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Bad news: There is no magic formula for hiring a top sales rep, a top marketer, a top anything. Every company and market is different, and department leaders need to find candidates that fit in with their specific environment and goals.

However, the good news is there are some characteristics that I want in all of the sales reps I hire, regardless of the environment. These attributes don’t paint a complete picture of the perfect candidate for every team out there, but if I have a team full of sales reps with these four characteristics, I’m confident we’ll find a way to win.

(Although I talk about sales reps in this article because I hire sales reps, these characteristics are incredibly valuable for employees on any team.)

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1) Coachable

Coachability is the desire and ability to take feedback and get better. It’s a characteristic that is growing in popularity amongst hiring managers, and for good reason. If you find someone who is coachable, you can do almost anything with that rep.

For example, consider a rep is great who is great at building rapport but lacks negotiating skills. If that rep is open to coaching and has a burning desire to get better, you can work with them and shore up their weakness.

The one thing that can’t be coached? That would be coachability. A rep either has it or doesn’t. And for those who don’t, a sales leader will never get anything more out of them than what they’re getting today. When the pressure turns up and territories shrink, this rep will be unable to rise to the occasion. Hiring reps who are coachable means your team’s talent will always be growing, and that your sales force will be able to adjust when new market conditions require new skills.

2) Curious

This rep wants to learn more about everything and use that knowledge to get better at their job and helping customers.

Why does this matter? People who are genuinely curious won’t have to pretend to care when digging into customers’ problems — they actually will care. This rep will be following the right blogs, know a ton about your prospects’ business challenges, and not be shy about asking questions. And curious people usually ask the best questions.

As an added bonus, the curious rep will also help you optimize your sales efforts. By learning about marketing, product, support, and everything else at your company, they become aware of gaps in your process and areas for the team to improve. Great leaders know this feedback from the trenches is invaluable in the quest for constant improvement. 

3) Driven

You have to want it. Lazy people need not apply. There are going to be some long, hard days in any sales job, and I need a person who is committed to being the best rep possible and helping the company be the best company possible.

Vince Lombardi once said, “If you’re not fired with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired with enthusiasm!” Driven reps come in every day with the passion to win. They’ve shown this desire in previous jobs as well as outside of work. Regardless of what they do, they’re determined to be the best at it.

Driven reps not only keep their managers on their toes, but they also provide leaders with a bench of future managers who can step up as the company grows. They get their current job done and work hard to position themselves to get the promotion.

4) Smart

This is last on my list, and for a reason. I’ll admit, not every product or service needs smart sales reps to sell it. No offense to Dwight at Dunder Mifflin, but reps selling low-priced, commoditized products don’t need to have an MIT degree to be successful.

But with power shifting in favor of the buyer, this is a trait that is becoming more important. It’s no longer just about pushing hard to a close, and ABC pep talks. Today, teams needs reps who can understand the prospect’s situation and partner with the buyer. They need to co-create the buying plan and path to move forward.

To do these things, a rep needs to be smart and agile. They should be able to digest a playbook but also know when it’s necessary to adlib or challenge.

Every company is different and needs to find the candidate profile that works best in its particular circumstance. That said, I’ll take a team of coachable, curious, driven, and smart sales reps into the field with any product because even if that’s all I have, I like my chances.

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