May 1, 2014

What are your must-ask questions during behavioral interviews?

key sales interview questions to ask

Maybe you start off with the usual, “Tell me about yourself,” before you move on to the more challenging questions like, “Tell me a time when you lost a sale, and how you recovered.”

Or maybe you like to ask off-the-wall questions in an attempt to see how the sales candidate solves problems.

When it is time for face-to-face interviews, we have more than a few favorite sales interview questions we love to ask. We have found that during behavioral based interviews these favorites can help identify candidates with the most Drive and which ones are likely to be long-term hires.

For this post we are focusing on one of our go-to sales interview questions, and letting you in on the secrets of great answers from high-Drive sales candidates.

We love to ask this question during our behavioral-based interviews:

When did you discover that you loved selling?

 

Why We Love This Interview Question

i-love-sellingWe love this question because it is like an instant lie detector when it comes to a candidate’s Drive.

Someone who does not love selling or lacks Drive will take a while to answer, because he or she needs to manufacture a passable story. There is normally a long, awkward pause before the candidate finally answers, and the answer is almost never delivered enthusiastically.

But a high-Drive candidate usually lights up because she will resonate with this emotional question.

For high-Drive candidates, this is the equivalent of asking about their first kiss, or the first time they went to see their favorite band in concert. Salespeople with Drive love selling, because it plays towards their inherent personality traits.

A person with Drive has the Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and high amounts of Optimism. A sales representative with Drive will come to the realization that selling provides outlets for these traits, and will become passionate about what she can do.

She will simply love to tell you about her epiphany.

 

Great Answers from High-Drive Sales Candidates

A high-Drive candidate can usually point to a specific experience or event. For example, we have heard variations on the following stories as answers to this question:

  • “When I was in college, I started a business selling pizzas in the dorm and got a huge rush when I started making money and wound up hiring others to help me.”
  • “When I was in high school, we had a fund raiser for our marching band. It was not supposed to be a competition, but my friends and I wanted to see who could sell the most candy bars. We each had different strategies. Mine was to go door-to-door in a neighborhood outside our school district. I did not win, but the challenge was exciting.”
  • “When I was younger I really wanted this video game, but my parents said that I had to earn the money myself. So I came up with a plan to sell brownies at lunch time in the school cafeteria to all my friends. Before long, I had enough money for two video games!”
  • “My first job was as a server in a restaurant. I loved it because I had the chance to meet different people every day. Sometimes it was a challenge, because guests would come into the restaurant already unhappy, but I was great at getting the guests to order dessert! By the end of their meal, I would have the whole table smiling.”
  • ”One year, I had absolutely no money to buy my family Christmas gifts. I decided to make each member of my family a personalized hat and scarf. A coworker saw me working on them during my lunch break, and she offered to buy them. It felt amazing!”

 

What to Look for in an Answer

When assessing an answer for “When did you discover that you loved selling?” look for the following traits by asking yourself some simple questions.

  • puzzle-piece-of-sales-1Need for Achievement

Does the candidate’s answer involve an award or a sense of accomplishment? Did the candidate provide an example of how she wanted to prove herself by reaching a certain goal? Did the candidate’s goal require time and incredible effort?

  • Competitiveness

Does the answer involve a contest or competition? Did the candidate make a game out of selling a certain item? Did the candidate mention how she wanted to be the best/top producer?

  • Optimism

Does the candidate’s answer demonstrate her resiliency? Did she mention failures along the way that she was able to overcome? Did the candidate have doubts about her own abilities?

  • Persuasiveness

Did the answer involve a debate or argument? Did the candidate manage to persuade someone who normally would not budge? Does the candidate’s answer involve upselling? Did it demonstrate whether the candidate can remain calm under pressure?

  • Relationship Skills

Does the candidate’s answer reflect her excellent relationship skills? Did she mention how she liked the social aspect of selling? Did her answer involve networking? Did it involve partnering up with someone to achieve a common goal?

 

Finding Drive

Unfortunately, a lot of sales candidates do not really love to sell. They may be doing it for other default reasons which of course they will not tell you in the interview. For instance, they might think that it is an easy career path, or they might just want any job.

You know that not everyone who applies for a sales position truly has the desire and commitment to be a successful salesperson. It is part of your daily frustration, and makes the hiring process seem like a guessing game.

That is why you need interview questions like this one. This is the type of question that can give you a better understanding of the real Drive behind a candidate’s aspirations as a salesperson. When combined with other behavioral questions and an effective sales assessment, you can better measure how well a candidate will do in a sales position.

Remember, there is a difference between someone that can sell and someone that will sell. That difference is Drive and a passion for selling.