As the marketplace shifts, your sales organization should also evolve to meet buyers where they want to be met in the sales cycle.

This requires an intentional sales hiring strategy. After all, your sellers represent your company and what it means to do business with you.

Make sure that the sales team you build this year positions you in the right way by hiring for the competencies that translate to high sales performance.

What are Key Competencies?

Key competencies are specific personality traits or attributes that your company has decided are critical to success in a particular position.

Competencies are often referred to as soft skills or personal skills. While they can be more difficult to measure than hard skills, competencies have a big impact on a candidate’s ability to achieve success in a sales position.

At The Brooks Group, we often think of personal skills as the “professional polish” of a sales rep. Will the person in question be able to accurately evaluate a situation and make the best decision? Or will they be inefficient, ineffective, and struggle to communicate with internal and external customers?

The difference often comes down to their competencies, or personal skills.

Determine Which Competencies Are Critical to Your Position

Every position is unique, and will require a unique set of behaviors, motivators, and key competencies for success.

Before you begin your search for a sales candidate, sit down with the members of your team who understand the position the best. This might include the role’s direct manager, leaders, or people currently in a similar role.

Come to a consensus on what an ideal candidate will look like — including the key competencies they should possess.

The Brooks Group has a team of talent management experts who can work with you to develop a position benchmark (ideal candidate profile) so you can find a candidate who is the right fit.

Identifying key competencies is just a part of this process. The system looks at 23 different competencies which are listed below:

Accountability for Other Empathetic Outlook Planning and Organization
Conceptual Thinking Flexibility Problem Solving
Conflict Management Goal Achievement Resiliency
Continuous Learning Influencing Others Results Orientation
Customer Focus Interpersonal Skills Self-Management
Decision Making Leading Others Self-Starting Ability
Developing Others Objective Listening Teamwork
Diplomacy & Tact Personal Accountability  


Of course, not every job will require every one of these competencies. Determining the most critical competencies and then hiring to match is a best practice for sales organizations who want to grow a team of high performers.

Trends in Key Competencies for Sales Representatives in Today’s Marketplace

Different competencies will be more or less important depending on the goals of the sales position. Do you need a friendly farmer-type, or a more aggressive, hunter-type sales rep? Will the salesperson be cold calling, or building strategic relationships with high-level contacts?

Other considerations may include:

  • The short and long-term goals of your sales organization
  • Your organization’s sales strategy
  • New challenges or disruptors in your industry
  • The day-to-day selling activities of your sales force
  • How compensation is structured
  • And more

Based on the hundreds of clients we consult with each month for sales hiring and talent management needs, we’ve found a handful of competencies that seem to be trending for today’s increasingly complex marketplace.

Key Competencies for Sales Representatives We’re Seeing More and More of Today:

  • Planning and Organization — The ability to establish a process for activities that lead to the implementation of systems, procedures or outcomes
  • Results Orientation — The ability to identify actions necessary to complete tasks and obtain results
  • Goal Achievement — The overall ability to set, pursue, and attain achievable goals, regardless of obstacles or circumstances
  • Flexibility — The ability to readily modify, respond to, and integrate change with minimal personal resistance
  • Customer Focus — Commitment to customer satisfaction

These highly sought-after competencies speak to the need for sales professionals today to juggle more as purchasing decisions are becoming increasingly complex. Today’s high-performing sales rep must be skilled at navigating buying committees with multiple decision makers — and keeping track of it all while maintaining their cool.

Above all, sales reps must keep a consistent focus on the customer, and provide value at every interaction. This type of value-based selling is more important now than ever before, and should be something your organization prioritizes.

You can achieve that by bringing people onto your team who match the skills required for the role, as well as through delivering sales training with a consultative sales process.

Develop a Blueprint for Sales Success with the Benchmarking Process

The key to sourcing top sales talent is figuring out exactly what your open sales position requires for success — and selecting a candidate that’s naturally wired for those requirements.

Job benchmarking alleviates the guesswork involved in the hiring process by providing objective measurements and identifying the candidate most likely to excel in your organization — today and into the future.