As a veteran sales leader, I’ve had the opportunity to read a large volume of resumes and interview numerous candidates for a variety of sales roles. As a sales consultant, I am frequently asked by my clients about best practices surrounding: 1) what to look for in a sales person 2) how to evaluate them during the interview process and 3) how best to ramp them into a productive state as rapidly as possible. This article, which is the first in a three-part series regarding these common challenges, addresses what to look for when searching for qualified sales people.
What am I looking for?

A common approach by companies in search of sales people is to post the job they are trying to fill along with a list of vague or generic skills needed to fulfill that role. Often it is a case of “we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for but we’ll know it when we see it.” Interestingly enough, companies also unwittingly advertise for a sales role using one set of requirements and then interview and evaluate potential candidates based on completely different criteria. It should not come as surprise that these companies are likely to go through a prolonged search and interviewing process due to misaligned search and selection criteria.

As a best practice, CEOs and sales leaders alike should have a clear understanding of what they are looking for in a sales person before the job is advertised. This critical first step helps companies attract more qualified candidates and lays the foundation for the subsequent interviewing and selection processes. Although seemingly simple, this may be an especially challenging process for companies that do not have a deep expertise in sales or for companies that are just beginning to build out their sales force.

Two important elements to define are:


Competencies are the combination of knowledge, skills and expertise that can be demonstrated through achievement of a candidate. Examples may include specific competencies such as sales process proficiency, technology knowledge, industry or customer experience, etc. What competencies does your company need? Which are need-to-have competencies versus nice-to-have?



Characteristics are the traits and attributes that you desire in your perfect candidate. These may include: professional, an action orientation, a team player, a specific personality profile or a good cultural fit. What characteristics are most important for success in your company?

Before advertising an opening for a sales role, a best practice for companies to follow is to ensure they have identified both the competencies and characteristics that they believe are needed in a successful sales person. Being clear about these criteria upfront accelerates the search process while setting a strong foundation for the interviewing, assessment and selection of potential candidates.
Coming Next: PART II – Interviewing Sales People: The Secret Window Into Sales Competency


For more information, please contact Compendium Advisors at or 925-984-5381
“Accelerating sales by aligning execution with strategy”

April 19, 2016 in Best Practice

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