As a Sales Manager or hiring manager, it is your duty to find new sales reps who are promising and destined to bring success to your company, beyond just sales skills.
And if you’re like most hiring managers, you may have spent hours weeding through resumes, cover letters, references, etc. for a number of sales candidates. You have pared your list down to a handful of superstar candidates and now comes the time to prepare for the interview.
With such fabulous candidates on your docket, it can feel a bit overwhelming to ensure that the interviews go without a hitch, that the candidates are all you ever wanted and more and that they feel the same way about you and your company.
You must conduct an interview that will ensure each candidate is as promising as their resume claims. And you have to review the candidate’s responses to determine whether they are worthy of hiring.
Making an error during the hiring process could cost your company anywhere from 30-50% of the salesperson’s annual salary. And that is for an entry-level job. If the job was a mid-level sales position, a salesperson’s exit from the company could rack up a bill of 1.5 times their annual salary.
So, how do you make sure this does not happen? How do you hire only the best salespeople?
The key to preparing for sales interviews with such first-rate candidates is to ensure you have the right questions on hand to ask them. By crafting your interview questions in the right way, you will be able to successfully bring these superstar candidates into your company as employees, and allow everyone to reap the benefits.
In this extremely detailed guide, we will go over many types of questions for interviewing sales candidates, ways to ask the right questions and common hiring mistakes to avoid so you feel confident in your hiring decision.
Pre-Screen Sales Candidates Before Interviewing
Before a company starts the interviewing process, a sales assessment can be a powerful and effective tool to implement. The job market today is full of candidates who are willing to do or say anything to get hired for a job, regardless of whether it is the right fit for the company.
When candidates who are the wrong fit make it through a traditional interview process, managers sometimes find that the whole hiring process was a charade.
Sales candidates need to be Driven and have the deep-seated skills necessary to thrive in such a difficult environment. Some people wrongly move to sales when they cannot find another type of job. This leads to unqualified salespeople getting hired, which in turn costs the company thousands of dollars and frustrates sales managers to no end.
Pre-screening with a well-developed sales aptitude test will measure the innate ability of your candidates and can help weed out those unqualified, less-Driven candidates prior to the in-person interview.
Once you have the results of the sales aptitude test, you can be sure that the candidates that move on to the in-person interview have the traits needed for success in sales.
Now, that you are confident in your candidate pool, let’s dive into the best questions to ask in your sales interviews.
The Best 56 Questions for Interviewing Sales Candidates
The key to hiring a strong sales rep, who will be with your company long-term and will excel at sales, is to start with an effective sales interview process.
Knowing specific sales interview questions and the types of responses to look for will help you identify the salespeople with the most potential to succeed in your company.
Check out our lists of the best sales interview questions you should be asking your candidates.
Prospecting and Lead Nurturing Sales Interview Questions
1. How do you stay current on your target market?
Despite the fact that their previous sales job may have been in a completely different field or industry, your candidate’s response to this question will show whether they have the interest and Drive to stay on top of the current trends in your target market.
This research will help them gain a better understanding of their target customers’ needs and wants, so they can better communicate the value your company can provide.
2. What is your approach to researching prospects prior to a call?
In addition to knowing basic information about the prospect, the key to building a great relationship with prospects is for your salesperson to try to connect with them on a more personal level. This will help the prospect feel a deeper connection to your salesperson, as opposed to competitors. That deeper connection will help close a deal.
By researching prospects ahead of a pitch, your salesperson has a better chance at finding a way to connect with them.
To gain more insight, your salespeople should, at the very least, visit the company website of the prospect to gain a better understanding of their needs. They may even find a bio page on a specific prospect there.
If your candidate goes a step further and researches their prospect on LinkedIn or through a basic Google search that is a promising sign that they make an effort to build a relationship with their prospects.
3. Which questions do you like to ask your prospects?
Many successful salespeople put less emphasis on the actual pitch, and more on asking the prospect questions. This helps to further develop a relationship with the prospect while giving your salesperson additional information to build a more solid pitch at the end of the conversation.
You want your candidate’s answer to be full of open-ended questions that allow them to learn more about the prospect.
4. How much time do you spend nurturing customer relationships versus looking for new clients?
There are two types of sales roles: hunters and farmers. It is important to identify which role your candidate is best fit for prior to hiring. Placing a salesperson in to a role that they do not have the right personality for will only result in turnover.
If you are looking to fill a role where the responsibilities will include new business acquisition, then you need someone with previously successful experience as a hunter. If you have open sales positions that require lead and client nurturing and maintaining existing relationships, then you want to look for a farmer salesperson.
To identify which role your candidate will succeed in, prior to hiring, administer the DriveTest®.
5. How do you establish trust with your prospects?
Your salesperson will not be able to get to know a customer and their wants and needs without establishing a level of trust. That trust allows the customer to open up to your salesperson, and share their pain points.
The response to this question should be something that makes you feel as if you trust the candidate.
6. How do you define a successful first meeting with a prospect?
Whether in-person or over the phone, you want the response to indicate that they have gathered enough information from the prospect to know how to move forward in the sales process.
7. What do you feel is the best way to address pricing with a prospect?
Following a sales process is crucial, and the candidate’s response to this will show whether they plan to follow that process. Ideally, they will present the price by first demonstrating its value.
8. How do you acquire leads?
If your company requires cold calls or emails, then a candidate who responds by saying they have only ever had warm leads will not be a good fit for you. Rather, you want someone who provides specific details about how to get leads on their own.
Common Skill-Based Sales Interview Questions
9. How will you go “above and beyond” in this position?
This question does not have a wrong answer — unless the answer is that the candidate will only do what is specifically asked of them.
The ideal candidate is someone who is willing to put in the time and effort to go beyond minimal expectations to deliver value to both your company and your customers.
10. How do you handle rejection?
Rejection is inevitable in the world of sales. And how your salespeople handle objections and rejections says a lot about their personality and therefore sales success.
Your candidate needs to be highly optimistic in order to not take those rejections personally and, instead, use them as motivation to close the next deal.
A candidate who knows that each “no” gets them closer to a “yes” is the type of salesperson you want on your team.
11. How do you approach a short sales cycle versus a long one?
First, your candidate needs to recognize these two types of sales cycles are very different from each other.
Second, they need to know short cycles require quick closes, and long ones require a much more individualized experience.
12. In what areas do you think our company could use some improvement?
The response to this question will show you whether your candidate has spent sufficient time researching your company. It also shows you whether he or she is a creative thinker and problem solver – both of which are vital to long-term sales success.
You are looking for a response that dives deep into your company.
13. If I hired you for this position, what would you do during your first month with the company?
A self-starter is what you want in a salesperson. Asking this question will show whether your candidate has what it takes.
Responses demonstrating uncertainty are major red flags.
Though your candidate does not need to have a stellar master plan for their first month, they need to show the ability to create a plan and set themselves up for the first sale.
14. Have you taught yourself something lately? If so, what was it?
Constantly striving for self-improvement is a great quality to have in your salespeople.
If the candidate has no response to this, it likely means they will remain stagnant and not be able to rise to the top of your sales team.
15. What motivates you as a salesperson?
If money is the only thing motivating the candidate, consider it a red flag.
Great salespeople are motivated by an innate Need for Achievement and a strong sense of Competitiveness – with themselves, their peers and even with the customers.
16. What traits do you believe a strong salesperson has?
First, determine what traits you want in a salesperson, and see if the candidate’s response aligns with what you are looking for.
Research shows for long-term sales success, a salesperson must have Drive; which is made up of three personality traits: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism.
17. What was a typical day at your previous sales job like?
The ideal response to this is similar to what a typical day at your company is like for a salesperson. Though there will certainly be some adjustment required in a new company, you do not want too drastic of differences.
Situational Sales Interview Questions
18. At what point do you stop pursuing a prospect?
Although you do not want your salesperson to be so pushy that potential clients are totally turned off from making the purchase; you do want a salesperson who will be persistent. Some sales experts suggest making up to six attempts before throwing in the towel.
19. Have you ever decided a prospect was not a good fit and turned them away?
It is never a good idea to hire a salesperson who thinks a product or service works for everyone. Knowing when the customer is not a good fit for your company’s product or service, and turning them away is a key quality in a salesperson.
Consider it a red flag if the candidate’s response is, “No, I never turn prospects away.”
20. How do you feel about meeting with clients face-to-face?
This may not be relevant to your company, but in the case it is, you want your sales reps to be comfortable doing this.
21. How do you forge on during a hard day?
There really is not a wrong answer to this question.
Rather, this question helps you to get to know the candidate and whether they are someone who needs a bit of time to recover from a hard call, or whether they are able to get over it immediately and move on.
22. How have you turned around a streak of bad calls?
Every good salesperson goes through periods of struggle.
If your candidate claims they have never experienced this, that is a huge red flag.
Going through these tough times is part of the job, and you want a candidate who is able to learn from the experience and move forward.
23. Describe a time when a prospect made things difficult for you, and how you won them over.
The ability to put aside pride and continue pursuing a difficult prospect is a key quality in a good salesperson. This shows they are able to take personal feelings out of the equation and focus on the task at-hand.
24. What are your tactics for establishing a relationship with a potential client?
A sales candidate who relies primarily upon email and a rare voice message is a red flag.
You are looking, instead, for someone who researches and spends time building a relationship over the phone and/or in person.
25. What do you say to a prospect to close a sale?
The ideal response for this is something that does not put pressure on the prospect and steers clear of manipulating them as well. A salesperson’s closing pitch needs to feel natural and confident.
26. How do you acquire referrals following a sale?
Candidates who heavily rely on referrals may be cause for concern. This could be a sign that they are not comfortable with prospecting new leads on their own.
By pushing their current clients too hard for referrals to sustain sales, your candidate might negatively impact the relationship they have built up with the customer.
27. What do you say on a cold call?
Rather than general answers such as “I would talk about the company’s products or services,” you want a response that is more along the lines of a role-play. It needs to sound natural and unscripted, though it likely is scripted.
28. If you could start any company, what would it be?
Having the entrepreneurial spirit is a great quality in a salesperson. Their answer to this question will help you to learn more about their goals and what motivates them.
29. Would you rather make your quota or have happy customers?
Although a quota is important, you do not want a sales representative who prioritizes quotas over giving customers the support they need.
In the long run, happy customers lead to improved relationships, company reputation and ultimately more sales.
30. Sell me this pen.
This basic sales interview question will show you how well the candidate thinks on their feet. If the candidate responds to the “sell me this pen” question initially by asking questions, that is a great sign.
31. Take me through the steps of your sales process, from beginning to end.
It is important that the candidate has at least some idea of a sales process, even if the position is entry-level. Their response to this question will also show you the way they organize the process in their head.
32. Teach me something new.
The job of a salesperson is to do more than simply rattle off the features of your company’s product or service.
The job is to share knowledge about the product or service, and show the prospect why they need it in their life.
If your candidate can teach you something by clearly communicating how it works and what kind of benefit it will provide you in an interesting manner, that is a great sign.
Behavioral Sales Interview Questions
33. If we had a magic wand and could improve three things about your previous job, what would those three things be?
There is no specific right or wrong answer here, but the candidate’s response to this “Magic Wand Question” will give you a great deal of information about them.
Since the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior, it is important to know what kind of environment and mindset your candidate is coming from. This question can provide very valuable insight into your candidate’s previous work history and will give you a more honest response.
Are they optimistic that the company could be improved? Do they harbor resentment toward their previous employer? Do they have lofty expectations that could never reasonably be met within your company?
34. Name a time you received criticism and how you handled it.
A candidate who takes criticism personally and gets defensive is a major red flag. Your company needs someone whose response will show they learned from the situation and accepted the need for improvement.
35. What is your ultimate career goal?
According to a Glassdoor survey, the lack of opportunities for growth was among the top reasons a salesperson leaves a company. If your candidate’s response to this question is something you cannot provide, consider it a red flag that they may be leaving the company sooner rather than later.
36. Who do you feel most comfortable selling to?
The response you are looking for here is one that describes your target buyer.
37. Do you believe learning plays a role in sales?
Steer far away from a candidate who does not believe in the concept of continued learning. Because the world of sales changes often, it is absolutely crucial that your salespeople are lifelong learners who stay on top of current strategies.
38. What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
Hopefully, the response to this will be something sales-related that your candidate will use in their daily work.
39. What do you do for fun?
What someone does for fun and whether they spend their free time passively (watching television or movies), creatively (pursing hobbies), or actively (engaged in sports or outdoor activities) can tell you a lot about the type of salesperson they will be and what kind of Drive they have.
40. Why did you decide to pursue a career in sales?
Start waving your red flag if the candidate’s response to this question is something to do with commission or lack of other job opportunities.
41. How do you feel about collaborating with a team?
The importance of collaboration may not be high on the list at your company, but you do want a sales rep who is willing to work well with others (“a team player”). Sharing information with colleagues and learning from them is a great way to build strength within your sales team.
42. How would a former client describe you?
There are a number of good responses to this, but if your candidate describes “helpful” as a noted qualities, consider it a good sign.
43. What is your vision of an ideal sales manager?
This is another question that does not really have a wrong answer; but the response will give you insight into how the candidate envisions a relationship with you and could alert you to potential conflicts if you or your company cannot provide the kind of support they desire.
44. What was the company culture like at your previous company?
In this response, you want to pay particular attention to what the candidate complains about.
If they talk about long hours and unattainable quotas and your company thrives under the pressure of challenges and late nights, then they are not going to be happy at your company.
45. What are the values you think every salesperson should have?
You want to look for answers here that align with your company’s values, as well as ones that make for a good salesperson, such as patience and integrity.
46. What is your superpower?
Everyone has something in which they excel. And, the way your candidate responds to this will show you their strengths and how self-aware they are of them, which is vital to self-improvement.
47. What would we need to coach you on?
There are a few reasons why this is a good question to ask.
- It shows the candidate is self-aware and knows the areas in which they need improvement.
- It will determine whether the thing they need is coachable or not.
- It gives you a starting point once the candidate begins working with your company.
48. Why do you want to work for us?
If the candidate struggles to come up with a solid answer for this one, chances are they are just looking for any job they can get. This is obviously the opposite of what you want for your sales team.
You want a response that clearly indicates the candidate wants to work specifically for your company.
49. Why should we hire you?
Confidence is an important quality in a salesperson, but you do not want it to go too far to where it becomes arrogance. The candidate’s response should be just that — confident, but not arrogant.
50. Can you give an example of a time you have used creativity to keep existing clients?
The ability to be creative, especially when it comes to retaining clients is a must for salespeople.
The candidate’s response should reflect their ability to problem solve and improvise when necessary.
51. What questions do you have for me?
If your candidate does not have any questions for you, that should be a major cause for concern.
This is your candidate’s chance to ask open-ended questions to get to know you, your sales team, and your company. Their response can be very reflective of how they will interact with prospects, and whether they will be able to generate thoughtful and insightful questions.
52. What sacrifices have you made to be successful at work?
This question is really useful because it gives interviewers an idea of what a potential hire considers to be a success and what constitutes a sacrifice.
Driven candidates are naturally competitive, so making sacrifices for success should come naturally and easily.
If the candidate has not been forced to make many sacrifices to maintain a successful career in sales, that may not necessarily be a deal breaker, but it would probably be the exception to the rule.
53. Where do you need to improve as a salesperson?
This is a popular question in job interviews across the career spectrum, so prospects should expect to hear it and come prepared.
Listen for candidates that exhibit appropriate humility and self-awareness, and show that they have given some thought to how they intend to become better in the future.
54. What do you feel is the next step in developing your sales skills?
Salespeople who think of sales as a career rather than a job will always be looking for ways to improve their sales skills.
It should come as no surprise that you need salespeople that are in it for the long haul, not just to make a quick buck before moving on to their real career. If the candidate does not appear to be invested in her sales career development, move on.
55. What are some of the challenges you have faced at your current/previous sales job?
Every job has challenges, so listen for an honest yet optimistic and professional delivery when the candidate discusses challenges she has faced in the past.
Use this question to get a feel for whether your company is likely to create similar pain points for the potential hire. If you see potential for repetitive challenges, bring them up and give the candidate a chance to respond.
56. Tell me about a time you lost a sale; what did you learn?
Any salesperson that has been in the field longer than a few weeks will have lost a sale. The best thing a salesperson can do when she loses is to learn from the loss.
Salespeople who are invested in their own careers will care enough to try to find value in disappointments. The optimism exhibited by those who learn from failures is also a key element of Drive, which is critical for success in sales.
What are Extreme Interview Questions for Sales?
Interviewing sales candidates can be particularly challenging. Often, sales candidates can be hard to read in an interview since many are skilled at presenting themselves in a favorable light.
A powerful technique for quickly moving past a candidate’s defenses is to use “extreme” questions. When asking the right type of extreme questions in a sales interview, you are much more likely to identify a candidate’s true potential.
This technique’s power comes from its ability to get right at the heart of the matter, allowing you to learn the candidate’s tendencies. “Extreme” interview questions gain their namesake for a reason and form an essential part of a sales interview.
In this section, we will explore precisely how to create your very own extreme questions in a sales interview and provide examples you can use for inspiration.
How to Use Extreme Questions in a Sales Interview
Extreme interview questions include superlative words like most, least, biggest, smallest, worst, and best. These do not allow for neutral answers, and often encourage candidates to think outside the box to find their best response.
Extreme questions are particularly effective when a sales candidate describes a negative reaction to a past situation.
For example, say the candidate says the following: “I guess I have always found cold calling challenging.” Here are two ways the interviewer can respond, one with a standard question and one with an extreme question:
Standard Question Example:
Question: “What did you find challenging about cold calling?”
Candidate: “Making the time during my busy schedule . . . that was always tough.”
Extreme Question Example:
Question: “What was the most challenging aspect of cold calling?”
Candidate: “Probably the anxiety involved in the whole process.”
To get maximum leverage from an extreme question, follow up with the echo technique:
Candidate: “After a prospect would hang up on me, my hurt feelings would get me worried about the next call.”
Now, you can continue to probe to find out how pervasive this issue is for the candidate, and gauge whether it could get in the way if they came to work for you. The echo technique is an excellent way of asking for more information without making the candidate feel defensive. You will gain insight into their ability to handle a pressured sales position.
Examples of Extreme Questions to Use in Sales Interviews
Coming up with unique interview questions for your sales interviews is crucial for the best results. Candidates may have multiple interviews to attend, meaning you are likely to obtain better answers if your questions are a little different.
Here are some examples to get you started, as well as why they work.
When is your confidence the highest? When is it the lowest?
The key here is to make sure the candidate can remain flexible and assertive in the face of challenges or the unexpected, especially when cold calling. This question provides insight into whether they can thrive under pressure.
If the candidate says that their confidence is lowest in spontaneous situations or situations that require aggressiveness, follow up to make sure they have adequate experience, comfort and proficiency with cold calling. Sudden changes occur in sales all the time, making it crucial for salespeople to adapt and handle themselves well under pressure.
Additionally, you can ask the interviewee to perform a mock phone call with you or someone else in the office to further vet their capabilities. This process does not have to be very formal, but the exercise will instantly highlight how comfortable they are during such phone calls.
What is the most effective method of getting to know new prospects during a phone call?
If you would rather avoid subjecting candidates to the surprise of directly carrying out a call, this question is a good alternative.
By allowing them to explain how they would approach getting to know a client, you will receive instant insight into their overall approach to selling. If they are dismissive and do not believe getting to know their prospects is essential, you know the interviewee is not a good salesperson.
Similarly, if a candidate sees getting to know clients as complex, they are likely to struggle. A natural salesperson will not find such a task very challenging, and they will have a plan of action in place.
What has been your biggest challenge in creating customer relationships?
It is no secret how vital customer service is in sales. Customer service covers many different aspects and is definitely not “one size fits all.” Salespeople must adapt to every prospect while providing excellent customer service.
With this question, you are looking to see how many customer-related skills candidates have demonstrated in the past. You want a candidate who has a history of finding common ground with customers and the ability to build relationships from there.
Follow up with additional questions to understand what types of customers were particularly difficult for the candidate. How do these personalities compare to the customers that they will meet at your company? This information can help to determine culture fit as well as customer service skills.
What is the toughest goal you have ever set for yourself? How do you plan to top it?
A candidate with a high need for achievement will set very high standards for themselves and will hold themselves accountable for reaching their goals. A high-performer will be proud of the challenge goals they have accomplished but will have specific plans to top them—these types of salespeople are never satisfied.
If your candidate has not accomplished any challenging or tough goals, they may not have the innate personality to be a top-performing salesperson. Be sure to vet them further if you need someone who will bring in new business for you.
When was the last time you were rejected? What did you do to recover?
Rejection is inevitable in sales. It is critical that you understand how your sales candidate will react to the rejection that they will face as a natural part of their job. Rejection can be difficult to handle, but top-performing salespeople view rejection differently because of their high level of optimism.
You want to look for stories where the candidate remained resilient and stuck to their guns, even after a prospect rejected them. An optimistic salesperson will quickly put the situation into perspective and move on to their next goal. Top-performers do not get bogged down by rejection. They see it as a part of the job, and they know that every rejection puts them that much closer to a sale.
What hobbies do you spend the most time doing?
This question helps you identify how a person manages their free time. You will also gain insight into how they are likely to fit into your company culture, based on the activities they enjoy.
If a candidate displays impressive time management and has their priorities in check, they will likely bring these qualities into their professional working life. However, if their approach seems haphazard and unorganized, this could be cause for concern.
Tell me about a time you ignored your ego to help a co-worker.
Although it is a common stereotype, salespeople are notoriously skilled at describing their achievements and talking about themselves. It is often part of the job, after all.
A healthy ego is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to getting results, but it can be challenging in a team environment. You are looking for salespeople who can put their ego aside for the sake of others, as this makes for a better team working environment in times that matter.
If a candidate fails to answer the question or appears to place their ego and needs over everything else, it is unlikely they will be a good fit for many sales teams.
If you had all the resources needed to start your own business, what would you do?
Asking this is a very effective example of a question that is a little outside the box and puts candidates on the spot—and for a good reason.
Many salespeople are attracted to the job because they are keen, natural entrepreneurs. Showcasing an impressive business spirit is a definite plus, even if it is just a pipe dream and not a real business venture they are actually considering.
You will not only get a sense of their goals and ideas but also gain insight into their pitching style. Explaining a fictional business still requires pitching skills, and candidates with natural sales ability should easily achieve this.
Do you have any questions for me about our company culture or services/products?
This question puts the candidate in the hot seat and is a good option to end an interview. By allowing your candidates to take the reins, you gain further insight into whether they genuinely care about the position.
Candidates that are genuinely keen to join your team should have prepared questions before the interview. Showcasing their enthusiasm to do a little research and learn more—that can be very revealing. If prospects hesitate or are unsure of what to ask, this is a clear indication they have not taken the effort to learn about your company in their own time, which is not a good sign.
Summarizing Extreme and Unique Interview Questions for Sales
Using extreme questions in a sales interview is an integral part of separating the good candidates from the bad. Natural salespeople will likely thrive under the challenge, maintaining impressive answers for the duration.
If you experience candidates who struggle to answer your questions and appear uncomfortable, perhaps they are not the best fit for your sales position.
Often far more effective than standard alternatives, extreme questions in a sales interview can cover many different factors. There is plenty to gain by asking questions about previous sales experience, and even an applicant’s character, as a key part of your interview process.
Savvy Interview Questions to Ask Superstar Sales Candidates
Making the most of your interview with superstar sales candidates will help you in building a sales team that will bring you and your company great success.
By asking the right questions, and truly listening to the answers, chances are good you will find yourself building a stellar sales team that ensures a bright future for your salespeople, yourself and your company.
Since conducting a thorough behavioral interview is such an important part of the hiring process, we have provided 4 more savvy interview questions to ask your superstar sales candidates.
1. What is your idea of an ideal work culture?
As you know, the job of a salesperson often involves spending a great deal of time on the phone and emailing, leaving your sales reps lacking the incorporation of much person-to-person interaction.
This often leads salespeople to feel somewhat disconnected from their colleagues and gives them reason to be displeased with their job.
In order to avoid putting your salespeople in this position, it is important that you strive to create a workplace that brings them some happiness.
And, creating this pleasant company culture is something that stands to benefit you immensely when it comes to interviewing new potential salespeople.
During the sales interview, be sure to ask your candidates what their ideal company culture is like.
If their responses are not already implemented in your company, but you feel they would be beneficial, you may want to start thinking about how you could start implementing them.
Here are some tactics to use in creating an environment for your current and future salespeople to enjoy and thus, thrive in:
- Make the company mission clear
- Establish the value of the individual candidate to the company’s overall goals
- Highlight benefits of the company online and in job advertisements
- Promote creativity and innovation with your employees
- Ensure the culture is 100% authentic
- Cater your management structure to each individual employee so they feel like a person, rather than just a number
2. What style of sales coaching benefits you the most?
As stated above, it is crucial to cater your managing structure and styles to each individual salesperson.
Some will want to be in regular communication and receive input from you on a constant basis. Others, however, may do their best work if they are left alone.
To help these all-star candidates become top-tier salespeople, ensure that you have a full grasp on and understanding of how you can help them achieve their goals.
3. What are your career path goals at this company?
In order to keep your premium salespeople in your company for as long as possible, it is vital that you ask them what their goals are in terms of a career path.
Do they hope to move up to a sales manager position in the next few years? Are they not interested at all in moving up to a different position and only interested in increasing their sales earnings?
The candidates’ answers to this question will allow you to know what it will take to keep them happy working for your company. If you are not helping them work towards their long-term goals, they may end up moving to a company who is willing to do that.
4. Which tasks do you hope to delegate, in order for you to focus and succeed on sales?
There is no denying that being a salesperson involves much more than making calls and sales.
Paperwork, follow-up, data entry, account management and more are major pieces to a salesperson’s position.
However, if your top-notch sales candidates are looking to become superstar salespeople within your company, they will want to be able to focus their attention on what will provide them with the greatest ROI.
Thus, they are likely going to need some help and resources in order to maximize their time.
Knowing what tasks these candidates would love handing off to someone else will guide you in knowing what tools and resources to provide them with to accommodate their needs and reach (and hopefully exceed) their sales goals, and yours as well.
Common Interviewing Mistakes Sales Managers Make
Chances are, as a sales manager, you have had some hits and misses with hiring for your sales team. You probably have a few members of your team that have been with you for years, are solid and reliable and would be sorely missed if they ever quit.
And, you probably have a few members of your team on the other end of the spectrum – have not been with you for very long, are questionable and unreliable, and you sometimes feel as if you would be better off without them.
After all, how can you expect to sell your company’s product or service if you have bad salespeople representing you?
Furthermore, according to a State of the American Workplace Report, 70% of workers in the United States are unhappy with their jobs.
So, when the opportunity arrives to replace some of your bad seeds with good ones, you will strengthen your sales team.
But let us not skip over the obvious: interviewing potential salespeople is certainly a challenge, and picking a successful interviewee to join your team is even harder.
So how can you make sure that your interviews are a success, and that you hire only those salespeople that will contribute positively to the success of your sales team?
By ensuring that you do not make these common interviewing mistakes. The top no-no’s include:
- Not clarifying job requirements and responsibilities
- Asking the candidate hypothetical situation questions (such as “If you were in X situation, how would you handle it?”)
- Treating the interview too much like an interview, and not enough like a conversation
- Not determining whether your candidate has Drive
- Failing to truly listen to the candidate
By being aware of some of the most common mistakes people in your shoes make, you can avoid trouble down the line.
Let’s review them now.
Mistakes to Avoid When Interviewing Sales Candidates
1. The Job Requirements/Responsibilities Are Unclear
Given you are fully immersed in your company, you use jargon on a daily basis that makes sense to you and, for the most part, makes sense to the people around you.
Somebody from the outside, even if they have sales experience, may not be as familiar with all the terminology your specific company uses.
Be sure to take this into consideration when writing the job requirements. You want the potential salesperson to understand very clearly what the expectations of this position are, and what you will be requiring them to do.
What is the best way to do this?
Get other people involved. Find someone in your company who does not work in sales but has a general idea of what your team does, and ask him to review the job requirements.
Does he understand what you are asking of a potential hire?
If so, great. If not, then you need to rework your job requirements to make them clearer.
According to Recruiting.com, you should highlight on the job description the top five essential job duties using bullet points to make it clear to the applicant.
2. Asking Your Candidate a Hypothetical Situation Question
This is one of the most expected questions at any job interview, but particularly in the world of sales.
If you were in X situation, how would you handle it?
Do not bring up an expected question like that in the interview.
For the exact reason mentioned above: your candidate will be expecting it. In other words, he will have rehearsed answers to that question, and will have perfected not necessarily what the honest answer is, but rather what he knows you want to hear.
Instead, ask how he has reacted to a similar situation in a previous job. That will give you a good indicator of how the potential hire will handle situations with your company.
3. Not Treating the Interview Like a Conversation
Although you have the upper hand in the situation as the sales manager, the candidate is also looking to learn about you.
He too wants to know whether he would be a good fit for your company.
Thus, rather than putting the heat on and making the candidate feel as if he is being interrogated, make the interview a time for conversation.
Pay attention to how the interviewee responds to questions, and ask him to elaborate on things so that you get a better picture of who he is.
Also, give him ample time to respond to you, and ask you questions as well.
The interview does somewhat go both ways.
In fact, here are some great alternatives to typical questions from Inc.com that offer ways for you to make the interview more like a conversation:
- “I would love to hear about what you would like to do here.”
- “We have a project right now that we need to speed up by a month. How would you tackle this?”
- “Tell me about a time you approached a challenge at work and how you solved it successfully.”
- “If you get this job, what would you need from the company, your manager and your immediate team to be successful?”
- “What are you enjoying in your life right now?”
4. Failing to Determine Whether Your Candidate Has Drive
The key to a successful salesperson is whether they inherently have a personality trait that cannot be learned – Drive.
Drive is what will lead your salesperson, and thus, your sales team to success.
How do you determine whether the interviewee has Drive?
By asking questions that cover the three areas of Drive below:
- Need for Achievement
- “What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?”
- “When was the last time you got into a competition?”
- “Think back to the last time you lost a sale. What did you do to recover?”
5. Failing to Listen
Make sure that you spend more time listening than talking during the interview.
Ask the questions, respond to the interviewee’s questions and spend the rest of the time listening.
You want to leave the interview feeling that you have a good idea of who this person is, rather than feeling as if you talked so much that you are not really sure of anything about him, beyond what you see on his resume.
Making this type of mistake could lead you to missing out on a stellar candidate, and hiring the wrong one instead, which will land you right at the start of the hiring process all over again.
It is no secret – interviewing potential salespeople for your company is no easy feat. You have limited time and limited resources to determine whether this person is the right fit.
By focusing your attention on avoiding these five major interview mistakes, you will be setting yourself up for a successful interview, and hopefully a successful new employee.
The Questions You Want Interviewees to Ask
The goal during the interview process is to get a sense of the prospective employee’s aspirations, culture fit and work ethic/style.
One telling sign of a great potential sales team member is their ability to engage proactively in the interview process. Simply responding to questions in a reactive manner is not enough to ensure that a candidate is ready for the sales environment.
Candidates need to be able to answer your questions in a non-scripted and persuasive way, while engaging in meaningful and direct dialogue with interviewers.
They must also be able to think quickly and dive into any subject matter with a high level of comfort. When an interviewee starts to ask in-depth questions during an interview, companies can take that as a sign of a more serious candidate that they may want to move forward with.
Here are some of the top questions an interviewee can ask to indicate their level of interest in your company and likelihood for success there.
Questions You Should Hear from an Interviewee
1. Anything specific regarding your company.
As soon as you hear, “I was reading up on your company’s history and learned that…” followed by a question, you know that the candidate did his homework.
That willingness to do in-depth research on a company indicates that a candidate will be motivated to take the extra step to achieve success with your clients as well.
2. What does a typical workday look like here?
This question is not broad level. It gets into the heart of a job. From this, a candidate determines the company’s environment, whether it is high stress with abrupt deadlines or if a typical day lies on the other end of the spectrum, with a more natural approach to sales and a team-oriented environment.
A candidate who wants to learn more about the culture is thinking about his own long-term success and level of comfort as a potential team member.
3. What are you looking for in your ideal candidate?
A job description will generally list the hard skills that a candidate must have to be successful at a company. It will not, however, indicate the soft skills such as humility, willingness to work outside of a job description and other traits that work well in a company’s unique environment.
A candidate with high Need for Achievement will want to know how he can attain success in the eyes of the company.
4. How do you expect your new hire to impact your company in the next 6 months?
This question not only reveals a candidate’s sense of goals and expectations, it also allows a company to set the bar for performance from the beginning.
A candidate who is willing to ask this question is often showing his willingness to make a meaningful impact on the company.
5. What do you like most about working with this company?
Candidates who ask this question are often looking for anything that might hint at dissonance in the current environment, again indicating his interest in company culture.
Common concerns are often ‘Is the company open to suggestions and do workers truly work as a team?” or “Is the environment more or less dictated by an overseeing manager?”
6. How does your management team promote success?
Successful salespeople like to work in a competitive, but optimistic environment. Most individuals, including salespeople, rely on reward-based systems and constructive criticism to continually improve their work.
Management teams that are more motivated to avoid failure rather than focusing on successes may not foster a positive or successful work environment.
These questions also give employers an opportunity to see the candidate’s reaction to the answers. Candidates who further engage in dialogue surrounding a question or who remain quiet and stick to their questions often indicate what’s most important to them in a potential employer.
When Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism are reflected in both the sales aptitude test and throughout the in-person interview, then hiring teams can feel confident that they have a prospective employee who will perform well over time.
Additional Indicators to Look For in Your Sales Candidates
While questions that interviewees ask are important for employers to note, their overall conversation can also be very telling. Look for wording and conversation indicators that support your sales employment screening results. Strong candidates will be:
- Adaptable and agreeable
- Willing to take constructive feedback
If you can find all of these traits in a prospective employee, then chances are good that you will not have to experience the same difficulties of a churning sales team turnover rate as your competitors.
The key in the process it to use a balance of science-based tools, like a sales assessment, and your own knowledge and intuition on company fit. By using a sales assessment test as a standard tool in your hiring process, you will find a pool of qualified candidates much more efficiently and effectively than hiring solely based on traditional methods.
Your ideal candidate should take the initiative to ask you in-depth questions like the ones listed above, while highlighting his own skill set by engaging in meaningful dialogue.
When a candidate can bring that level of depth to an interview process, then you have likely found the right fit for your company.
Tying It All Together
As you can see, there are a number of great sales interview questions which will provide you with a deeper understanding of your candidates, as the hiring manager.
However, an interview on its own is not enough.
Phone screenings and in-person interviews still leave much to be desired when it comes to ensuring whether a candidate is the right addition to your sales team.
In fact, many candidates interview strongly because they have researched common sales interview questions and have spent time developing the perfect responses.
This, however, does not mean they will have the Drive needed to actually succeed in your company.
The best way to determine whether your candidate truly has Drive is by using an online sales aptitude test, like The DriveTest®, prior to the interview process.
Sales aptitude tests help you identify which candidates have the most potential to succeed in sales, so you do not waste countless hours interviewing the wrong candidates.
Between the sales test and the difficult sales interview questions above, you will have an objective and more comprehensive view of whether this candidate has the most potential to succeed in a sales career with your company.
Request a free trial of our sales assessment test and start improving your sales interview process today!