Desirable Sales Skills & Traits to Look for When Hiring Sales Representatives

Hiring sales representatives isn’t easy.

Many organizations searching for sales talent rely heavily on personality-focused pre-hire assessments for finding and hiring talent. While the results of such tests are certainly telling of a candidate’s potential culture fit within an organization, personality tests alone cannot predict some of the most important things about a new hire – like how much revenue a potential sales candidate will bring in, or what his or her actual performance, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction will look like.

Find Sales Candidates that Possess the Right Combination of Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

{{cta(‘755ebdd1-1027-485c-8d29-8d721450f97d’,’justifyright’)}}Sales candidates who achieve the greatest amount of success in the shortest amount of time are those who not only fit the personality profile for the role, but also possess the right combination of KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities) for the job in the form of nine critical sales skills, discussed below.


To find the best fit, it’s important for organizations to use hiring assessment tools that are customized, focused on KSA’s, and require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in specific, sales-related competencies and duties. The variety of pre-hire assessment tests enable the identification of certain skills and abilities that are recognized as success factors for salespersons working within the organization’s particular dynamic setting. They include job simulations, assessments to measure motivation and collaborative skills, pre-employment tests that identify the likelihood of delivering high quality customer service and many more. In other words, quality pre-hire assessments, especially job simulations, consider the context of the setting as related to the sales representative position, as well as individual skills.

Tailor Your Pre-Hire Assessments to Fit Your Sales Skills List

By tailoring the assessments you use to hire sales representatives, you can increase their predictive validity, and increase your odds of making the right hire.

When it comes to talent acquisition software like hiring assessments, predictive validity indicates how well an assessment forecasts a candidate’s future success on the job. For a pre-hire assessment to provide truly accurate evidence of predictive validity, it needs to be tailored to the specific role of the specific organization.

You can help your organization be more successful in increasing the predictive validity of any pre-employment test by updating the job profile to reflect the sales abilities, skills, and behaviors necessary for success.

What are the Top Sales Skills & Traits to Look for in a Sales Rep When Hiring?

By hiring the right people for sales representative positions, revenues will go up and attrition will go down. FurstPerson’s proven sales skills list identifies nine competencies that are the most predictive of a candidate’s acumen and potential for success. Those are:

1. Composure

Sales representatives must work with a variety of people while addressing their needs and overcoming any challenges presented. Maintaining composure ” calmness and self-control – in every situation is important to sales success. Job audition simulations can test the ability to remain in self-control and confident in a variety of situations, enabling the sales representative to recognize unexpected marketing or sales opportunities and to remain logical and persuasive.

2. Communication skills

Good verbal and written communication skills are key attributes of a successful sales representative and are always included as requirements in the job description. A customized pre-employment simulation test can measure the person’s ability to understand a customer’s needs and to respond appropriately in a way the customer understands. A job simulation gives the job candidate a chance to demonstrate communication skills that also includes the ability to express empathy, control voice tone, speak or write in specifics, convey company policies when necessary and in a tactful manner. Workplace communication skills also include the ability to process and understand highly complex instructions.

A job simulation gives the job candidate a chance to demonstrate communication skills


3. Sales aptitude

A successful sales representative has a sales orientation, meaning the ability to recognize and seize sales opportunities when they appear and to convert a sales lead into a sale. The person is good at thinking strategically, setting goals and proactively making new sales by inviting customers to consider new products and services. The degree of sales aptitude is directly related to personal qualities, so pre-employment assessments measure motivation, mental acuity, flexibility, social skills, communication skills and personality, among other desirable qualities.

4. Integrity

Integrity is a critical quality for every sales person because it means the employee has a strong sense of fairness and always strives to do the right things in a dependable way. A person with integrity shares the organization’s values around honesty, ethics, responsibility and truthfulness. A shared values job assessment is just one of the tools used to identify candidates who are a good cultural fit in many ways.

5. Dependability

Dependability is a multi-faceted attribute. Its basic meaning refers to a person who is reliable in terms of adhering to schedules, pursuing new opportunities and producing consistent work. It also refers to a job candidate who can be relied on to adhere to the organization’s values and company policies when working with customers, and to meet sales goals. There are a variety of job assessments that score on dependability in its many definitions.

6. Decision-making

Every job analysis of sales representative positions reveals they are decision-makers. They decide the best sales tactic to use for each customer and the ideal way to resolve customer issues as they arise. A salesperson must also make decisions about things like what can be offered to the customer while maintaining ethical standards, how to rapidly build a rapport with the customer and how to assist customers in a way that makes them want to become repeat buyers. The job simulation tests the ability of the candidate to use critical thinking skills to come to good decisions.

7. Active listening

Active listening is a special communication skill that is at the heart of a good sales technique. A sales representative who is an active listener is someone who can fully concentrate on what is being said when anyone is speaking ” customers, supervisors and vendors. They give their full attention to the person speaking and really hears the message being delivered. A person who is an active listener pays close attention, listens without judgment, asks clarifying questions, offers feedback to verify accurate understanding and shares information.

8. Tact

Tact is another important attribute of a successful sales representative because it means a person can be sensitive to what someone is feeling or experiencing, especially when dealing with a difficult issue. A pre-hire job simulation is a good way to assess whether someone has the skill to say the appropriate thing at the right time when addressing a customer. A tactful person is never rude, even when under pressure or unhappy with what someone else is saying.

9. Self-confidence

To sell anything requires self-confidence which is a feeling of trust in personal abilities. There must be confidence in the ability to present information to customers in a way that promotes sales; work with diverse people; meet sales goals; multi-task; maintain composure in a stressful environment; and collaborate with team members. Self-confidence truly underlies everything the sales representative is expected to do in fulfillment of each job duty.

Although most great salespeople naturally possess similar traits, out-of-the-box assessments that have not been tailored to your organization’s specific culture or the specific role in question will have far less predictive validity than those that are customized. After all, a salesperson for Xerox must demonstrate proficiency in different areas than a salesperson for Google. Using generic assessments marginalizes the nuances that may be required for one type of sales role but not another. This is why job simulations are so effective ” they present situations reflecting the actual job requirements and can test for special abilities, like recognizing opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell.

Focus on Testing Sales Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities

Most good sales candidates have a knack for reading their interviewers well enough to tell them what they want to hear. However, data-driven predictive software tools ensure that under-qualified representatives won’t be able to bluff their way through interviews or complex sales scenarios and role-playing. 

FurstPerson research demonstrates that conducting a sales job simulation in the form of a customer call can help identify hires who, once on the job, increase sales conversion rates by as much as 25%, overall sales performance by 27%, and revenue per call by 30%.

Behavioral assessments ” those that include structured-behavior interview guides and role-plays or simulations ” are the most efficient way for hiring managers to get an accurate picture of a sales candidate’s skills and abilities. Unlike a simple personality test, a job simulation tailored to a specific position has the ability to measure a wider spectrum of candidate KSA’s, including:

With the help of hiring assessment tools and role-playing, hiring managers can get a true grasp of a sales candidate’s skills and abilities by having the candidate demonstrate them, as opposed to just talking about them.

Using assessment tools for recruiting and hiring quality people is also one of the best retention strategies an organization can employ. Hire the right people as sales representatives, and the employee turnover rate will naturally go down.

Learn how assessments can help you improve your quality of hire by downloading our white paper below, or speak with one of our talent selection specialists for more information.