How To Hire Salespeople For Attitude and Train for Skills

By Burk Moreland April 22, 2015


Finding qualified salespeople to hire is an ongoing struggle, particularly for small businesses. A client of mine recently told me about all the people he’d hired and how unsuccessful they had been. 


This client had been limiting his search and his hiring to salespeople who met his ideal list of qualifications:

• Product and process knowledge (industry insiders) 

• Great communication skills 

• Available 

• Not too expensive 

These qualifications greatly narrow the pool of candidates, and the other qualities that make a successful salesperson are missing. 

The key to filling any position is to consider as many prospects as possible, meaning one of two things:

1. Either change the parameters to fit a broader spectrum of candidates, or 

2. Find nontraditional sales candidates to increase the pool. 

This does NOT mean settling! 

Expanding your search to include people who don’t already know everything about the job may seem like trading one set of challenges for another, but there are ways to find people in a bigger pool of candidates who can be up and running fairly quickly. 

Hire for attitude; train for skills.

Most customers are quite forgiving of a salesperson that is learning the information. On the other hand, they usually have no patience for a sales professional that can’t talk to them or doesn’t seem to genuinely care. 

Distinguish between skills that can be learned on the job and those that can’t. 

When I hire, I look for people who: 

• Know how to communicate 

• Actively searched for ways to improve themselves and their organization 

• Are naturally high energy 

Generally, people with these innate abilities were willing to learn, stay with the company, and performed well as long as they had opportunities to develop. 

People can be trained on the specifics of the job, such as product knowledge, much easier than training them on temperament, work ethic, or attitude. 

 Think outside your industry. 

Instead of targeting only people within the industry, find industries where the core personality traits are similar. Take a chance on someone who has a natural ability to connect with people and let them learn the details they will need to know. 

Look for people who are not currently in sales. 

Many jobs require the same basic skills as sales. Someone may not be currently selling a product or service, but has experience selling ideas, solving problems creatively, and working collaboratively. 

Look for natural connectors. 

They will nearly always not only greet you when you meet, but also naturally ask more questions. Connectors are curious and want to know about others more than talk about themselves – an important trait in a salesperson. 

Expanding your own thoughts on who will make a good salesperson for your business will make it easier to hire people who will be successful – as long as you are willing and prepared to give them the time, space, training and support they need to do their best. 

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