These Are the Top 5 Traits to Look for in a Sales Rep Based on a Mountain of Research

Published on Aug 13, 2020

In another blog post, we talked about the importance of making hiring decisions based on data rather than a hunch. At the end of the day, sticking to a proven formula leads to better hires who are more productive and perform at a consistently high-level. 

It’s all about using science.

In this post, we’re going to expand on this topic and break down the top five traits to look for in a sales rep based on in-depth studies and a boatload of data. Let’s dive right in. 

The Sales Acceleration Formula By Mark Roberge

There are countless bodies of research that have analyzed what makes for a successful sales rep. For instance, sales strategist Steve W. Martin of The Harvard Business Review interviewed 1,000 top tier salespeople and performed personality tests on them in 2011. 

And the University of Florida conducted in-depth research in the early 2000’s to distinguish the difference between “tellers versus sellers.”

Research like this offers a ton of value, but one of the preeminent sources for identifying key traits is the work that former Chief Revenue Officer of HubSpot, Mark Roberge, did in 2015. He exhaustively analyzed a massive amount of data to come up with what he calls The Sales Acceleration Formula, which he wrote a book about. 

One of the key parts of his system is tapping into critical metrics to not only find high level sales reps, but create a more efficient process for doing so. After parsing through the data, Roberge came up with five specific traits he found most important. 

Here they are ranked by their importance. Drumroll…

1. Coachability

Above all else, Roberge found that being coachable and adaptable is the number one characteristic to look for in a sales rep. He specifically mentions how he’s had situations in the past where a rep who had incredible success in a prior position floundered in a new environment simply because they had a rigid attitude and weren’t open to input. For example, they had the mindset of “I’ve been selling for 10 years, and I’ll figure it out.”

But in today’s ultra dynamic business world, having a willingness to accept direction and feedback is of the utmost importance. In fact, some of the top reps Roberge has encountered who have “crushed it” are the ones who have been the most coachable. 

2. Curiosity

Next, he found that having a natural inquisitiveness is huge. Being curious about how a platform works, how it fits into a company’s sales model, how to solve a prospect’s pain points, and so on plays a key role in gaining a deep comprehension, and in turn, being an adept salesperson.

And this is a sentiment that’s shared by many other sales experts, like Matt Sunshine of The Center for Sales Strategy. “Great sellers are naturally curious and they can’t help but ask questions to learn more about how they can help.” In turn, they take that information and tailor their approach to meet the unique needs of each lead head on. 

3. Intelligence

Okay, this one is pretty obvious. A rep should always have a strong intellect and a high-level understanding of your industry, customer psychology, how your platform fits into a lead’s business model, and how to nurture a lead. It’s also helpful when they possess a solid emotional intelligence (EQ), where they know how to navigate issues like addressing prospect concerns, how to collaborate with other team members, and generally how to operate with tact. 

It should be noted that Roberge places intelligence far above what many would consider conventional sales skills like convincing, which involves an aggressive approach. Instead, he says that the top performing reps in this day and age tend to act more as consultants or trusted advisors to leads. They use their business savvy to help leads make critical decisions and explain how a platform can improve operations, rather than trying to “shove a product down their throats.”

4. Work Ethic

This trait should also come as no surprise. “Someone with a great work ethic will accelerate his or her learning curve and operate in a state of constant improvement,” explains The Muse in Forbes. “He or she will always look for ways to be better.”

Naturally being driven and willing to put in the time inevitably positions a rep for success and is integral to their evolution.

5. Prior Success

While prior success doesn’t 100% guarantee success within your company, it definitely factors in heavily. As long as a rep possesses the other four traits listed above, their odds of thriving are excellent. 

When it comes to assessing prior success, David Kurlan of Objective Management Group, explains that there are two specific criteria to look for:

  1. Sales reps reached 100% of their quota or better in a previous position
  2. They were in the top 26% of all salespeople

So, these should definitely be on your radar when assessing candidates. Kurlan also points out that using a science-based sales recruiting platform like HireDNA allows companies to identify reps in the top 6% of the total sales population. 

Always Look to the Data

The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge reaffirms what sales recruiting experts have been saying for years. Making smart hiring decisions hinges largely on looking at objective data to make assessments. 

After performing a mountain of research, Roberge was able to pinpoint the top five traits that electrifying reps possess — coachability, curiosity, intelligence, work ethic, and prior success. 

Using a science-based sales recruiting platform allows you to effectively zero in on these areas and provides you with quantifiable data to help you make the right decision. And the best part is that this is something that can easily be rinsed and repeated. 

Want to see how you can streamline your hiring process and find top tier talent? Book a HireDNA demo today. 

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