Home Professionalisms 7 Tips To Spot A Sales Superstar During Interviews

7 Tips To Spot A Sales Superstar During Interviews


by Eliot Burdett, co-founder and CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting


Interviewing sales candidates can be extremely difficult since even a subpar seller is trained to tell people what they want to hear.

Many candidates look great on paper, only later to turn in lackluster performances.  Since the cost of bad hires is enormous for a company’s bottom line, it is critical for those that are in charge of hiring to “get it right.”

Eliot Burdett, CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company, explains the key is to look beyond the resume and test for certain personality traits.

Here are the 7 most common personality traits found in top sales performers and tips to find out if the candidate across the table truly possesses them.

1. Success Driven.

While skills can be learned, a desire to succeed and a pattern of behavior often cannot.  Since no sales candidate will assess themselves as unambitious, the interviewer must delve deeper.  High performers have a pattern of accomplishments across all areas of their life, not just at work.

Tip to interview for patterns of success: Include questions in the interview script that probe what they are most proud of.  Start with their achievements at work but then transition to areas outside of work such as sports or the arts where they demonstrate being goal-oriented.

2. Confidence vs. False Bravado.

A salesperson can exude confidence in an interview, and still wilt under rejection or criticism. When the best salespeople are told “No,” they are not defeated, they are invigorated.

Tip to interview for confidence: While testing a candidate’s determination is important, it is advisable to do so in a way that is not offensive.  A successful sales person will not wilt under pressure, yet they will want to feel wooed at the same time.  Ask for examples  of when they showed extraordinary determination.

3. Competitive Fire.

Defined by Merriam-Webster as “having a strong desire to win or be the best at something.”  This is the fuel that powers salespeople to hunt new business opportunities, cold call, get in front of the key decision makers, and close deals.

Tip to interview for competitiveness: Ask the candidate to describe how they strive to be the best salesperson possible. If they talk about using their co-workers recent big deal as motivation to come in early or stay late, or express a desire to surpass their own best sales numbers, this is a key indicator that the candidate is a top performer.

4. Sense of Urgency.

The creed that “time kills deals,” defines the top performing salespeople. They understand that every minute not on the phone with prospects or meeting them face-to-face is potential lost revenue.

Tip to interview for a sense of urgency: Ask the candidate to provide examples of how they used time to their advantage. How much time is split between prospecting, working the funnel, and closing accounts? These numbers will tell if they understand that time is money.

5. Primal Need To Influence Others.

Let’s face it; people like to buy from people they like. That is not to say they are categorically extroverts, as many great sales people classify as introverts, but they simply have an innate ability to develop relationships.

Tip to interview for a people person: See if they appear relaxed, if their smile and handshake are genuine.  If they routinely bond with clients, send them useful information beyond what they are selling, or can articulate how they build rapport with prospects to overcome pricing objections, you may have a winner.

6. Creativity.

This is not a word that is always associated with sales people, but the best are very creative when it comes to removing obstacles and finding solutions to problems. As the saying goes, the best sales people don’t ask permission, they seek forgiveness.

Tip to interview for creativity: Ask the candidate about times they had to develop alternative ways of doing things in order to succeed. Give them difficult scenarios involving gatekeepers, price, and budgeting issues and ask them to brainstorm solutions.   This will show if they are creative problem solvers.

7. Perseverance and Resilience.

Great sales people do not let rejection prevent them from achieving success. They never give up on a deal until it is definitely dead and if it is, they will find another deal to close in its place.

Tip to interview for organization: Ask the candidate to talk about their failures and how they later on led to greater success.


Eliot BurdettEliot Burdett is the cofounder and CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company launched in 2006. Under his direction, the company leads the industry with a success rate 50% higher than the industry average, working with a wide-range of clients including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Western Union and others. He co-authored “Sales Recruiting 2.0: How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast“.


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