Hiring for Your B2B Sales Team? Top 10 Characteristics of the Next-Generation Sales Professional

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As you’re building your B2B sales team, what skills and attributes do you look for when hiring potential candidates? The profile of the future seller is vastly different from the old-school seller. Old-style sellers excel in hard closing, positioning, and persuading. These outdated skills tend to lead to the stereotypical, pushy salesperson persona.

The next-generation sales professional should focus more on the customer relationships they build and prioritize what the customer prioritizes. In other words, the next-generation seller should focus on helping the customer rather than pushing products and solutions that may not be the best fit for the customer.

With this shift away from a self-centered approach for sellers, here are the top ten most important characteristics you should be looking for to create a successful sales team in the long run:

1. Empathetic

With a human-centered approach to selling, is the potential candidate able to relate to your customer stakeholders on a personal level? Can they truly understand your customer’s personal value drivers and see what business outcomes they are trying to achieve? It’s important to add an empathetic salesperson to your team to give you fresh insights on the customer’s unique challenges, experience, and perspective. With the skill of stepping into the shoes of your customer, your team will be able to develop stronger and longer-lasting customer relationships while providing a more personalized experience. To learn more about the power of empathy, tune into this Voice of Value podcast episode with Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President of Gartner.

2. Collaborative

It’s important to hire team players who are willing to help your organization and your customers connect the dots between different stakeholders with different roles. Having a sales professional on your team who seeks out and creates opportunities to collaborate within your team, across departments, and within buying teams, will help break down silos and streamline communications. This leads to another important trait of a successful salesperson you will want to add to your team.

3. Communicator

Being able to actively listen and capture information, as well as clearly and concisely relay information, all leads to a strong communicator. The modern-day seller should be able to excel at tailoring content and conversations for customers in cross-functional roles. According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers. That means your sales team should be proficient in clearly communicating to six to 10 different decision makers, who all may have a different role, background, experience, challenge, and perspective. You need teammates who can connect with all the stakeholders on the buying and selling side of the equation and create alignment.

4. Curious

Your sales team should never make assumptions about your customer. Instead, look for sales professionals who have a tendency to get curious and constantly ask high-quality questions. Being curious and genuinely caring can lead to receiving helpful information that you might not have had access to before. Gaining a better understanding of constantly changing goals and priorities for your customer will help you become more successful in building better rapport.

5. Creative

Look for candidates who demonstrate creativity in their thinking and actions. Can they find innovative and compelling strategies to tackle your customer’s business challenges and help them achieve their desired outcomes? Adding creativity to your sales team can help you gain an edge on your competition and help your customer think of new ideas or ways to think about challenges.

6. Critical Thinker

Do you seek out critical thinkers? The future seller needs to be able to identify business challenges and desired outcomes of your customer. Problem solving, analyzing, and evaluating customer situations are pertinent to moving customers along in the sales process and to ultimately see their success come to fruition.

7. Gritty and Diligent

Finding individuals who are unafraid of rolling up their sleeves to do the work with determination are great additions to your sales team. This type of gritty and diligent person is who you want to have around when you’re faced with tough challenges. They are not impeded by lost deals and will not give up when confronted with difficult situations.

8. Knowledgeable

Beyond being well-versed in your company’s products, services, or solutions, your sales team should have a deep understanding of your customer’s industry. Being able to add a sales professional to your team with specific industry knowledge is a major benefit to tailor specific conversations and content for your prospective buyers. Adding industry knowledge to your team’s arsenal of skills can be a big win.

9. Leader and Learner

Hiring candidates who role model a continuous learning behavior will strive to better understand your customers and propagate curiosity and learning among your existing team. What better way to improve than to bring onboard a leader who can help transform your team’s behavior? Having sales professionals who always want to learn more will make training and professional development efforts easier. Another benefit of having a learner on your team is staying in tune with industry trends and customer expectations.

10. Passionate

Does the potential teammate have a fiery passion that drives them day-to-day? Having a self-motivated individual on your team who maintains focus and finds joy in small wins can be an asset. Hire sales professionals who are passionate about your customer and can rally around their desired outcomes, priorities, and goals. When the customer wins, you win, and this all starts with passionate members of your team.

When filtering through potential hires, it may be rare to find candidates who embody all ten of these characteristics. Your recruiting team should search for individuals with at least a few of these key traits. Combining a team that excels in each of these ten characteristics will make you stronger together. The future sellers you are looking for are here today. Find these unique individuals and train them to cater to your customer. Seek them out based on these most important qualities and your sales team will succeed.

Watch this short video clip (below) with Chad Quinn, CEO of Ecosystems, and Martin Dove, Vice President of Subscription Sales Research at TSIA, discussing the critical skills of future sales leaders and sales managers.