Is a Career in Startup Sales Right For You? These Are The Four Traits That Sales Managers Look For
By: Ashley Artrip
As with many business positions, there are certain personality types that tend to thrive in sales jobs, and others that don’t. For recent graduates who are considering pursuing a career in SaaS/tech sales, evaluating whether or not the field is a good fit for your personality is paramount. The tech/startup industry tends to be highly network-driven, meaning that a poor fit first job experience can have long-lasting ramifications and impact your reputation in the industry. Before leaping into applications, pause and ask yourself if the job would be a good fit for you, and if so, how you can play to your sales-relevant strengths in an interview and job application.
At SV Academy we’ve worked with over 100 hiring tech companies recruiting for sales talent — so we have a pretty strong idea of who will thrive in sales positions, and who won’t. Sales can be an incredibly rewarding career with high earning potential for the right person (our sales training program graduates have received over $2M in job offers with an average 2.2x salary increase). However, the field requires strong communication skills and motivation to succeed.
After working with hundreds of sales managers at hundreds of different tech companies, these are the top traits that we’ve identified as most indicative of an aptitude for sales.
1. Emotional Intelligence
Sales representatives need two types of emotional intelligence: emotional intelligence as it relates to others, and as it relates to the self. The first kind is what we typically think of when we describe someone as having charisma: salespeople need to be good at rapport building, have strong persuasion skills, and exhibit effective written and verbal communication. A large part of any salesperson’s job is speaking with strangers, so being naturally adept at this will go a long way. If you thrive in interview settings, social gatherings, and circumstances where you’re connecting with new people, this is a strong indicator that you would make a good salesperson.
A less well-known aspect of the level of emotional intelligence needed for sales positions is emotional intelligence as it relates to yourself — otherwise known as self-awareness. This means being confident in your decisions, having a strong level of self-regulation (i.e. not getting stressed out and making rash decisions), and exuding professionalism. Sales can be a fast-paced, high-stress environment, and the people who thrive in this environment are able to self-regulate and think clearly under these circumstances.
Sales is a highly metrics-driven field with best practices that shift dramatically based on communication mediums. Because of this, it’s important that sales representatives have what we call “coachability” — or, the ability to listen to and incorporate feedback into their behavior to improve results. This means people who are stressed out by change or interpret feedback as criticism may struggle in sales positions.
A good way to determine whether or not you exhibit coachability is to think about how you’ve reacted to feedback (positive and negative) from an authority figure before. Whether that’s a professor’s feedback on a paper or a coach’s feedback on your performance, this will give you a good sense of how you’d react to regular feedback in a sales setting. Another good way to tell if you are coachable or not is to see if you regularly seek feedback from others - both in personal and professional scenarios.Those who seek feedback regularly understand the value of getting advice from others so they can adapt their approach to any situation and create meaningful outcomes.
Keep in mind that many sales managers will test this by giving you constructive criticism during a role-playing scenario in an interview.
3. Strong Organizational Skills
Sales environments tend to be uniquely fast-paced. Because sales is a metrics driven field, sales reps are always trying to outperform themselves — which makes for a high-energy and high-intensity environment.
This high energy means that good sales representatives will thrive under pressure. When faced with heavy workloads, they know how to prioritize and work through each project efficiently. Sales representatives also need to have a strong capacity for managing change and for managing their own time. If you’re the kind of person who never misses a deadline, even when the assignment changes last-minute, then you will likely do well under the pressures of a sales environment.
4. Growth Mindset
What we call a “growth mindset” is essentially a frame of mind in which the candidate believes that change and self-improvement are possible, and attainable. This is the opposite of a “fixed mindset”, in which people believe that they are stuck with their current ability level and place in life. These mindsets tend to be self-reinforcing: a person with a growth mindset will work to improve, and when they do improve this acts as proof that ability is learnable. Fixed mindset people tend not to pursue improvement, which reinforces their belief that ability is innate and fixed.
In sales, having a growth mindset is incredibly important because you will constantly be pushed to improve — both in comparison to other people and in comparison to your past performance. You need to see constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth, not just as pure critique.
Now you know if you have the personality for sales — what’s next?
If you read the above and feel like sales could be the perfect career path for you, then it’s time to start pursuing it! We’ve written extensively on how to get started with a sales career job hunt, but the most efficient and rewarding path is to apply to a tuition-free sales training program like SV Academy. The training program not only gives applicants the skills they need for on-the-job success, but also partners with hiring tech companies to streamline the program-to-hire pipeline — and additionally offers post-hire mentorship and coaching. 16 graduating SV Academy classes have received over $2.2M in job offers, with an average of 2.2x pay increase from before the program to after the program — and we’re just getting started!
If you want to be a part of the next graduating class in SV Academy and jumpstart your sales career, visit sv.academy.