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Grit and the Successful Salesperson

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Salesperson Superpower

Does it seem like your team is continually churning through salespeople?

Do you notice that candidates seem great when they first get on the floor, but after a few days or weeks, their performance starts to fall flat? It seems as though they begin losing confidence and can’t handle hearing no as an answer.

In the world of sales, this cycle is constantly repeating itself. It’s almost impossible to rely on traditional recruitment and training methods to find and keep quality salespeople.

The individuals who turn out to be bad salespeople may have been confident and goal-oriented candidates. In fact, they were probably perfect candidates for any other job, but they did not thrive in a sales environment. These individuals can lack some key personality traits that have been proven to measure the long-term success of a salesperson. Collectively, those personality traits are known as Drive.

What are the Traits of a Successful Salesperson?

Some believe that confidence is a hallmark of a great salesperson. Others may rely on knowledge and understanding of an end product as key indicators that a candidate will do well.

The problem with many traditional or stereotypical sales success indicators is that they are subjective and can indicate success in the moment, but most likely not over a period of time.

Successful salespeople have a deep-seated need to succeed and can handle any situation without losing faith. These people exhibit the characteristics of  Drive and Grit.


Drive is how we define the inherent personality profile that sales candidates must exhibit to succeed. A well-developed sales personality test allows hiring managers and recruiters to see a candidate’s profile beyond just the resume or interview process.

A sales personality test offers the ability to accurately assess the potential for long-term success in a sales environment. Testing methods should focus on the inherent attributes needed to be a successful salesperson:

  • Need for achievement
  • Competitiveness
  • Optimism

These qualities have been studied and proven effective in recognizing talent, specifically in salespeople, and provide a strong indication that your sales candidate can hang in there, even when the going gets tough.

Anyone who scores high in Drive on the sales test will exhibit the necessary traits to be a rainmaker for your company.

These individuals may not be the people who interview best or fit the mold of the traditional salesperson, but these candidates will improve your return on investment every time.


Companies that use a sales personality test in conjunction with traditional hiring methodologies are more likely to get results that will improve their bottom line.

Candidates who exhibit Drive are also highly likely to exhibit Grit, a concept Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania has studied in-depth. 

Grit can be defined as the combination of need for achievement, optimism, hard work and perseverance. Gritty individuals set substantial goals and strive to meet them, despite the inevitable challenges along the way. One of Dr. Duckworth’s most interesting findings is that Grit and natural talent are either unrelated or slightly negatively correlated. She speculates that naturally talented individuals may not have as many chances to respond to challenges or difficulties. However, gritty individuals will push themselves through the hard times and remain focused on the bigger picture.

Finding Drive and Grit in Candidates: The Secret of Sales Success

When sales managers tell us they are looking for sales candidates who were great athletes or politicians in school, we encourage them to discover exactly what led to the candidate’s previous success.

For example, was the candidate simply a naturally talented athlete with a coach who pushed them to succeed? Or was the candidate consistently on the field at 6 a.m. before the other players, focused on conditioning and repetition to take their personal performance to the next level?

That kind of grit-fueled determination and competitiveness becomes the psychological foundation of success in the demanding, but highly rewarding, world of sales.

Many times, the indicators that you traditionally expect to yield great salespeople do not yield the results you need.

Sometimes, the most successful salesperson may be a wallflower that you would have passed over in an instant if you were relying on traditional recruitment methods. When these individuals exhibit attributes of resilience and Drive in their assessment test results, they will often surprise you with their capabilities in sales.

It is important to assess candidates for Drive early in the interview process.

Those companies who are excelling at implementing testing use assessments prior to an in-person interview to narrow their pool of applicants down to only highly-qualified candidates. Those individuals who perform well on the sales personality test will continue through the hiring process.

Those who do not score as high on the sales test may be useful in other areas of sales, such as data collection, research and lead nurturing.

Knowing the potential of sales candidates beforehand gives companies a better opportunity to develop balanced sales teams that can work together, regardless of their circumstances.

Nurturing Sales Success

A combination of inherent traits and the ability to persevere, regardless of the outcome, make up a successful salesperson. Natural talent is valuable, but when it comes down to building a lasting sales team that works well together, you need individuals who exhibit both Drive and Grit.

Finding successful salespeople to build your sales team doesn’t have to be a nightmare. By using the right discovery tools and spending adequate time in the beginning of the hiring process, companies can protect their sales investment while acquiring talent that will increase long-term revenue and improve the overall process.

Start making Drive and Grit part of your sales team’s success plan by taking the SalesDrive assessment today.

Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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Sales Hiring Simplified!

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