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The Secret to Hiring Top Sales Representatives

Originally published
Originally published: 9/8/2016

Are you trying to hire productive sales representatives who CAN close deals? Not easy ... what you see during a recruitment interview can and often is very, very different from what you observe after they have been a few months on the job.

So how do you recognize the true closer from the pretending champ? How do you know you are about to hire a hungry wolf or a meek sheep?

All applicants who apply for a sales position know one thing — they have to sell themselves pretty well in order to get that job! Unfortunately, a sales person who sells himself/herself very well during the interview does NOT mean they will perform, once on the job. Here is ONE tip you can use right away, next time you need to hire master closers: Stay Away from Personality!

You have been impressed with the candidate’s personality: charming, open, courteous, people-oriented, amazing communication skills, etc. Does this all indicate success in selling? Sorry for the shock, but the answer is a strong NO.

Does it mean that these personality attributes are un-important for success in a selling job? Again, the answer is NO. They are vital of course. So what is the trick? Simply, most recruiters get trapped into the “temporary personality” syndrome: what you see today will not necessarily show up again in the future.

What is Personality, Anyway?

The word originates from the Latin persona, which means mask. Specifically, in the theatre of the ancient Latin-speaking world, the mask was not used as a plot device to disguise the identity of a character, but rather was a convention employed to represent or typify that character.

Per the above definition, a person may adopt a different personality, depending on the situation or condition he/she is faced with. Under normal circumstances, the person will adopt one personality. In another situation, that same person may be driven to “wear another mask.”

Have you ever interviewed a candidate for a sales position, had a great feeling about the person’s attitude and character, yet became very disappointed by his/her personality change, once the “honeymoon” was over? What were you evaluating, really? You were mostly trying to analyze a “mask,” or a set of masks, that the applicant would use when going through the interview. He/she might exhibit an entirely different “mask,” once part of the team.

Temporary vs. “Chronic” Personality:

Another challenge is to try to detect an applicant’s continuing or permanent personality trait, such as real communication skill, because it is vital for the specific sales job. The applicant may exhibit such soft skills during the interview. Does it mean that it is a natural, constant quality? The truth is: you don’t know. The hard reality is:

  1. The best way to find out is to put the applicant out of the artificial interview context and “force” him/her to react to real or simulated situations that approximate a real life or business occurrence. It is well known that people reveal themselves best when confronted by un-anticipated situations.
  2. You can’t guess if a soft skill or personality characteristic exhibited during an interview is actually constant and natural or just temporary. You need to find out.
  3. Here is a very easy test/drill you can use during a first interview with a candidate to a sales rep position: pick up a simple tool, accessory from your desk – anything. It can be a stapler, a pair of scissors, a pen, etc… And ask the candidate to sell it to you! You will be amazed of what you can discover through the candidate’s reaction and actual involvement in the drill. Check for the following:

• Does he/she accept to do it?
• Is he/she comfortable with doing it?
• Is he/she talking too much?
• Is he/she telling you lies in order to close?
• Is he/she really trying to close you?
• Is he/she trying to avoid the challenge?
• Etc.

Challenge the applicant throughout the test. Play a tough customer; argue on the price, etc. ... Make it as real as possible. And remember: the real personality comes out when you challenge the candidate, NOT when you allow them to talk about how good they are!

This little, simple test will tell you more about a sales rep than any other conversation, resume or testimonial you can get. Try it a few times and you will get good at it!


Patrick Valtin is an international public speaker and the author of No-Fail Hiring. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. For additional information, visit


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