Many of our clients, particularly those selling complex services or solutions, have told us they want salespeople who are strong problem solvers, able to quickly grasp a customer’s problem and proactively offer an elegant solution. There are three key elements that contribute to problem solving expertise in salespeople:
1. Does the candidate have sales experience in your industry? Although experience may not be necessary for every sales position, it provides a powerful leg up via repeated exposure to the universe of customer problems in your field. Of course, this can best be assessed during the resume review.
2. Is the candidate a good listener? Needless to say, listening skills are essential for grasping a customer’s problem sufficiently to arrive at a solution. We have discussed techniques for uncovering listening skills in a previous column.
3. Does the candidate’s personality, as revealed in the interview, show a proactive, creative approach to problem solving? We can determine this with a few key behavioral interview questions:
- Tell me about a difficult customer dilemma that you have faced. Did the candidate solve the dilemma? If so, how? What made the situation difficult in the first place? How similar is this situation to the challenges he would encounter if he came to work for you?
- Tell me about a customer problem that was impossible to resolve. What made the situation impossible? Was it lack of experience, or a particular set of circumstances that might re-emerge in the new job?
As with other skills, feel free to ask for several examples for each question. This will help you to detect consistent behavior patterns, which are likely going to show up in this job. Of course, some companies have the resources to provide extensive training for qualified candidates. However, for companies who need their new salesperson to be an adept problem solver out of the box, it is mission critical to assess each of the elements above carefully during the interview process.
Dr. Christopher Croner and Richard Abraham are authors of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again and developers of the proprietary and patented sales assessment test, The DriveTest™, for sales candidates. To experience the difference of the DriveTest, contact us today!