Hiring the best sales rep from the complex group of applicants you have in front of you is no small task. Your sales staff represent your brand to your customers and prospects every day. It’s vitally important to hire the right staff to deliver the image and the message that best embodies your brand, and mistakes in sales hiring are costly! How do you ask the questions that will really demonstrate how effective a candidate will be in the job? Here’s a list that works, and that HR will love!
Try using these questions when you’re interviewing sales candidates. They’re focused on learning how much your candidate understands the basic work of selling, and asks them to explain how they approach different situations. The answers you’re looking for are written below the questions.
If you’re receiving short versions of these answers, switch to a format like “Tell me about…” You’ll get more of a sense of your candidate’s personality.
1) How do you keep up to date on your target market?
Even if the target market of their last job is totally different from the one they’re interviewing for, this will show you their ability to find and keep up to date with relevant trade publications and blogs. Research matters.
2) What are some of your favorite questions to ask prospects?
Salespeople today should be asking discovery and needs questions more than making pitches. Open-ended questions that help a rep thoroughly understand a prospect’s needs are as good as gold.
3) What’s your approach to handling customer objections?
Preparing to deal with objections instead of winging it is critical. Listen for evidence of a process.
4) How do you research prospects before a call or meeting? What information do you look for?
Neglecting to use LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, Google, and other tools to research clients is not a viable option in today’s sales environment. Ensure that candidates are searching for personal commonalities in addition to professional information so they can tailor their communication as much as possible. Looking into company trigger events would be the cherry on top.
5) If you were hired for this position, what would you want to do in your first month?
The answer to this question doesn’t have to blow you away. Hiring the best sales rep means the candidate should have some sort of action plan to get up and running. No matter how much training you provide, it’s still smart to hire a self-starter when you can.
6) How would you approach a short sales cycle differently from a long sales cycle?
Short cycles call for reps who can close quickly, and long sales cycles require a much more careful, tailored approach. They’re drastically different, and your candidate should recognize this.
7) When do you stop pursuing a client?
The right answer here will depend on your company’s process, but in general, the more tenacious and persistent a rep is willing to be, the better. At least 8 attempts, or when the prospect asks to no longer be contacted, is the right answer.
8) How do you keep a smile on your face during a hard day?
Appraise the person’s attitude towards rejection. Do they need time to shake off an unpleasant conversation? Or do they bounce back immediately? Hiring the best sales rep means hiring someone who has emotional skills that will keep a positive attitude running all day.
9) Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why?
Selling to everyone and anyone — even if a salesperson knows it’s not in the prospect’s best interest — is a recipe for disaster. Make sure your candidate is comfortable with turning business away if the potential customer isn’t a good fit.
10) Have you ever had a losing streak? How did you turn it around?
Statistics tell us that slumps will happen periodically, even under the best of circumstances. Everyone has bad spells, so beware of someone who claims they’ve never experienced a downturn. Nothing’s wrong with a temporary slump if the candidate learned from it.
11) Have you ever asked a prospect who didn’t buy from you to explain why you lost the deal? What did they say, and what did you learn from that experience?
Following up on deals to learn how to do better next time — win or lose — boosts the odds of winning in the future. A salesperson who takes the time to learn from both their successes and their failures will likely be a valuable addition to your team.
13) What’s worse: Not making quota every single month or not having happy customers?
Depending on your company’s goals, either answer could be the right one. But beware of reps who will prioritize quota over truly giving customers what they need. Some situations require more attention and customization than others.
14) What’s your least favorite part of the sales process?
If their least favorite part is the most important part at your company, that’s a red flag. When the job is a “new business” position and they dislike prospecting, it won’t work. If they’re disappointed to have to do a lot of data entry, that’s more workable. This question can also alert you to weak areas.
15) What motivates you?
Money, achievement, helping customers, being #1 — there are a lot of potential answers to this question. What makes a good answer versus a bad one will hinge on your company culture. For instance, if teamwork is an important aspect of your sales team, a candidate who is driven by internal competition might not be a great fit.
16) What made you want to get into sales?
Commission, while perhaps part of the motivation, is not a great response to this question. You’re looking for a love of people, problem solving, and learning. These traits will keep sales fresh well into the future.
17) What’s your take on collaboration within a sales team?
Collaboration might be less important at some organizations than others, but candidates who aren’t willing to collaborate at all won’t likely make pleasant coworkers, not to mention their uncooperative attitude will block knowledge sharing.
18) Who are you most comfortable selling to and why?
Listen for whether they answer with a description of an ideal buyer, or a demographic with no tie-in to the buying process. Depending on your product or service, the second type of response might pose a problem.
19) What’s your opinion of the role of learning in sales?
Being thrown for a loop by this question is a sign that your candidate isn’t a life-long learner, which is becoming increasingly important in sales. Hiring the best sales rep means hiring someone who will take direction, and not assume they know everything.
20) What interests you about working with our company instead of one of your other options?
If your candidate doesn’t have a ready answer, they haven’t done enough research to know whether they should be working with you in the first place.