Ten Traits that Will Help Sales Leaders Spot the Salesperson of Tomorrow

We’re often asked what makes today’s selling landscape different from the one that David Sandler, the founder of our company, lived and worked in.

One good answer to that question has to do with the degree of commitment to a personalized learning path – that is to say, a given salesperson’s openness to the identification, acquisition, and deployment of relevant, brand-new selling skills. Personal, proactive resolve in pursuing such a learning and development path seems far more important to sales success today than it was in the late 1960s – and even back then, David Sandler knew it was important!

Today, however, the extraordinary levels of rapid change we see occurring in communication technologies, in markets, and across whole industries tell us that salespeople who are comfortable adapting to such changes, by creating the new skill sets necessary to navigate them, are going to be more successful and more highly valued than those who assume they already “know it all.” In Sandler’s day, salespeople who didn’t consistently pursue and acquire new skill sets could sometimes camouflage their unwillingness. Today, that’s virtually impossible. If you do not adapt, you will not thrive. Sales leaders who understand that will have a significant marketplace edge over sales leaders who don’t.

All of this is to say that leaders are well advised to recruit and retain salespeople who are focused, not just on the skills that equate to successful outcomes today, but also on the development of skills that will permit them to contribute optimally tomorrow. With that principle in mind, we offer our list of the ten personal traits that we believe anyone considering hiring a salesperson in 2024 ought to be looking for during the interviewing and vetting process.

The verifiable presence of these ten traits in an applicant suggests that hiring you are looking, not just at a salesperson who will excel now, but at one who can be counted on to contribute at optimal levels even in an uncertain future. Whenever you’re evaluating potential new sales talent, consider creating interview question sequences that will help you to identify the presence or absence of these traits. Your aim is to solicit relevant, impromptu personal narratives from the applicant in each of these areas.

  1. Abundance Mindset. Does the applicant see adversity and failure as an opportunity to learn more about themselves and others, so they can then notice or create new opportunities and act on them? Does the applicant consistently act in accordance with the principle that opportunity (as opposed to scarcity) is everywhere?
  2. Resilience: Adaptive and Agile. Does this person initially respond to change and uncertainty with both curiosity and creativity? Do they change course without a lot of drama when it’s obviously time to do so? Is their self-concept strong enough to carry them through good times and bad?
  3. Tech-Savvy. Does this person embrace new technologies that carry the potential of enabling them to experience and/or deliver greater value? When one tool goes down, are they open to the idea of creating a workaround by using another tool?
  4. Data-Driven. Does this person make decisions and recommendations based on objective, quantifiable data? Do they know how to manage their own emotions and adopt an objective frame of mind? What specific experiences and work accomplishments demonstrate these habits?
  5. Strong Remote Work Skills/Cross-Functional Collaboration Skills. Does the applicant interact fluently with others via virtual meeting technology? Is the applicant a productive remote worker? Does the applicant collaborate effectively with teams and platforms that are not familiar to them? What are recent examples of this happening?
  6. Consultative Selling: Adaptive/Agile Sales Process. Is this person genuinely curious about the individual buyer’s journey? Does this person meet buyers where they are in the buying process? Does this person quickly and routinely establish equal business stature with decision makers and influencers? Does this person ask questions appropriate to the situation and the person, and listen actively to the answers? Does this person listen more than they talk? Does this person lead conversations effectively without dominating conversations? What past or present selling situations demonstrate these capabilities?
  7. Big-Picture, Global Mindset. Is this applicant more interested in creating and supporting long-term relationships with buyers than they are in facilitating a series of short-term transactions? Does this applicant adopt a “30,000-foot view” of both problems and opportunities?
  8. Multi-Channel. Multi-Style Communication Skills. Sales professionals get paid to adopt and become fluent in the communication patterns and behaviours of buyers; buyers don’t get paid to adopt our favourite platforms and modalities. How do you know the applicant understands this principle and lives by it?
  9. Well-Rounded, Balanced Individual. Are personal and professional goals equally important to this individual? Do they overlap and connect? How stable and supportive are their personal relationships? What interests, hobbies, and aspirations do they pursue outside of the workplace?
  10. Ability to Rapidly Embrace Change. Does a sudden, unexpected change inspire this applicant – or destabilize them? Do they see creating a rapid, engaged, effective response to new circumstances as a personal challenge they enjoy meeting? Does the applicant have an event in their work history that demonstrates an above-average capacity for successfully processing and navigating unexpected changes?


Remember: you are looking for tangible evidence of the presence of these traits, not boilerplate slogans or smooth restatements of ideas you’ve expressed in one way or another during the interview. What happened in the person’s work history that suggests the presence of one or more of these traits? When, where, and how did it happen? Who else was involved? Ideally, you want to see verifiable evidence of all ten “salesperson of tomorrow” traits before you extend an offer to join your team!