What Companies Want in a Top-Notch Sales Hire

by Ken Schmitt and Vicky Willenberg

The pressure is on for Sales Managers to hit a home run when building their sales force.

The cost of hiring (or making the wrong hire) and the fact that 25-40% of Sales Professionals leave within the first 18 months of coming on board, makes the right hire even more important.

The days of hiring based on “culture fit” and “likability” have come and gone. Technology is transforming the profession and the buyer-seller relationship.  To survive in this environment, salespeople need a new set of skills. Today’s sales professionals must be adept in understanding specialized data and analytical tasks.  More than ever before, hiring managers must seek out Super Star Sales Professionals who can stand out and deliver.

Here are the types of skills they are looking for…

Hunter Mentality with Farmer Patience

Hiring managers are looking for salespeople willing to do the work to source new customers, wade through leads, determine who is an “easy sell” vs a “tough sell”.  Relying on connections and referrals is no longer enough.  The most successful Sales people know how to hunt for new clients but also know how foster long-term customer relationships with their customers.

Follow-Up Strategy

No sales is complete until the follow up strategy is set in motion. Thanks to advancements in sales automation, developing the strategy is much simpler than it has been in the past. Long term nurture, upselling, and referral campaigns are automatically built into your automated sales funnel. Hiring managers are looking for those candidates that have the discipline it takes to follow the funnel to completion.

Politely Persistent

Strong sales professionals know how to stay on their prospects’ radars. “When clients go radio silent, I like to approach them with a reminder of the timeline they gave mewhen we first started working together,” says Jessica Cruz-D’Auria, Client Engagement Manager at TurningPoint Executive Search. “They are just as busy as I am and I want to be respectful of that. Making sure they know I am conscious of their growth goals and timelines is a gentle way to bring our plan back to the top of their To Do list.” Sometimes, you might have to politely push-back as well.  “There is a difference between picky and unrealistic,” says Cruz-D’Auria. “I make sure to let my clients know that I work with recruiters who are ‘on the ground’. This means the advice I give is based on real-time market intel. It should be trusted and followed.”

People Skills & Empathy

Just because someone is a ‘born salesman’ doesn’t mean he or she is a good salesperson. Super star sales professionals are able to relate to their prospects. The key to this is to be a better listener than talker. Recognizing where the client is in the decision-making process and meeting them at that place will move the deal forward. Overselling to a nervous or undecided prospect gets you nothing but a probable cancellation down the line. “First and foremost, I ask questions — diving deeper into the company’s structure, path, growth plans, sales team structure and how leads are generated. Their answers give me a clear picture of where they are in the buying cycle and drives the direction of my pitch,” says Cruz-D’Auria.  “I also take detailed notes to insure what I am hearing and what they are saying (or think they are saying) are on the same page.”

Product & Service Knowledge

It is a given that a successful salesperson must know their product/service inside and out. More than that, though, they must be able to provide tangible proof that they are worth the client’s time and money. Showcasing your unique value proposition with customer feedback, analytics, and success stories goes a long way. According to Jessica, “Customers often tell me we are the most expensive firm they’ve spoken to. More often than not, they tell me this as they are signing our contract. Why? Because I’ve proven we have the best service and they will get the personal hands-on attention they want. I’ve listened to their needs and presented achievable solutions. And, most importantly, our 94% retention rate makes them confident they are getting what they pay for.”


Sales professionals are expected to have a strong work ethic and a go-getter attitude. A trait often overlooked but even more essential to getting the job you want is grit. Grit is “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” according to Angela Lee Duckworth, and means the difference between success and failure for anyone from 5 to 55. Watch to learn more.

As the cost of hiring continues to rise and the complexity of the sales profession increases, it is even more important for hiring managers to hit a home run with each new hire. Hiring the right sales person is critical and one of the greatest challenges for today’s Sales Manager.

About the Authors

Ken Schmitt is the CEO and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search and the Sales & Marketing Leadership Alliance. Specializing in placing sales, marketing and operations professionals across the country, Ken’s 16 years of recruiting experience have equipped him with the knowledge to serve as a thought partner to his clients for all recruiting, hiring and human capital-related initiatives. Ken sits on the board of Junior Achievement, the American Marketing Association, the San Diego HR Roundtable and is an Advisory Board Member for San Diego Sports Innovators (SDSI).

Vicky Willenberg has served as the Social Media Manager for TurningPoint since 2011. In 2014, she was elevated to Digital Marketing Manager, broadening her participation across all things digital for the firm. A former teacher with a Masters in Education, Vicky is an active and published blogger at The Pursuit of Normal and a marketing professional. She has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in the recruiting, hiring and leadership sectors.

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