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Getting The Right People With The Right Sales Interview Questions

When you’re looking to welcome the right sales rep to your team, you need to use every tool at your disposal. A precise and specific job listing is critical, but so is knowing the questions to ask to make sure that they are the right fit for the team. 

It’s crucial that you take the time to evaluate whether or not they will thrive in the workplace environment you’ve established. Do they have the basic technical and situational sales skills that are needed to succeed? Will they be able to grow under company policy? Most importantly, would hiring them be consistent with your diversity & inclusion goals, and do they share the same vision that your team is moving toward?

Here, we’re going to look at a few examples of the sales interview questions that you should be asking and why you should be asking them.

Related: 5 Reasons Tech Sales Is a Rewarding Career Move

Be Sure to Ask Enough Technical Questions

We are going to look more closely at some of the more complex questions, the motivations behind them, and what you should expect from the candidate answering them. For many recruiters, up to 67% of those surveyed, a percieved lack of talent is the most consistent problem when going through hires. As such, you want to start with the questions that will make it crystal clear as to whether or not they have the skills that you need for the company. 

Such questions to ask include:

  • How do you stay updated on target markets?
  • How did you cultivate customer relationships?
  • How do you handle customer objections?
  • How do you use social media and content marketing in your sales process?
  • How do you qualify prospects before getting in touch?

The answers to these questions don’t have to be perfect or be identical to your company’s practices. Instead, this question is specifically to show that the applicant does bring some relevant experience with them. If they can’t answer these questions and you’re only looking for experienced hires, it gives you a flag, which signifies that you need to move on to another potential candidate.

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Walk Me Through a Past Successful Sale

There is a range of technical sales questions you will need to ask. However, one of the most important ones is about when they have closed a sale. 

It gives you a good understanding of their experience, and if the employee answers in a satisfactory way, it shows their proficiency at handling tricky situations. You’re looking for thoughtful & passionate answers about their sales, and a demonstration of the candidates ability to overcome challenges. They should be able to demonstrate some problem-solving skills, but also have a greater understanding of how their colleagues and training supported them in the sales process. You don’t want them to only talk about themselves; they should show that they’re a team player, too.

Have You Consistently Met Past Sales Goals?

While sales reps can certainly develop and become more competent at their role, increasing their chances of meeting future sales goals, you should always look at their past work for an indication of how they might perform in the future. You should encourage them to get into detail about specific accounts of how they have performed in the past. You don’t necessarily need a perfect answer for this either (few people can honestly provide one), but you do want a sense of how they will perform.

Tell Me About Times That You Have Lost Sales.

The interview is the candidate’s opportunity to put themselves in the best light. As such, it might seem like a question that focuses on the negative aspect of their job, and it may seem like an attempt to trick and throw them off-track. However, that’s not the intention at all, or at least it shouldn’t be. 

All salespeople have lost sales. By asking them about how it happened, you’re allowing them to show some self-awareness and how they have grown from past failures. If they blame lost sales purely on circumstances outside of themselves, there’s a good chance they’re not the kind of person to take responsibility and criticism well.

How Do You Regroup From a Bad Day?

The previous question addresses how an individual has learned from failure. However, this one will give you a good understanding of whether or not they can manage to maintain the right attitude towards rejection and failure at the moment. If they answer that they need some time or to perform a therapeutic ritual (like a self-affirmation technique) to get themselves back at the optimal level, that’s not a bad answer! You want to see that they have strategies to cope with the emotional stress that often comes with the job.

Can You Think of Any Ways We Can Improve Our Sales Process?

You want your candidates to show that they are, in fact, familiar with the company. 47% of interviewers won’t offer a job to those who don’t know anything about the company and for a good reason. 

Aside from simply asking, “what do you know about what we do?” let them acknowledge specific parts of the business and their opinions of it. Only ask them public information regarding the business.

If they have no reasonable ability to understand how the company sales process works without being a customer themselves, then this question doesn’t work. But there are other questions you can use to test their research skills.

Sell Me This Pen

woman with long sleeve shirt holding a pen

This is a classic tactic. In fact, “sell me this pen” is such a common sales interview strategy that you may want to change it up. Another variation could be “sell me what you had for lunch today” or “sell me on one item that you use regularly.” 

It gives the candidate the opportunity to show their selling skills, but it also shows if the individual can sell to the individual, not focus too much onthe product. A really savvy salesperson will ask about your needs, your pain points, and other specific details before they go into why the product they have is the right one for you.

Related: Sales Techniques: 5 tips for Remote Learning 

Tell Me About Sales Targets You Have Hit

Once again, you’re giving the candidate the opportunity to sell themselves to you by providing more details on the success of their work. But how they answer the question is just as important as what the answer is.

Sales is, above all else, a numbers game. They should be talking about specific quotas, goals, and numbers, as well as where they fit within the context of the team’s achievements. If they are answering too vaguely, you can ask them to be more specific. If they’re unable to show any numbers, then it shows a lack of detail for the measurable achievements that are so crucial to the success of the sales team.

Why Work in Sales Over Another Customer-facing Role?

If you ask an individual why they want to work in sales, they will most likely answer that they like working directly with people, that they are a people person, and they want a role that takes advantage of that. It might be true, but it’s an easy and common answer. 

Find out why they want to work in sales and get the easy stuff out of the way. Sales relies on more than people skills; it requires attention to detail, independence, problem-solving, and a growth mindset. You want to make sure that the individual is actually motivated to be in sales, and this question gives them the chance to show that off.

Have You Had a Manager That You Didn’t Like? Why Didn’t You Like Them?

In most cases, you want the candidate to be focused on showing self-awareness, rather than measuring the skills of others. However, they also need to be aware of the roles their colleagues play, including their manager. 

As such, this shows what they focus on in professional relationships. 

If they focus on personal and subjective opinions, such as laziness, annoying habits, or any other purely emotional response, that’s not a good answer. 

Instead, you want to hear about how the manager’s decisions and behaviors affected the overall working environment. For instance, if they were disorganized, leading to miscommunication, or if they are negative, severely affecting the workplace culture. Asking people to highlight the negative traits of someone they have worked with will help rule out a lot of potential toxicity.

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Nail The Interview, and Get The Right Sales Reps

man and woman shaking hands near the table

With the sales interview, you are allowing the applicants to sell themselves to you. The right candidate might not always say the right thing; however, they should be able to engage you, display a willingness to grow, and show that they are able to think from the perspective of the company.

Hopefully, the above tips help you construct your sales interviews in a way that will ensure you hire the best candidate possible! Don’t be afraid to change it up, but always keep in mind what the ultimate goal of the interview process is: to find & employ people who will improve your team.

Related: Career Advancement as a Sales Underdog: 3 Tips