Two Traits of Top Salespeople You Can’t Teach

In a recent client assignment, the CEO of a mid-size manufacturing company asked me what the single most important trait of a salesperson. What would you say?

Persistence?  Closing skills?  Ability to listen?

The CEO wanted to add more top performing people to his sales team.

My quick response:  “Good question, it’s the ability to bring perspective to prospects.”

As I thought about this more, I said, “The problem . . . there’s more than one single trait that determines the success of a salesperson.”

In my professional experience of working with some great salespeople, sure, I can offer a short list of key traits needed for top performance.

Instead, let’s look to science. I am fortunate to be associated with the pioneers and industry leaders in salesforce evaluations and sales candidate screening, Objective Management Group (OMG).

In using its Sales Force Evaluation, you can examine 21 sales core competencies, categorized into four groups, The Will to Sell and Sales DNA, which cannot be taught, and Tactical Selling Skills, Systems and Processes, which can be taught.

This analysis is the pinnacle of modern science applied salesperson selection. In OMG’s words, it delivers:

Research, empirical data, evidence, and the insights into how accurately you can predict sales success in sales candidates in any business calling into any marketplace. This is not based on personality assessments or behavioral styles assessments. Rather it is truly contextual – based on sales specific questions asked to hundreds of thousands of salespeople.

We have posted an OMG white paper on the subject on our site worth your immediate download.

Science to Select Top Performers

The science of sales selection is not based on behaviors or personality. It is based on a person’s ability to perform certain sales specific tasks.  Why tasks?

Because OMG, through hundreds of thousands of evaluations, has developed the ability to measure an individual’s ability to perform certain role-specific tasks.

When an assessment company can only measure behaviors, then it claims sales success requires certain behaviors.  When an assessment company can only measure personality traits, then it claims sales success requires certain personality traits.

But when an analytics company can measure the true ability to perform tasks, it captures the full spectrum of human motivation, thinking, attitudes, personality, behaviors, and skills.

Sales selection isn’t that complicated. However, if you do not use a scientifically proven method for selecting salespeople, you are destined to cause yourself unnecessary stress, aggravated by loss of time, money and sales opportunities.

Evaluate Selling Challenges

Before you dig into sales selection analysis, properly identify the selling environment for each selling role. It is the presence of selling challenges and their nature in the selling environment that merit your close examination, not the selling tasks.

For example, do you sell only through RFPs? Are you working in a direct or indirect distribution channel? Do you face many competitors? Is your market price-driven? Do your prospects need much handholding? Consider all aspects of your sales environment and build a composite of the type salesperson who can do well in that environment.

When assessing a candidate’s ability to succeed in your role, you must next identify the skills required to succeed with a given set of challenges. You need to make a match. Once you’ve identified the required skills, you can measure a salesperson’s overall capabilities by looking at three categories of findings.

Tactical Selling Skills

Fortunately, tactical selling skills can be taught. But if you do not have the time and budget to do traditional sales training, you need to look for candidates with some built-in skill set. It can be a long list, depending on your product, service or market. Here are the essentials:

  • Product knowledge
  • Prospecting skills
  • Rapport building
  • Active listening
  • Ability to qualify through questioning
  • Time management
  • Ability to overcome objections
  • Presentation and demo skills
  • Getting buyer commitment
  • Closing techniques
  • Post-sale management

Sales DNA

If you assume a salesperson is both trainable and coachable, what’s in his sales DNA that will hold him back from success? These four weaknesses are difficult to overcome:

  • The need to be liked
  • Difficulty recovering from rejection
  • Procrastination from perfectionism
  • Reluctance to make cold calls

“When a salesperson is untrainable, uncoachable, or has two, three, or all four of those weaknesses, the difficult simply becomes impossible,” affirms Dave Kurlan of OMG.

The Will to Sell

And finally, none of the above points matters unless your candidate’s will to sell is strong enough to help them do what is uncomfortable for him or her to do.  Will to sell involves motivation, inspiration, perspiration, and aspiration. And they’ve got to love what they do to recommit every day.

Hiring salespeople is not complicated. But it is nearly impossible to find the best producers without the ability to assess and measure your candidate’s Will to Sell, Sales DNA, Tactical Selling Skills, and your current Sales Systems and Processes.

Nix Your Gut Reaction

The worst hiring mistakes come back to bite you when you hire new salespeople on gut reaction. Over the years, I hired three people without a scientific assessment. My gut told me I was making the right decision. They had industry experience, boardroom presence and were polished in presentation.

All three failed. It cost my company an average of two and a half years’ salary to unwind them and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales. The funny thing, if you met the three people, you would have hired them, too.

I enthusiastically encourage you to try out OMG’s Legendary, Accurate and Predictive Sales Candidate Assessments. You will be amazed at what you discover.

Take this free trial assessment on one of your potential candidates or select someone from within your organization.

Backed by science, your search for top producers will no longer resemble your odds of winning the lottery.

See you on the upside,


For more information, go to
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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