Candidates coming into an interview are prepared to show you their best face.
Most sales candidates appear confident, exuberant and project a go-getter attitude.
Some applicants, however, may interview poorly, but could be hiding a great talent for sales.
The problem with heavily basing the hiring decision on interview performance is that you are likely not getting the full picture of the candidate’s ability and Drive.
It is nearly impossible for sales managers to definitively know from an interview alone whether or not a candidate will maintain their positive, ambitious demeanor when faced with difficult situations or clients (or whether introverted candidates could actually thrive in their sales environment).
So where do most sales interviews go wrong and how can you fix them?
Traditional job interviews do not take into account how an individual will likely behave throughout the duration of his or her employment with your company.
In fact, many hiring managers and interviewers are guilty of making snap judgments the moment they meet an individual.
Everything that happens after that initial and crucial moment helps to build or break the first impression. It is human nature.
However, it is important to differentiate confidence and any other first impression from a real aptitude for sales. The only way to avoid falling into the trap of quickly misjudging prospects is to use proven, objective metrics.
So what can you change in your interview process to be sure you find a candidate that is going to succeed in sales in the long run?
Identifying Confidence and Drive in Salespeople
Confidence is important in sales. It ensures that a salesperson engages in a positive inner dialogue and trusts himself without much need for outside encouragement or validation.
Is confidence necessary for success in sales? Absolutely. However, it is not the only indicator of a successful sales representative. There are a few problems with using confidence as a gauge for sales success:
1. Confidence can be faked.
People can pretend to be confident for a day or a week. They can also show confidence in front of certain people and lack it in front of others. Confidence is a learnable personality trait and may overshadow true sales aptitude.
2. Confidence can be a precursor for arrogance.
While this is not true of every individual, there is a thin line separating confidence and pride, and shows of confidence can easily overstep boundaries if you are not careful. Arrogance is not a trait conducive to sales as it can alienate consumers and reflect poorly on a brand.
3. Confidence fluctuates.
It is built on the idea of self-worth and self-sufficiency. It is not the same as resilience, and it breaks or improves in different environments.
4. Confidence can manifest in different ways (and is often overlooked).
Extroverts often use their choice of words, inflection or body language to express confidence. Introverts, however, often express their confidence internally. Their careful planning and presentation will result in an inward sense of confidence.
If you only look for candidates who are demonstrating an external form of confidence, you may mistakenly overlook many qualified candidates.
Drive is a critical, yet unteachable personality trait that research shows is shared by successful salespeople.
While it is impossible for even experienced sales managers to identify Drive through traditional interview methods, it is a proven factor in determining the likelihood of your candidate to perform well in the long term.
A scientifically-backed sales assessment test can objectively evaluate a sales candidate’s inherent ability to thrive in sales, regardless of if he is a seasoned salesperson or someone trying to break into the industry.
Drive is based on three inherent personality traits – Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism – and therefore results of a sales assessment should not change over time.
This makes it the perfect key identifier for potential sales success. Those who score high on all three personality traits will have what it takes to perform under pressure to meet and exceed your expectations on a regular basis.
How to Differentiate Between Confidence and Drive in a Sales Interview
Since most of the hiring process is reliant upon a subjective analysis of a resume, interview responses and body language, it is important to have an objective, accurate and consistent means of measuring candidates.
By implementing a well-developed sales assessment test into your hiring process, you can cut through the masquerade that an extrovert’s confidence may create during the in-person interview.
Employing an assessment after a phone interview, but prior to an in-person interview, will help you narrow down your field of applicants to those that are most likely to succeed within your company, allowing you to spend more quality time getting to know their strengths, weaknesses and goals.
It can also help dictate which questions to focus on during the in-person interview.
Interviewing after Sales Assessment Findings
Here are some helpful interview questions and prompts that can be used in conjunction with sales assessment results to help you determine a candidate’s likelihood for success within your company:
- Sell me this pen. One of the oldest prompts in the sales interview books provides a snapshot of how a sales representative will handle customer interactions in the field. Pay attention to how thorough the candidate is, how comfortable he appears while trying to make the sale and how well he is able to respond to unexpected questions.
- Identify problems you may encounter in this job. Candidates who have done their research and thoroughly understand the market will be able to fully address common issues.Do not accept answers related to generic employee relations or handling routine duties. Look for someone who thinks first about your customer and uses creative problem solving to address an issue.
- Provide projections for the industry. The question is general enough that potential candidates should be able to describe current trends, top companies and technological advancements. Look for the candidate to possess information above and beyond what a consumer might see when watching the nightly news. A full response may be reflective of their Need for Achievement.
- What area do you plan to specialize in? This question allows the employer to see where a candidate views himself in the future of the company. Ask all entry-level and upper-level candidates to talk about their goals with the company. They should be able to choose a niche. A team made up of sales representatives with different interests and abilities will work well together to solve problems.
- Tell us about your sales style. Unique individuals with varied perspectives build the sales industry. Understanding how a potential sales employee will approach the job can provide companies with critical information about culture. Certain sales styles may not mesh well with your product or service or other company factors.
The Importance of Finding the Right Salespeople for Your Team
Take your time with the hiring process. Many employers cite a lack of resources, time or applicants as the driving force behind making a poor hiring decision, but it is important to remain patient and thorough during the hiring process.
Hiring an unqualified salesperson will lead to a number of increased costs, including employee turnover and depleted relationships with current and potential clients.
Successful sales representatives, on the other hand, will pay for themselves many times over and are worth the comprehensive interview process.
By using proven hiring techniques and avoiding the common mistake of prejudging candidates, companies can focus on investing in the candidates who are most likely to succeed.
A great hiring process will also result in increased overall morale at the office, improved conversion rates and an improved brand reputation in the market.