Too many sales managers ask the wrong questions during the interview process. They tend to mistake experience for talent and assume that an outgoing personality means a candidate has Drive.
We have said it before, but the only reliable way to detect true Drive in a potential sales candidate is with aptitude testing.
Most candidates can appear confident and fake Drive in an interview.
They know that a competitive and optimistic spirit is what managers want to see; so hinging a hiring decision on a good interview alone is risky.
When you test for Drive, you can then conduct a more effective interview by asking questions that dive deeper into the candidate’s skill level, how she will fit in with your company, her work habits and the relevance of her work history.
Use these ten sales interview questions to get the most out of your face time with potential sales candidates.
Top Sales Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself.
It is less of a question and more of a command, but giving a potential hire an open-ended opportunity to sell herself as an employee is a great way to gauge preparation and experience.
Any salesperson that has been in the field for more than a few months should be able to apply the basic sales principles she has picked up to a job interview, with the interviewer taking the place of the client and the salesperson taking the place of the product.
Listen for characteristics that could make her a good cultural fit for your company and job history that could bring valuable perspective to your team.
2. 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.
Compare the potential hire’s sacrifices to those made by your current sales team and decide if the candidate’s idea of sacrifice is compatible with the work environment at your company.
If you see a discrepancy, give her an idea of what lengths your team has gone to for success. Then give the candidate an opportunity to respond to the discrepancy. If she seem enthusiastic about the challenge, that is a good sign.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. What are some of the traits you look for in an ideal sales manager?
This is a great sales interview question because it helps interviewers get an idea of what style of management a candidate expects and needs to be successful.
If her expectations do not match your style, make it clear where your style differs, give the candidate a chance to respond to the difference and proceed with caution.
7. Tell me about a time you were able to sell to a difficult client, what did you do to get the sale?
This question should give you an idea of a candidate’s tenacity, optimism and creativity.
If a salesperson is determined enough to overcome a particularly difficult client’s objections and curve balls, she probably has the skills to sell to just about anyone.
8. 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.
9. What questions do you have for me?
Planning a few thought provoking questions to turn the tables on the interviewer shows forethought and maturity.
Interviews are about deciding if a company and a potential hire are a good fit for each other, so a salesperson with questions will have enough self awareness to know that not every job is the perfect fit and will ask questions to figure out whether your company will work for her as well as she could work for you.
10. Sell me this pen.
The famous “sell me this pen” interview question is a great litmus test to see how well a salesperson communicates and thinks on her feet.
If she begins by asking questions to get to know the client (you) and figure out the best way to make you want the pen, you can assume she understands some sales fundamentals too.
It is important to remember that sometimes the best sale you ever see out of a candidate is during the interview.
The best way to determine a sales candidate’s potential is to use a sales aptitude test at the beginning of the hiring process followed by a well-planned sales interview.
Incorporating these ten interview questions into your hiring process can give you a better idea of how much polishing and training a candidate will need before your investment in her will pay off.