Anyone who has spent time running sales teams and hiring sales people knows that there are certain personality traits that must exist in a sales person in order for  them to be successful. At Peak, we call these traits sales DNA and we place a large emphasis on them because the supporting stats are so compelling. In many companies these traits are either misdiagnosed, under appreciated or rejected entirely by those involved in the hiring decisions.

But they worked for the competition…

When we started working with one customer, an experienced hiring manager, we learned of her frustration with the results from one of the sales hires that had been made several months earlier. We discussed what might be causing the sales person’s lack of performance, and arranged to assess the sales rep to determine what kind of sales DNA they might possess.

We ran the sales rep through some interviews and tests which ultimately showed that the person had virtually none of the personality traits we see in top sales achievers and certainly none of the traits required to be successful in new business development sales roles. Our customer admitted that one of the main reasons she hired the rep in the first place was due to the fact that he had worked for the competition for a couple of years, which in her mind helped make him well suited to be successful in her company. Unfortunately, years of employment, even with a competitor do not necessarily correlate to future sales success and in fact, when you consider only only a small percentage of all sales reps are consistently successful, the number of years employed usually doesn’t correlate to future success at all.

He had weaknesses…

Another one of our customers faced a similar challenge. In this case, we introduced our customer to a candidate that had a strong history of success and great hunter sales DNA. Our customer and the candidate had several meetings, and moved closer to a working together, however  psychometric assessments of the candidate indicated that in some instances he might over-promise to customers or deviate from the formal sales process and fly by the seat of their pants.The customer indicated that these were insurmountable weaknesses while we emphasized our conviction that these behaviors do not preclude sales results and are often associated with the drive and creativity required to be successful in sales. Every great sales person has weaknesses – some won’t keep great notes, others are a bit maverick. Depending on the situation these may prevent a fit with a company’s culture or mandatory hiring requirements.

It is up to our customer to determine what they can and cannot live with and we always respect their decision, which in this case was not to move forward with this candidate, but what makes this story a loss for our customer is that while they were interviewing this candidate, he was  being pursued by several other employers and has since gone on to generate strong sales for a competitor.

The Right Sales DNA

Our objective is to help our customers hire great people and achieve sales growth, and luckily in both cases, we were able to find replacements that have since become strong contributors, but these stories highlight the challenges associated with understanding sales DNA and hiring the right sales team members and when to reject sales people. To hire great sales people means to be familiar and comfortable with the traits that make great sales people great at selling.


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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