In today’s economy there is a lot of available talent. Yet it seems to be getting harder and harder to find good salespeople. When screening sales candidates there are a couple of things you can to do to ensure that you hire the right person.
Utilize an initial phone interview to determine if the candidate can build rapport over the phone. If the answer is no, there is no reason to go forward with a face-to-face interview. During the initial phone interview, c lose the interview by thanking the candidate for his time and intentionally avoid providing clear next steps about the rest of the selection process. If the candidate does not close you for next steps and a clear time frame, you should eliminate the candidate immediately. This tells everything you need to know about his ability to close effectively for business.
If the candidate passes the phone screen and you decide to give the candidate a face-to-face interview, my best advice is this: Don’t “blue-sky” the job. When it comes to hiring good salespeople it is a buyer’s market. This puts you in the position of feeling like you have to sell candidates on the job. During job interviews we often spend more time trying to convince applicants to work for us than we do in finding out their true sales grit. Don’t do this.
Not only should you not blue-sky the job, I want you to let the applicants know how tough it’s going to be. Ask them how they plan to start working the territory. Only candidates who talk about making cold calls will actually make them. For every answer you get ask three more tough questions behind it. When they tell they are good at some aspect of selling, ask for specific examples and descriptions of situations as to what they actually did. It’s easy to say that you built a million dollar territory from scratch, it’s not as easy to explain how you did it.
Uncover enough details to ascertain if there is truth and reality behind their initial answer. By putting pressure on the sales candidates in the interview process, you can determine if they will roll over or actually assert themselves when face-to-face or on the phone with a prospect.
When challenging sales candidates, take note of whether they stay in control or whether they let you dictate the process. Good salespeople will have an agenda and will take you through a qualifying process similar to what they would do with a prospect. At the same time they will make you feel as if your agenda is being met.
Open your interview by telling the candidate that you have about an hour of work to do and only 20 minutes to get it done. Start by asking them to tell you about yourself and they want the position. Here is a list of some of the best questions you can ask throughout the interview process.
Regarding Their Sales Experience:
- The ad said you needed to be ________. How do I know you are? (Challenge them.)
- How do I know that’s true?
Regarding Their Technical Experience:
- What is your experience in ________? (Technical or product experience.)
- Ask a technical question based on their knowledge level.
Regarding How They Make Decisions (Only decisive people can get others to make decisions):
- At the end of the interview today, if I offered you the position, would you be able to say yes or no, assuming you knew all there is to know about the job?
- What was your last major purchase (except auto or home)? Can you explain to me how you made your final decision to buy? Why did you do it that way?
Uncovering Their Level of Commitment:
- How have you overcome major obstacles in your life in the past?
- What changes did you need to make to accomplish that?
Uncovering Their Goal Orientation:
- What are some of your life goals? Why that goal?
- How are you doing in terms of achieving it?
- What kinds of rewards are most satisfying to you?
Uncovering Their Competitiveness:
- Give me an example of when it was necessary to reach a goal in a short period of time and how you were able to achieve it.
- How smart are you compared to your peers?
- What has been your highest and lowest rankings in your current / last sales position compared to the rest of the sales force?
Uncovering Their Resiliency:
- How do you handle objections?
- Tell me about a time when all seemed lost in an important sale. What did you do to weather the crisis?
- Tell me about your most crushing failure.
- Give me a specific example of a time you were rejected and how you handled it.
- All of us have failed to meet a quota at one point or another. When you don’t meet your goals, how do you handle it?
Uncovering their Expectations Concerning Monetary Rewards:
- What was the most money you ever made in one year? When was that?
- What about last year?
- What is expected this year? What is an average year?
- How comfortable are you with that? (You are watching how they handle the questions and if they are in your income range.)
Regarding their feelings about Prospecting:
- How do you plan to establish or build a strong territory/client base?
- Aren’t there any better ways than that?
- What else would you do?
- Anything else? (Look for creativity and things that match your business.)
- What special skills or techniques are necessary to be successful over the telephone?
- When getting through to a sales prospect for the first time on the phone, what roadblocks can you expect the clerical staff to put in your way and how do you handle them?
- How do you go about gathering names of new contacts on the telephone?
- What will you do in the first 30 – 60 – 90 days if I were to hire you?
Uncovering Their Sales Maturity:
- Why do people “buy” a product or service?
- What steps are involved in selling your product?
- How long does it typically take you from initial contact to close the sale?
- How do you turn an occasional buyer into a regular buyer?
- How large a client base do you need to maintain to keep sales on an even keel?
- Describe a typical day.
- How do you plan your day? Why is it important to prioritize?
- How much time do you spend doing paperwork and other non-selling activities?
- What kind of people do you like to sell to?
- What do you dislike about most sales?
Uncovering Their Closing Ability:
- How do I know you could close a sale?
- I’m still not convinced.
- Do you have any questions for me? (Look to see whether (s)he takes control at this point and asks for the job or what the next step is.)
The things you are looking for in salespeople are:
- Successful track record.
- Willing to commit for long term.
- Willing to invest in themselves.
- Stable personal life.
- Coachable attitude.
The things you must be willing to do to make salespeople successful are:
- Invest in them.
- Share the vision.
- Don’t ask them to do anything you haven’t done yourself.
- Get to know their personal goals and their families.
- Don’t make it too easy (stretch them), but find a way to make them win.
If you reach the point where you are considering making an offer, ask the candidate about their total compensation needs. Historical information about the amount the candidate earned from base salary vs. commissions is important. I would even request a copy of the candidate’s last W-2. This is often quite revealing.