Every job ad lists a variety of functions of the vacant role.

Potential hires get the heads up on what they would be doing day to day, and they can give recruiters examples of when they’ve previously carried out those tasks.

But for sales, the most important skills can’t be proven on paper – they are skills which are honed over years of learning, and which can only be seen in practice.

So what are the skills you need in your next sales hire?

1: The ability to listen

Sure, we all think we’re good listeners. And yet most of us listen only for the pause in conversation so that we can jump in with our tuppence worth.

Listening means giving your whole attention not only to what the person is saying, but what they’re not saying.

What problems or topics are they focusing in on?

What is their body language telling you? Does it change when the area of conversation changes?

Do they get uncomfortable when talking about certain projects or people?

This isn’t an easy skill to learn and perfect, and it doesn’t come naturally to many people.

So how do you know when you have truly listened? Not when you think ‘yes, I understand’, but when the other party says or thinks, ‘I feel understood’.

It is only by deep listening a sales person will get to the root of the problem they may potentially be able to solve – and therefore close the deal.

2: No fear of asking questions

Every sale or transaction must follow a process in order to bring it to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion – and that goes for both parties.

Quite often the person on the other side of the table wants someone to ‘pitch’ to them without giving any information in return.

But that will only lead to resentment, frustration on the part of the salesperson, and a longer sales cycle. And in the end, there may not even be a deal to sign.

It is crucial to ask all the questions pertinent to your company’s process.

If a salesperson allows themselves to get fobbed off, they may not find out for several months that there is no sale to be made, or that they were talking to the wrong person in the company all along.

So if someone is not confident enough to ask questions, you need to ask questions about why they’re representing your organisation.

3: Being smart enough to walk away

Not every company your sales team meet with will want to do business, and nor will they all need your product or service.

The problem some salespeople have is differentiating between those, and the companies or individuals who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

If every single meeting turns into a potential sale in the pipeline, that guilty party doesn’t have the above 2 skills – the ability to listen, and the ability to ask questions.

Some companies will meet you out of curiosity while some will meet to simply get a price. If any member of your sales team fails to learn when to walk away, they are pushing extra work and cost into the company, without any hope of a corresponding increase in sales.

So next time you’re looking to hire someone for your sales team, don’t just focus on the numbers they achieved in their last role.

Ask questions that would give you some insight into whether they have the actual skills required to boost sales for your company.