Home » Blog » What We Look for in a Sales Rep

What We Look for in a Sales Rep

Over the past decade, buyers have become increasingly sophisticated and better informed. Along with these changes we have seen an exponential increase in marketing noise that has desensitized these buyers to sales reps’ claims. This combination has caused wholesale changes in the B2B sales landscape that has dramatically impacted how we sell. Although most companies have woken up to these changes; many companies still look for the same qualities when hiring sales reps as they did a decade ago. This topic is front of mind as we are currently revamping our own hiring process. Today, we’ll share what to look for in a sales rep.

3 Things We Look For in a Sales Rep.


The recent election highlighted for me how uncertainty and skepticism have become critical issues in our society. We tend to believe very little and question almost everything. All of this brings us to the primary quality we look for in a sales professional. That quality is credibility, which is “the quality of being trusted and believed in.” It is close to impossible to build a lasting sales career and achieve elite sales performance in today’s selling environment without credibility.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when interviewing sales professionals:

  • Does this person oversell or exaggerate?
  • Do their stories line up?
  • Can they document and prove their sales #s?
  • Are their claims just a little too good to be true?

One of the biggest challenges to correctly assessing a sales professional’s credibility is confusing likeability with credibility. There’s a world of difference between credibility and likeability when a buyer is considering making a six or seven figure purchase. We’ve explored the problem of likeability further in Is Likeability Overrated in Sales Hiring?

Consultative Sales Approach.

Buyers today have their guard up and often reveal very little of what they’re really thinking. The most effective way to overcome this is to approach buyers with a genuine curiosity and desire to understand their situation and problems. In other words, it requires using a consultative sales approach.

Here are a few tips to help assess if a sales professional takes a consultative approach to sales and how proficient they are with it.

  • Ask them to define “consultative sales”. (We’re not looking for a perfect definition. What we want to see is if they understand the concept.)
  • Roleplay a sales meeting. (Are they asking probing questions or “pitching”?)
  • Do they ask thoughtful, intelligent questions during the interview?

Sales Process?

The importance of having and following a structured sales process has increased as selling environments have become increasingly complicated. “Winging it” just doesn’t cut it anymore. There are two questions to be answered on this topic.

  • Do they have a formal sales process?
  • Do you believe they follow their process?

This is one situation where we lean heavily on sales assessments to gain a deeper insight into how a sales professional is hard-wired. You can read what we look for and how we use sales assessments in How Sales Talent Uses Sales Assessments.

Let’s get back to a sales professional’s sales process. The types of processes we’re looking for in a sales professional begins with the needs of the sales role. If this is a high activity prospecting role, for example, we’ll have the sales professional take us, in detail, into their approach to prospecting. We’ll cover how they generate a prospect all the way to role-playing the engagement of a specific prospect. As the sales professional covers there process we’re looking for a repeatable and effective approach. 

The Interviewer’s Mindset.

Before we leave the topic of what to look for in a sales rep we need to discuss your mindset when interviewing sales professionals. Most sales leaders want to find a sales rep (often desperately) that they like. They’re in “buy” mode. This is contrary to what the sales rep being interviewed will face out in your territory. Most of the buyers that they come into contact with will want no part of meeting with them or buying from them. When you start thinking like your buyers during an interview you’ll automatically start discounting likeability and enthusiasm. Instead, you’ll be looking for a credible, thoughtful sales professional that can move the needle.

You can read more of our thoughts on what to look for (and what to avoid) in a sales rep in 3 Underrated Sales Hiring Traits and 4 Overrated Sales Hiring Traits.

Happy Holidays.

With the holidays upon us, the Sales Talent Blog will be signing off until the New Year with our next post arriving on 1/5/17. Here’s to a warm, safe and festive holiday season.

What to Read Next

Join the Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Photo of author
Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. We post a new blog once a quarter on the 3rd Thursday of every January, April, July and Oct. These posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

You can find Chris Carlson on LinkedIn or contact him directly at:
[email protected].