Run Away From Sales People With These Traits

by Chris Young

Few decisions impact a business model more than the quality of sales talent hired to represent a company.

It happens all the time. Sales hiring managers predicting strong sales performance from a candidate who later performed poorly.

This train wreck is easy to avoid.

The candidate positively lit-up multiple biases that the sales hiring manager was unaware were being lit up. The hiring manager should be selecting sales hires based on the merits of their background, education, experience, and sales personality match.  

If only the egos of those involved in the sales hiring process were hedged by a data-driven sales hiring strategy.

When it is time to run away.

There are a few common traits that are universally abhorred in sales people. Run away from them.


Salespeople are lazy for any myriad of reasons. They may not have a strong work ethic to begin with, they may be overcompensated, they may feel entitled and / or they may feel they have been mistreated.

Entitlement Thinking

Entitlement thinking is a raging disease in sales that occurs when salespeople are not held accountable to a performance standard, yet are compensated as if they met that performance standard.

It is essential that salespeople are held accountable for activity levels as well as achieving required sales performance. The best way to reduce or remove entitlement thinking from a sales team is to only hire salespeople who light up every element of the sales hiring scorecard, including sales personality and aptitude requirements.


Salespeople who bend the truth or outright lie (which quite frankly, are one in the same) are a risk to the brand of the company as well as the integrity and reputation of that sales team.

Lack of integrity is unforgivable. There is never a reason to hire or retain a salesperson who lacks integrity.

There’s an important problem with this list.

From a sales candidate perspective, every trait in this list is difficult to accurately read due to human bias and the ability for sales candidates to prepare for the interview.  

Human bias is ruining your sales team.

I see so many sales hiring managers, recruiters, and HR professionals who despite the best of intentions are ill-prepared, untrained, and intoxicated with power when it comes to deciding the sales revenue and margin fate of their employers.

Good or bad, human bias is a powerful influence in our day-to-day professional lives and particularly in the sales hiring interview process. Human bias positively or negatively skews the perception of candidates. Good sales candidates may be removed from further consideration and poor sales candidates may be allowed to proceed in the sales hiring process due to human bias.

It is essential to educate and get buy-in from every single person involved in the sales hiring process to recognize and mitigate the risk of human bias. It is essential to actively counter human bias with a standardized sales hiring process that incorporates a sales hiring scorecard with sales personality and aptitude testing. The goal must be to objectify the subjective to become as data-driven and as objective as possible.

There are certainly good interview questions that, when coupled with follow-up reference checking, can provide useful insight for properly-trained participants. But this requires strong interview skills, which are the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, references have their own biased perspective that must be considered.

What to look for instead.

From an existing salesperson perspective, the more difficult traits to spot can be the Essential Sales target-2070972_1280Competencies. These are universal for sales success regardless of type of sales role:

  • Personal Accountability - Being answerable for personal actions.
  • Resilience - The ability to quickly recover from adversity.
  • Goal Achievement – Setting, pursuing, and attaining goals, regardless of obstacles or circumstances.
  • Self Starting – Demonstrating initiative and willingness to begin working.

Every company should be developing these competencies whenever possible (the salesperson must be a willing participant for it to matter). Due to human bias as well as the potential for candidates to prepare for these questions, interviews are not a sound strategy of identifying these traits.

The best way to objectively measure the sales personality of a candidate is to embed a valid sales personality and aptitude test in the sales hiring scorecard.

Overcome human bias to assemble a team of Sales Wolves.

Every trait that is a mismatch relative to the needs of the sales role (job benchmark) exposes the salesperson, the sales team, and the company to revenue and margin risk. That is unforgivable. Shareholders deserve a maximized return on their investment.

The safest risk mitigation strategy to identify the existence of bad traits in sales candidates is to:

    1. Adopt a sales personality and aptitude test w
    2. ith validity backed by brain research into the sales hiring scorecard.
    3. Develop key accountabilities and a job benchmark for each sales role.
    4. Compare each sales candidate to the job benchmark to ensure proper job match.  
    5. Ensure that new sales hires match every single one of the requirements of the sales hiring scorecard (including background, education, experience, and sales personality fit).

Job benchmarking helps identify the requisite Behaviors, Driving Forces, Acumen, and Competencies combination that will maximize sales performance when integrated with the balance of a strong sales hiring scorecard.

The greater the spread between the job benchmarked requisite Behavioral Style relative to the needs of the sales role, the greater the risk of reduced sales performance. Analogously, the greater the spread between the job benchmarked requisite Driving Forces relative to the needs of the sales role, the greater the risk of reduced sales performance.

A strong sales hiring scorecard sets the required standards for background, prior experience, and education as well as sales personality and aptitude match to the job benchmark. Every person involved in sales hiring must be trained to appropriately use the sales hiring scorecard. Scoring should be standardized and non-negotiable.

Smart CEOs do not allow anyone, regardless of what seems to be a good reason, to deviate from the sales hiring scorecard. The consequences for the organization are too high.


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