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Five Key Traits of The Modern Sales Rep

The evolution of B2B sales and the expectations of today’s B2B buyer are demanding a significantly different approach to hiring and developing sales talent.  The “sales rock stars” of the past are a dying breed.  These shifts mean that sales leaders must rethink the profile of their ideal candidate.

Enter the modern sales rep.  The modern sales rep is not someone who relies on a rolodex of contacts or closes deals by “winging it.”  Instead they are defined by five traits that support a scalable, process driven sales organization:

1.    Highly organized and process focused 2.    Data driven and analytical 3.    Intellectual curiosity 4.    High EQ 5.    Above average intelligence 


Typically these have been traits we would look for in a good project manager. But the truth is, B2B technology sales is in essence project management based and requires effective management of multiple projects (opportunities) with multiple internal and external stakeholders getting involved.  

Ensuring sales reps follow a well thought out sales process is driven more by the organizational culture than anything else.  It starts with building a sales process that is not only effective but also repeatable; this is reinforced by very clear expectations that those are the processes that must be followed.  

Organizational skills - that’s an entirely different challenge.  Yes, good organizational skills can be taught.  But unless a sales rep possesses the willingness and diligence to ensure ongoing execution of those skills they won’t come to fruition.  

So this is where proper evaluation during the hiring process comes into play.  Just like the best professional sports teams evaluate and select talent based upon who they feel will fit into their system, sales leaders must do the same.  They must seek out candidates who demonstrate solid organizational skills and sound attention to detail.  


Many say that sales is part art and part science, and they’re right.   The scientific component to sales is driven by an individual’s ability to use data to increase sales performance and effectiveness primarily in two areas:

1.    Monitoring KPIs to identify performance gaps that need to be addressed 2.    Delivering relevant insights to prospects that are backed by data

Using data to identify performance gaps and drive subsequent activity is largely the role of a sales leader / coach.  The best reps are able to digest this coaching and self-police their behavior on an ongoing basis.  This could be as simple as an SDR using metrics to build weekly activity goals that will ensure they reach 125% of their SQL quota for the quarter.  Or it could mean an account executive who self-monitors his or her individual SQL > close ratio or ACV and seeks the necessary guidance to improve those metrics.

The second component, delivering data backed insights to prospects during the evaluation process, leads to a host of great results including:

•    Differentiating your organization from the competition by demonstrating value early in the sales process •    Making a more compelling case for change and status quo disruption •    Increasing win rate •    Increasing ACV 

It’s obvious that much of the responsibility for fostering a data driven approach lies on the development of sound sales processes and good coaching.  But the right mindset on the part of the sales rep establishes effective and consistent delivery of this approach.


I have never met a good sales rep who didn’t posses a strong knowledge of the product they were selling.  More importantly, I have never met a TOP performing sales rep who didn’t posses a very strong knowledge of business challenges that their prospects faced.  

And this is where intellectual curiosity comes into play.  The desire to invest the necessary time and energy required not only to develop a superior understanding of the product, but more importantly to identify the challenges prospects face is becoming more important every year.  This is especially true when selling more complex products in a B2B technology environment.

Much has been said about how B2B buyers are doing the majority of their research before ever engaging a sales rep.  This means sales reps must come to the table with more - more insight, more data, and more knowledge about the business challenges their prospects face on a daily basis.  They must know their prospect’s challenges and potential risks better than their prospects do.  And the only way to develop this knowledge is through a desire to acquire and understand that information.  

Intellectual curiosity also creeps into other components of the sales process. Researching a prospect is another element where the reps who are eager to conduct thorough research on a prospect will shine.  This level of preparedness will yet again separate a sales rep from the competition and give them  an edge throughout the evaluation process.

Intellectual curiosity, like some of the other traits I’ve outlined, can’t be taught.  It’s something that’s either in a sales rep’s DNA or it’s not, and it’s imperative to look for that quality when evaluating potential hires.


The argument could be made that the role of emotional intelligence in sales has always been important, and I wouldn’t disagree.  However, the changes in the B2B sales landscape has increased its importance, and to a degree it’s a skill that can be developed through ongoing training.  

Loosely defined, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and effectively manage both your own emotions as well as the emotions of others.  When managing relationships and interactions with prospects this plays out in the form of demonstrating: 

•    good questioning and listening skills •    assertiveness •    empathy •    resilience to adversity

These qualities complement many other positive personality attributes.  Together they have a very positive impact on a sales rep’s ability to effectively navigate the sales process and win more opportunities.  


Hiring sales reps who possess above average intelligence is again another variable that is becoming increasingly important.  This trait seems very obvious, but many sales organizations neglect to prioritize this during the evaluation process.  

Above average intelligence enhances the ability to: 

•    understand more complex solutions and how they can positively impact a prospect’s business •    explain these complex topics in a manner that is easy for a prospect to understand •    observe and act on gaps in performance or challenges (see data driven and analytical) •    develop sound business and financial acumen

Intelligence is a trait that can be assessed during the interview process relatively easily and should absolutely be taken into account when making hiring decisions.

Ending the search for rock stars and seeking a candidate profile that is complete and well balanced will generate more predictable results and is a recipe for long-term success.  It’s important to not only evaluate a potential candidate based upon these traits, but also implement the processes and coaching that will enhance them.  Building a modern sales organization requires a shift in thinking and an ability to identify the right talent.

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