If you’re in the position where you do the sales hiring for your company, you probably have your own idea of what makes a good salesman. But if you find that your sales hires are unsuccessful more than one out of four times, maybe you should re-think your criteria. Different sales managers look for different things in their sales team, but the essential factor is that the new hire will be a good fit with the rest of the sales team and the company.

Successful selling is not a learned skill; it’s a natural talent. Many sales managers look within their own ranks to find someone with superior knowledge of the company and put them on the sales team. Sometimes this strategy works, if you’re lucky enough to have chosen someone who has the natural sales ability on top of product knowledge. But more often than not, the person can’t make the transition. Let’s face it: it’s easier to hire someone and teach them about your product than it is to try to teach someone how to sell.

Looking a little deeper into the question of what makes a good salesman, we find that there are many personality traits that can define success. I’d like to take a little time to explore each characteristic more in depth; then you can decide which elements are most important to you and your company.

Passion, not Pressure

I’m not talking about the kind of passion that focuses on one person, object, or pastime; I’m talking about an element that infuses every cell of a person so that they practically radiate energy. Passion is a quality that some people have and others don’t. No one can pretend to have it, but it can be developed under the right circumstances.

You can always spot a person with passion—she behaves as if every minute counts, every place has meaning, and every person is the most important person in the world. Once a person with passion enters into a sales relationship with a customer, she is virtually irresistible. Isn’t that what makes a good salesman? Really?

How does passion affect the selling process? Well, in the first place, it can be infectious. When a salesperson emanates passion in the product she’s selling, the customer gets the message that this is an extraordinary product. In short, the salesperson’s excitement about the product is communicated to the customer subliminally.

When you love your job, people respond to you in a positive way. A salesperson with passion loves her job. She’s enthusiastic about what she’s selling and what it can do for her customer.  There are too many duds out there who just go through the motions of making a customer happy. If they see the sale going south, they’re likely to resort to pressuring the customer. That customer may end up buying the product—or not—but in either case, you’ll end up with a customer who’s not happy.

If you’re building a sales team, remember that passion is a significant measure of what makes a good salesman.  It may not show up on the sales personality test, but you’ll be able to spot it during the interview process. These people have a vision of a successful future for themselves, which translates to a successful future for your company. And once you’ve added one or two people with passion to the sales team, who knows? Passion is contagious, after all!