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How to Spot Great Sales Talent -- Top 10 Traits

Posted Monday, April 30, 2012, at 9:18 PM

Sales skills can be taught. The idea that successful salespeople are "born that way" is simply a myth. Few are. It's a learned skill -- one crafted and honed through years of practice.

There are, however, inherent personality traits that predispose a sales rep for possible greatness. When interviewing sales reps, look for these traits. The rest -- closing skills, the ability to overcome objections, conducting an effective needs assessment -- can be taught.

Determination: Having the ability to focus on and pursue objectives with inner drive is essential in sales. This is a skill taught through childhood and adolescence and can be challenging to undo when poor habits are formed.

Listening: Top-performing salespeople have extraordinary listening skills. Not only do they recognize the importance of encouraging a prospect to open up, but they also pick up on nonverbal cues. Able to see where a prospect's hesitation lies, their powers of intuition are strong. Allow the conversation in your interview to lapse and see how they handle the silence. If they ramble to fill the void, they aren't for you.

Financial motivation: Top salespeople are motivated by money. If they ask financial questions in the preliminary interview, it's a good sign.

Preparation: Good salespeople embrace the value of preparation in life. During your interview, check to see if they did their homework. If they didn't, move on to your next candidate. If they aren't disciplined enough to prep for a job interview, what are the odds they will do it on the job?

Rapport: When the candidate walked into your office, did they establish a connection with you? Did they work to uncover a common interest? If they didn't, they aren't likely to on a sales call either, as a job interview is the ultimate sales call.

Confidence: Top sales performers are unlikely to feel self conscious about much on a sales call or interview.

Humility: Though confidence is key, it must be balanced with a sense of modesty. Without it, a condescending tone may transfer to prospects, killing the deal.

Achievement Oriented: Great salespeople like to exceed targets. Give them a goal and the tools to achieve it, and let them go.

Moderate Friendliness: Top sales performers are not typically the most gregarious in the bunch. An extreme high degree of friendliness may actually work against a sales rep that needs to be listening to a prospect and patiently driving him toward a sale.

Sense of Duty: Successful sales pros have an unwavering sense of duty toward their work and generating results.

Hiring the right sales talent is perhaps the most challenging yet vital of all recruiting tasks. There's an art to making the right pick and even then, 50 percent of those you hire are likely not to fit. To improve your odds, analyze how a candidate aligns with the top sales traits outlined here.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN., www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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Lori spent over 15 years leading corporate marketing and communications divisions in the financial services, hospitality and franchise restaurant sectors. As Director of Target Marketing for the Hampton Hotels brand of Hilton Hotels Corporation, Lori managed promotional, direct and Web marketing, as well as custom publishing, for the brand's franchise system. In her role as Vice President of Employee Communications and Development for First Horizon National Corporation, she managed the corporation's internal culture initiatives, communications, and employee recognition programs. Other positions held include Sr. Communications Director/Corporate Editor for TCBY Enterprises, Inc., and Vice President of Marketing for First National Banking Company. Lori is a founding sponsor and member of the Board of Directors for LaunchMemphis -- an organization committed to developing an entrepreneurial community in Memphis comprised of investors, entrepreneurs and local organizations. In addition, Lori is on the Board of Directors of the Sales and Marketing Society of the Mid-South and on the Advisory Board for the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. She is a sought-after speaker in the Memphis area, delivering sales and marketing keynote addresses and workshops to organizations like: the Memphis Chapter of the American Advertising Federation, the Sales & Marketing Society of the Mid-South, LaunchMemphis, EmergeMemphis, the Memphis Regional Chamber, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Lori holds a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in addition to having completed the University of Colorado's School of Bank Marketing and Management. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including local and district Addy's, Communicator awards, and a Telly. She received recognition as one of the Memphis Business Journal's "Top 40 Under 40" recipients in 2009. Lori also served as a contributing ghost writer for the renowned "Complete Idiot's Guide to Guerilla Marketing." Beyond her passions for marketing and dogs of all shapes and sizes, Lori is an avid traveler, runner and foodie.