Culture Fit vs Skill Set: Striking the Right Balance in B2B Sales Recruitment

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When hiring B2B salespeople, it is easy to make the mistake of focusing solely on skill and honing in on the candidate’s previous experience and qualifications. While you must not overlook these elements when interviewing salespeople, cultural fit is an equally important factor to consider.

A sales team’s effectiveness isn’t just about meeting targets; it’s about doing so cohesively, driven by a mutual understanding and shared ethos. In sales, where success relies on interpersonal relationships, an individual’s ability to embody a company’s values can impact their success.

What defines a cultural fit?

Company culture represents the collective values, norms, and practices that drive a business. The right cultural fit is essential for creating a positive work environment. Cultural fit is not about seeking candidates who fit into a preset mould or a rigid concept of your team. Instead, it is about identifying individuals who already align with and embody the values and ethics you desire for your team.

A person with a strong cultural fit is about more than who they are on paper. They are someone who, when immersed in the company or team, feels comfortable, understood, and authentic. Their presence complements and elevates the collective ethos of the team, ensuring not just individual success but a positive and productive team environment.

How cultural fit impacts performance and your team

Bad cultural fits can create tension or conflict within the sales team. For example, if you foster a highly collaborative work culture and one person prefers to work alone or does not contribute adequately to the team, it creates frustration for everyone else.

A good cultural fit can contribute to heightened motivation among the team. A global study by PwC found that 69% of senior leaders credited good company culture as the reason for their success throughout the pandemic. When employees resonate with the company’s ethos, they are more driven to contribute positively, enhancing overall performance. People who feel aligned with the company and their colleagues are likelier to feel a sense of purpose and strive for personal and collective achievements.

Cultural fit directly impacts teamwork, collaboration, and communication. Teams with members with a cultural alignment often find collaborating easier, reducing potential misunderstandings or conflicts.

What are the downsides of hiring for culture fit or skill set alone?

When hiring salespeople, you should not prioritise cultural fit over skill set and vice-versa. While cultural alignment indicates the potential for good teamwork and engagement, someone without the right skills might struggle to adapt and deliver outcomes for the business. A salesperson who feels like they are continuously falling short will likely turn over quickly.

Conversely, hiring based on skill alone without assessing cultural fit can disrupt team dynamics. Someone with excellent skills who does not align with a company’s values or work style may struggle to work well with others or align their work to the company strategy. They may be more likely to have conflicts, misunderstandings or reduced morale. Over time, this can undermine team unity and productivity.

Of course, it is difficult to find someone who already fits the culture. So, you might consider people who demonstrate high adaptability. Research conducted by HBR suggested that cultural adaptability is also an essential aspect of finding the right cultural fit. While someone might not be the perfect fit initially, they might demonstrate adaptability and grow into the culture with time.

When going through the process of recruiting salespeople, you must establish clear criteria for both culture and skills. Understanding what you are looking for will streamline the hiring process. Draft a list of required skills, and define the cultural attributes essential to your company’s ethos. Having these criteria laid out ensures consistency and reduces the likelihood of hiring the wrong people.

What skills can you afford to not overlook?

Salespeople can learn many of the skills required to succeed. Someone without a technology background can take a short course or have a mentor to skill them up. But there are several soft skills that you should not compromise on when hiring, including:

  1. Coachability is among the most important skills because a salesperson who will not take feedback cannot grow.
  2. Clear communication forms the foundation for building trust with colleagues and prospects. 
  3. Adaptability allows salespeople to adjust to client needs and market shifts.
  4. Emotional intelligence (EQ) enables a deeper grasp of client motivations and nurtures authentic relationships.
  5. Active listening gives salespeople a solid foundation to understand prospects and address their challenges.
  6. Problem-solving equips sales professionals to find solutions to challenges quickly.

Every company and industry will have its unique set of ‘non-negotiable’ skills. Your organisation might need salespeople with expertise in a specific area or certain qualifications – these hard skills will depend on your organisation. Knowing and prioritising these skills will support you in balancing cultural fit and skill set when interviewing candidates.


Culture fit and skill set are both essential in B2B sales recruitment. While culture ensures team cohesion and alignment with company values, the right skills heighten someone’s chances of delivering outcomes for the organisation. Balancing both is critical for long-term success. Effective hiring focuses on this combination, paving the way for a resilient and adaptable team that can navigate sales challenges as they arise.

Resonate can guide your B2B sales recruitment efforts

We’re dedicated to propelling B2B sales teams towards success. Our team can help you source and screen top sales talent so that you find people best suited to your business. We will also help you create a robust sales strategy to build a steady revenue stream. Visit our Sales Services page for more information on how we support the sales strategy.

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RK is the CEO & Co-Founder of Resonate.

RK is Resonate’s chief strategist, thought leader, and IT industry veteran. Our clients depend on RK to advise on their business strategy, channel strategy, and sales strategy. 

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