While O*NET provides general guidelines, it’s difficult to apply their guidelines to your search because sales is a broad profession. Retail sales are very different from software sales which is very different from medical device sales. When filing open roles, you need to tailor your search criteria and job requirements for each position.

Develop company specific hiring profiles.

Pre-hire testing companies employ IO psychologists who identify the specific set of skills that are important for success. The result is a hiring profile, which outlines the skills and traits shared by top performers. Due to corporate culture variances, the same role at two companies requires different skill sets. For example, what it takes to succeed in the Account Executive role at Google is different than what is required in the Account Executive role at Yahoo. So, to get the best results, the hiring profile should be calibrated at the job and the company level.

Measure candidate skills accurately.

Once you have defined the skill set, you have to identify which candidates offer that set of skills. Many of the target skills cannot be measured through resume screens, interviews or reference checking, so it’s important to look at other data sources. Pre-hire tests help you accurately and reliably measure candidates’ cognitive abilities and personality traits, providing quantifiable candidate data to enrich your decision making.

Hiring Profile for Software Sales Account Executive

The example hiring profile below illustrates the key talents and personality traits of a successful Account Executive at a software company.

example of a sales hiring profile

Hiring profiles are a helpful resource for recruiters and hiring managers to use when making decisions about whom to hire.

Compare candidates assessment results to the hiring profile, and you’ll instantly see if they are a match or not. When you find people who are innately well suited to succeed in sales, you will hire more engaged employees who are more productive and stay with the organization longer. With systems in place to support your sales recruiting and hiring process, you're poised to find candidates who will help you achieve extraordinary growth.

Sales professional is ready for the job

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