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May 1, 2018
Sales Process  |  5 min read

10 Skills You Should Look For in Your Next Sales Representative

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Kevin Lynch

The latest “prevailing wisdom” has it that finding the best sales representative is merely a matter of identifying candidates who fall into a specific personality profile.

To determine if an applicant’s skills as a sales representative fit this ideal and/or idealized profile, organizations often have prospects fill out personality-focused, pre-hire self-assessments. Personality tests like Meyers-Briggs, DiSC, or the Predictive Index are among the most common. These tests, and the many dozens of others like them, are quite good at identifying how well an applicant might fit (or not) within an organization, along with how this individual might perceive the world around them, or even how they formulate their decisions.

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As anyone who has had to find a skilled sales representative knows, these tests only get you so far into the mind and genuinely important abilities of the applicant. What they can’t predict are which of the most important skills a candidate may actually possess. Those being the unpredictable or immeasurable skills what your candidate’s actual performance and customer satisfaction rates will be or, more pragmatically, how much revenue a potential sales candidate will bring in.

More than just a smooth talker

The kinds of sales skills a business wants generally belong to those individuals who not only fit the personality profile for the role, but also possess the right combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for the job.

So what are those KSAs you’re supposed to be on the look-out for? Often on a candidate’s resume, they’ll list them for you, usually under what are often defined as soft skills, or as few words on traits the individual possess they describe as “intangibles.” Interestingly, these traits often align with KSAs.

The KSAs are:

  1. Compliance
  2. Composure
  3. Decision-making
  4. Dependability
  5. Integrity
  6. Listening
  7. Oral communication
  8. Sales aptitude
  9. Self-confidence
  10. Tact

To find the salespeople with the knowledge, skills, and abilities you’re looking for, it’s important to use hiring assessment tools that you can customize and are focused on KSA’s, that set a minimum score an applicant must achieve, and they that demonstrate proficiency in specific, sales-related competencies, and duties.

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By tailoring your KSA assessments you’ll increase their predictive validity and increase your odds of finding the best sales representative for your business.

Take note though, for an assessment to provide truly accurate evidence and predictive validity, it needs to be tailored to the specific role and your organization.

Testing for knowledge, skills, and abilities

The most efficient way for hiring managers to get an accurate picture of a sales candidate’s skills and abilities is to conduct in-person, behavioral assessments that include structured-behavior activities, like role-playing and sales job simulations tailored to a specific position. These tests measure a wider spectrum of candidate KSA’s, including:

  • Computer skills
  • Data entry accuracy
  • Multi-tasking
  • Sales Orientation
  • Service-mindedness

Recent research conducted by talent finders, FurstPerson, found that a sales job simulation in the form of a customer call can help identify hires who, once on the job, are capable of increasing sales conversion rates by as much as 25 percent, overall sales performance by 27 percent, and revenue per call by 30 percent.

You’ll know it when you see it

A pleasant byproduct when interviewing sales representatives who are both qualified for the role as described in your job posting and is in possession of several KSAs is that the candidate will be able to “read” you and the situation. The better sales rep candidates will have a knack for reading you and will intuit what it is they need to do to steer you the desired direction. This ability is not something data-driven predictive software tool would ever be able to identify. While there are those that may score well on behavioral assessments and be able to bluff their way through parts of an interview, there’s no faking one’s way through a simulation. Either the candidate has an abundance of knowledge, skill, and ability, or they don’t.

With the help of hiring assessment tools and role-playing, hiring managers can get a holistic view of a sales candidate’s skills and abilities. When you provide candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate them, you’ll know with a high degree of certainty that you’ve found the right person for the gig.

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