During the interview process with potential sales development candidates, I’m not usually the guy tasked with asking formal questions.

Instead, I try to keep my end of the process more open and conversational to help me determine who would be a good cultural fit.

Cold calling, as most of us know, is not always glamorous. Inevitably what gets our sales hires through tough periods is our emphasis on culture. By no means are we trying to create a group of clones that fit perfectly into a predetermined profile. In reality, we prefer the opposite of that, and it’s my job to look for a personality that will mesh with others, for a candidate who can be hardworking and resilient, for a sales hire who will be driven to meet quota every time, even when faced with the disparaging statistic, “54% of sales reps won’t meet quota this year” from SiriusDecisions.

Two Common Traits To Look For In Sales Hires

Being surrounded by this variety of unique personalities is what has always motivated me to come into work every day. Believe me, I’ve worked at jobs that held very specific criteria for their sales hires. Inevitably, we all ended up hating each other after a few months because we were too similar.

Of the hundreds of employees that I’ve been responsible for managing over the years, there are only two common sales traits shared among the top performers: their capability of managing their time and their ability to bounce back from a tough call, day, week or quarter. Other than that, their traits are all over the place… and that is perfectly fine with me.

My goal in the interview process is to try to pull these traits — time management and resilience — out of them. Generally, the resume partially answers these questions, especially for recent graduates.

  • Are they working during school?
  • How many internships have they done?
  • Have they done door-to-door sales? Did they sell Cutco or Verizon Fios?
  • Have they ever worked at their school’s call center soliciting donations from Alumni?

Assuming this is represented on their resume, they should have a good feel for the importance of time management, not to mention that selling door-to-door or calling alumni is about as tough an introduction to sales that you can have. That they’re willing to come back for more demonstrates to me their resilience.

A couple of additional questions I may ask during an interview could be:

  • What did you do when you didn’t make the team?
  • Or received a low grade?
  • How do you focus on individual self improvement?
  • What goals do you put in front of yourself on a daily or weekly basis?

Onboarding For New Sales Hires

Assuming they’ve made it through our hiring process and we’ve brought them onboard, we want to continue to drive home the importance of these two key traits.

For example, we’ll pack their first week of new sales hire training with everything from being resourceful to how to overcome objections.

We also allow for some independent time for them to carve out of their week, do their own research, and build their own messaging related to the client they are responsible for calling on. The goal here is to force them to figure it out on their own. This gets them accustomed to building in the time to do the pre-call research that is necessary when they actually go live with their calls.

We’ll also do a couple of mock calls to set a real world scenario for them. Obviously we’ll throw in a few curve balls, which include a few jerky prospects and hang-ups to see how well they bounce back.

Overall, it’s important that you look for time management and resilience in sales hires if you want them to work hard to meet quota. Give them the nurturing and confidence they need with mock calls, role-playing, and mentorship, and then let them decide their own schedule and strategy for meeting quota.

How can you ensure that your next sales hire will meet quota?