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10 Teachable and Non-Teachable Skills Essential for Great Salespeople

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10 Teachable and Non-Teachable Skills Essential for Great Salespeople

Some sales skills are innate, while others must be learned. Here are 10 of the most important to look for in prospects and to coach for in your existing sales team

By Dr. Christopher Croner September 28, 2021
Home sales
Your hiring strategy for new salespeople matters now more than ever. The stakes are just too high not to hire the right candidates. Follow these tips to hire the best salespeople. | Image: FreshIdea / stock.adobe.com

Are great salespeople born or made? It’s a question that confounds many sales managers desperate to hire and hone a winning team. I think the answer is both—and if you want to survive in the fiercely competitive post-COVID economy, you need to know how to identify and coach for the traits that equip salespeople to acquire new business.

Every company needs Hunters, especially right now. The stakes are just too high not to hire the right candidates—those with the elusive “it” factors that create natural salespeople—and help them master those skills that are learnable. And the main “it” factor is drive, that grit and dogged determination that makes the best salespeople relentless in their quest for success. At SalesDrive, we consider Drive to be comprised of three non-teachable traits: the need for achievement; competitiveness; and optimism. The fact is, a person either has Drive or they don’t—there’s no teaching it. And just 20% of salespeople have it. 


If a candidate has Drive, especially if it accompanies other non-teachable traits, sales managers should snap up that candidate immediately. You can always help them develop other skills later. Just knowing which skills to look for, and which to train for, gives a sales manager a huge advantage, and a data-driven approach to hiring can save a company hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

5 Non-Teachable Traits to Look for in a Salesperson

(Remember, these first three are the building blocks for Drive.)

1. Need for Achievement

This is the inner desire to reach even the most challenging goals. As a person’s Need for Achievement grows, their motivation grows, too. A robust record of accomplishments often showcases a candidate’s high Need to Achieve.

2. Competitiveness

Some people are born with an inner fire that makes them want to achieve more than anyone else and win each customer over. Candidates with innate Competitiveness can keep themselves going and persevere long after others have given up. Your organization needs salespeople who go to great lengths to get an answer from each prospect and close every sale.

3. Optimism

Optimism is an undeniable certainty that if someone puts in the work and pursues a goal, a positive outcome is simply a matter of time. When assessing sales skills, Optimism is essential because, in many ways, sales is a numbers game. While there can certainly be lucky breaks that include a series of wins in a short amount of time, salespeople will often hear no many times before they finally reach a yes. We’ve found that when salespeople lack this natural Optimism, they’ll begin to lose their fire. Every negative interaction chips away at their hopes of success and leads them to lose their vigor.

4. Resiliency

Life can be messy, and the world of sales often is, too. Unexpected things happen, and there will be plenty of times when a salesperson is sure a customer is going to buy, but then that customer suddenly changes their mind. Salespeople with the natural sales skill of Resiliency can bounce back quickly, learn everything they can from their mistakes, and grow from each challenge.


5. Curiosity

No matter what you sell, you’re likely part of a market that changes quickly, with ever-evolving products to meet customer needs. When you hire a naturally curious salesperson who wants to learn more about products, people, and the solutions they need, you’ll have a valuable teammate able to adapt to all scenarios.


5 Teachable Sales Skills to Coach For

Moving beyond the innate skills, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for the beginnings of skills you can teach, coach, and further refine. These skills include:

1. Confidence

This is simply the ability to freely express opinions or concerns while remaining on an even keel, despite inevitable rejection. A salesperson with true confidence can even move into the role of a trusted advisor who offers real value to clients. 

2. Persuasiveness

Salespeople with a well-developed sense of persuasiveness love the process of selling, negotiating, and changing opinions. They are likable and can easily find common ground to help foster emotional bonds and shared objectives. Truly persuasive salespeople make it clear they are on the customer’s side and know how to wait for the perfect time to ease into the sale.

3. Relationship Skills

When assessing the sales skills of prospective salespeople, study their history of establishing and maintaining business relationships. Top producing salespeople are highly skilled at reading interactions in a room and knowing when to take center stage and when to let other people have the floor. Well-developed relationship skills involve not only talking but active listening, with a strict focus on asking intelligent follow-up questions.  

A great listener can empathize with prospects to learn more about their needs and main points. They then use that knowledge to sell more effectively.

4. Organization

A sales career means juggling many different tasks, and every moment spent retracing steps because you’re not organized is a lost opportunity and lost revenue. The most successful salespeople have mastered and incorporated organizational structures into their daily routines. You’ll find that when salespeople know how to stay orderly, keep track of every task, and avoid mistakes, they have more time to spend on high-gain selling activities.

5. Problem-Solving

There are far more potential obstacles in sales than you could ever create training for. Don’t focus on finding new salespeople who can memorize every single thing they may need to do in their jobs. Instead, search for those who can problem-solve on the spot. The kind of salespeople you most need to hire will be energized by this part of their work, rather than frustrated by the think-on-their-feet effort it requires.

Identifying Essential Sales Traits

When you know which traits to look for in the hiring process, and which ones to focus on as you coach new salespeople, you can make significant strides toward creating a high-performing sales team. This should be your top priority as home builders prepare their businesses to move full force into the recovering economy.


DSr. Christopher Croner

Dr. Christopher Croner, principal at SalesDrive, is a psychologist and sales retention and recruitment expert. He is also coauthor, with Richard Abraham, of the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, which details research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. Dr. Croner developed the proprietary DriveTest online sales test and The Drive Interview, both used for hiring “Hunter” salespeople. To learn more visit the SalesDrive website.


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