How to Hire Top Salespeople

by Jul 24, 2018

Your sales team can make or break your business. When you hire a new salesperson, you want a superstar — a mega-performer. But how can you tell who fits that description? Past performance is one obvious predictor. But if you’re looking to hire fresh talent, it can be difficult to discern who has the most potential.

Everyone you ask will have a different answer about the traits of top salespeople.

I have been helping companies build sales teams for more than 10 years. I’ve read countless books, leaned on recruiters, read articles and attended seminars. I have interviewed hundreds of top salespeople and have administered at least as many behavioral profiles.

I agree with Steve Martin, who teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. He discovered seven traits that top salespeople have in common: 1

  1. Modesty
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. An achievement orientation
  4. Curiosity
  5. Lack of gregariousness
  6. Lack of discouragement
  7. Lack of self-consciousness

I also agree with Kevin Armstrong, a speaker, business advisor and author, has researched the behavior traits of top salespeople for more than 20 years. In most cases, he found that they are extroverted, results-driven people who are obsessed with being out in front. When he managed a national sales force, he saw that top salespeople desire recognition and the spotlight, even over money.

Don’t expect them to be fiercely loyal to your organization, Armstrong says. In his experience, most top-performing salespeople are opportunistic. “The best of them exhibit incredible awareness, integrity, and follow-through; however, most tend to put their individual goals above the organization’s,” he says. He adds that sales superstars can be difficult to manage. His advice is to train them, trust them and let them do their jobs.

OK, so that’s interesting, but how do you measure for those traits?

Our gut instincts aren’t reliable because our opinions of potential hires are subjective. We base our assessment of individuals on past experiences, people we’ve known and our own personalities. I’ll bet you have followed your gut instinct on a hire and it turned out to be a bad move. Haven’t we all?

Hiring the wrong person is extremely costly. One way to take the guesswork out of hiring salespeople (and anyone else) is to use an assessment tool. Sales assessment tests are objective and data-driven. They remove intuition, gut feelings and personal opinions from the talent-acquisition process.

Are your candidates trainable? Are they a match for your culture? Will they remain motivated for the long term?

Here are two tools that I rely on. They can help you find the superstars:

1. TTI TriMetrix® DNA Custom Job Benchmark

TriMetrix DNA combines behaviors, driving forces and competencies in a validated, bias-free and fully integrated assessment that meets EEOC and OFCCP requirements. When used with TTI’s patented Job Benchmarking system, TriMetrix DNA will identify, prioritize and calibrate performance criteria, allowing for exceptional job fit.

TTI’s patented Job Benchmarking process is a unique and effective solution because it benchmarks a specific job, not the person in the job, through an interactive process and job assessment. When Job Benchmarking is implemented properly, it will have a direct effect on your business’ bottom line. You’ll not only attract the best candidates; you’ll also save time and money by hiring the right people the first time and reducing the learning curve with new employees who are strategically matched to fit your company. This sample report will give you a good idea of how valuable this tool can be.

2. TTI TriMetrix® DNA Candidate Assessment

You can use this assessment as a stand-alone tool or in conjunction with the Custom Job Benchmark and a Gap Report that measures the difference between the job benchmark and the candidate assessment.

TTI TriMetrix DNA examines the behaviors that individuals bring to the job, the motivators/ forces that drive them and their potential ability to demonstrate the competencies required by the job. This assessment reveals important information about a candidate’s behaviors, driving forces and competencies.

A. Behaviors—Behavioral research suggests that the most effective people are those who understand themselves — both their strengths and weaknesses — so they can develop strategies to meet the demands of their environment. This report measures the four dimensions of normal behavior: dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance. TriMetrix DNA tells you how individuals will likely perform.

B. Driving Forces—Knowledge of an individual’s driving forces tells us why a person behaves a certain way. The Driving Forces™ tool measures the primary driving forces cluster — an individual’s top four driving forces — to tell a story of how a person derives meaning from life and work. TriMetrix DNA illuminates what drives an individual’s behavior — the why behind his or her actions.

C. Competencies—People’s hierarchy of competencies is key to their success, and knowing what they are is essential for them to reach their goals. This report is designed to help manage and develop a career. For many jobs, personal skills are as important as technical skills in producing superior performance. TriMetrix DNA describes what this individual “has done” in 25 research-based capacities related to the business environment.

Salespeople are the foundation of your business. Don’t hire these critical team members based on intuition! In today’s digital environment, it’s easy to tap into the power of technology to help you make smart hires. Do some research, and find the assessment tool that’s ideal for you.

1. Steve W. Martin, “Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople,” Harvard Business Review, June 27, 2011,

2. Kevin G. Armstrong, “Why Are Salespeople So Difficult to Manage?” Forbes, May 4, 2018,

Jeff Ruby

Jeff Ruby

Founder of RedRock Leadership

During the course of his professional career, he has worked in organizations ranging in size from a sole practitioner to Fortune 500. Included in his experience are roles in starting and selling companies, sales and sales management, training and development and executive coaching.

RedRock Leadership is a sales training and leadership development company committed to growing companies by growing individuals through on-going training infused with the competencies of emotional intelligence.