One of the most important hires a small business can make is hiring a sales representative. Sales reps are critical to a startup’s success. These individuals work to help the business grow and close deals. This allows businesses to better identify their target market and continue to keep learning from the sales process.

However, it’s not always easy to find a sales rep that is the perfect fit for your business. Finding a savvy sales team member is about more than someone who can make a few calls. There are certain characteristics that set good apart from great in sales. Here’s a glimpse at the four traits every sales rep should possess.

The ability to carefully listen

Listening is a characteristic that many successful people have in common. The ability to listen is often a basic requirement for anyone in a sales role. It goes hand-in-hand with other traits like being organized and paying attention to detail.

Typically, sales training onboarding requires the new rep to listen in on calls made by other salespeople before they are trained to take calls on their own. Once they begin taking the calls, they listen to the customer and are in a position to better understand and serve their needs. The best way to increase sales, and subsequently build a lasting relationship with a customer, is by listening.

When interviewing potential sales reps, ask them to share an example of a time where listening allowed them to identify opportunities for growth and success. There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but the answer should be customer-centric. After all, your customers are your best case study. If you listen to what they tell you about where you can add value or where their problem areas are, you are able to learn and take their feedback into consideration. This helps you offer a better service and ultimately increase sales.


You can glean insight into this trait as early on as reviewing a resume. What kinds of initiatives did the candidate take on, and achieve, in previous roles? Ask potential candidates to share stories of times where they were able to set and stick to goals, despite working on multiple tasks.

Standout potential sales reps will share stories that do more than simply answer the question. They will reveal insight into how the candidate is able to maintain their focus on purpose. Focus is about more than keeping your eyes on the prize, like hitting a monthly goal. It’s about giving meaning to the sale. A sales rep with focus will want to share insights on the benefits to the client and are sincerely passionate about their role. This kind of focus tends to rub off on other sales reps around them, and inspires them to work just as hard to maintain and achieve their goals.


This is an unconventional trait to seek out in potential sales reps. However, I believe it’s equally just as important a characteristic for hiring any employee to join a startup.

Grit is a combination of persistence, passion, and resilience. If it sounds dirty, that’s because it is. Grit is what allows you to roll up your sleeves and get to work and maintain your momentum. It gets you back up on the horse if you get bucked off. Both of these things will and do happen in sales! There will, of course, always be up and down moments in all aspects of your personal and professional worlds. Grit is the inner will that you think you can and know you can do and be the best — in and out of sales.