5 traits to look for when hiring inside sales

5 traits to look for when hiring inside sales


If you’re building a high performance inside sales team, you’ll want to hire inside sales reps that excel in these five areas:

  1. Communication

  2. Coachability

  3. Motivation

  4. Pragmatism

  5. Ruthlessness

Read on for the details.

1) Communication – inside reps do the lion’s share of their work physically separated from their prospects. Their phone, online meeting  & email manners must be exceptional. They have to be able to communicate warmth, assurance and intelligence all at once.

Great communicators know when to be succint and when to be conversational. They know when to speak and when to listen.

The best hiring tool to tell a rep’s communication skills is to put them through a role-playing playing mock sales call. See this blog post for a great example.

2) Coachability – you’ve developed a sales training program that captures the best practices of turning prospects into customers. You know how to position the product and how to handle objections. Now you need reps who can embrace your training and adapt to your company’s pitch.

Great players know to listen to coaching. Instead of being confrontational, secretive or protective, they can be critical with themselves and accept feedback.

One good hiring tool to find out a rep’s coachability is to ask questions about past failures – individual and team failures. A coachable rep is able to articulate them, explain what went wrong, take responsibility for their part of the failure, tell how they recovered, and summarize what went wrong.

3) Motivation – as Glen Hellman recently put it, “Activity = Sales – Nothing beats doing the work, making the calls, scheduling meetings, having the conversations. Sales is primarily about activity. If you don’t make the calls, technique won’t get you anywhere.” Activity is primarily driven by motivation.

So the key question is, what drives this rep’s motivation? A 2011 Vorsight survey uncovered that, among millenials, recognition, building skills and being part of a cool culture were significant motivators beyond money. 


When hiring a sales rep, it’s important to understand a) what is the main motivator for this particular individual, and b) how much of it is currently driving them.

As Mike Brooks puts it in the Openview blog : “if your candidate is really looking to your company and opportunity to better themselves and earn more money, find out what is driving this need and desire for more money. Have their life circumstances changed? For example, have they recently gotten married, had a child, purchased a home? If so, then they may have a real motivation to work harder, make more money and enlarge their comfort zone. If their situation hasn’t changed, then you can be pretty sure that they will not be motivated to work harder, learn more skills, and make more sales. In essence, they will continue to live down to their current comfort level and you may once again be hiring another 80% producer.”

4) Pragmatism – an undervalued skill, pragmatism is the ability to focus on that which can be accomplished. It’s rare for an inside sales rep to land on a perfect team, and a perfect company. Every product has its warts, and it’s unlikely that yours would be an exception. 

Pragmatic sales reps will focus on what they can do to close. They will go the extra mile to overcome the organizations shortcomings and find workarounds. 

A hiring tool to find a rep’s degree of pragmatism is to ask the rep to walk you through past deals. Ask about obstacles. Ask about “how he/she got it done”. 

5) Ruthlessness – OK, I’m being a bit hyperbolic. What I mean is shameless unrelenting. Successful sales reps know when to ask for it. Ask for the deal. For the money. For the signature.

The best inside sales reps develop prospects to the point of “deal acceptability” (the point at which the right person at the company being prospected is ready to say yes to the right offer) quicker. While difficult to describe, there is a certain lack of shame in asking, a certain lack of caring about perceptions, or feelings for that matter, in the act of closing.

A hiring tool to find a rep’s ruthlessness is to look at their sales performance over the last couple of years. A “ruthless” sales rep has had consistent results. They have met the numbers. They did what was needed to have success.

What do you look for in recruiting inside sales reps? Please share!


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