We often get asked for examples of interview questions that are good to use when hiring a sales person.  Hiring sales people can be somewhat tricky.  Below are a few questions that will help you determine if the sales person you are looking to hire might be a good fit for your organization.

The Best Sales Job Ever

SuccessThe reason why hiring sales people can be a little tricky is because sales people are typically good at selling people on the benefits of products and services.  In an employment interview a sales person knows that they are really on sales call with a prospect.  That prospect is you!  They know you are potentially looking to buy their services as a sales person.  So they are prepared to give you a good presentation and sell you on why they walk on water.  Speaking of walking on water, someone once said that “The closest a person comes to perfection is on their resume.”  So recognize that the sale person you are looking to hire will be giving you their best sales pitch ever during the interview.

What Should You Be Looking For?

There seem to be four broad elements that make a great sales person.  They are:

  • Behaviors and daily habits that consistently produce results
  • Attitudes about themselves and others that help them perform effectively
  • Skills and techniques that are polished and well practiced
  • Knowledge of their products and services as well as of human psychology as it relates to decision making and buying behavior.

If you take the first letter of each of those four elements it creates the acronym of B.A.S.K.  Sales people who have a high degree of competency in these four areas typically are able to “bask” in financial success.  Your interview questions should really be focused on these four areas.  While we could share tons and tons of questions with you, for the purposes of this article we will just share five simple questions.  They are by no means the only questions to ask, but these five will help you gain deeper insight into a prospective sales person’s behaviors, attitudes, skills and knowledge.  Here they are.

Question One

  • Can you share with me some of the ways that you generate new sales leads?

Most sales people will default to the big three:  cold calling, door knocking, and networking.  What you are looking for is if they doing anything else innovative?  Do they use social media, mobile marketing, events, speaking engagements, internet marketing, referral programs, etc.  A short, plain vanilla answer may indicate that prospecting is not a high priority for them.  An answer with multiple lead generation methods may indicate that prospecting is a bigger priority for them.

Question Two

  • Can you give me an example of the 30 second introduction or elevator pitch you might give in a cold call?

Successful sales people are also successful prospectors.  Cold calling is a simple and quick test of whether or not a sales person can effectively engage a prospect and set an appointment.  Listen to how much they talk versus how many questions they ask.  Listen for how much focus they put on the issues, pains and challenges their typical customer faces versus how much they describe the features and benefits of what they sell.

A great test during a sales interview is to have the prospective sales person actually do a cold call to a real prospect during the interview.  Why not?  They are sales people correct?  Why not demonstrate in real time what they can do?  Pull out the phone book and pick a business.  Have them sell anything they want and work to set up an appointment.  It is not about the end result, it is about watching their process.  Watch for what they do and how they do it, not the end result of the call.  The result is irrelevant.

Question Three

  • When you meet with a prospect, can you describe the process you take them through in order to close the business?

Successful sales people have a well established sales process.  It is a recipe for success and they stick to that recipe on each sales call.  They typically do not “wing it” or “shoot from the hip” when selling.  They know the steps they need to take and they follow those steps all the way through to closing.  As they describe their selling process listen for their steps or stages.  What do they do first?  What is second?  What is third?  You can ask them why they do it that way or what they are hoping to accomplish by following that pattern.  You will learn a lot about how they sell and why they sell that way.  If they give you general stuff and do not really give you specifics, it may indicate that they do not have a selling process.  It may indicate that they just “shoot from the hip” and hope all goes well.  We have learned that sales people who sell without a well established sales process are typically “boom and busters”.  Their sales volume is usually pretty volatile with some months being high and other months being low.  A selling process helps sales people be more consistent.

Question Four

  • When it comes time to ask for the sale, can you give me an example of how you do this?

Some sales people have a hard time asking for order.  They have a poor relationship with money and they are uncomfortable talking about money.  Some feel like asking for the order might offend the prospect and the prospect might now like the sales person.  There are all sorts of head games and limiting beliefs that keep sales people from performing well.  What you are trying to do is watch and see how the prospective sales person behaves when they ask for the sale.  When they are describing the steps or doing the role play with you, watch their body language.  Do they clam up or are they calm and confident?  Extreme nervousness might indicate an abundance of mental garbage and head trash related to the way they see themselves.  If they are calm and confident it might suggest that they are comfortable in their own skin and are assertive.  By the way, assertiveness is a key trait for sales people to have.  Assertiveness is not to be confused with aggressiveness however.  You are also looking for how effective their sales process wraps up.  Do they have a system or process for wrapping up a sale?  Is there a line of questioning they do or some steps they walk a prospect through in order for them to say “yes” or “no” to the sale.  So, listen and watch for both what is happening inside their head as well as the process they follow.

Question Five

  • When you are managing an existing client account, what are the things that you do to help that client stay loyal and purchasing more frequently and in higher dollar amounts every year?

Successful sales people are excellent account managers.  They do a great job at increasing the lifetime value of their clients overtime.  This means they are good at helping customers purchase more frequently, purchase in large dollar amounts and continue to use the company for longer periods of time.  They are also good at extracting more and more referrals from existing clients as well.  What you are looking for in their answer is both tactics and process.  An example of tactics might be that they make sure to visit with the client one time per month or per quarter.  They might send them monthly notifications of new ways to use the product or updates on services, etc.  They might send thank you cards or communicate with them via social media.  The prospective sales person should give you an example of the kinds of tactics they use to increase life time value.  You are also listening for their account management process.  Do they have a system they follow?  Do they focus on increasing frequency, duration, average order value or referrals?  What steps do they follow?  Again, as before, if their answers are short, vague and plain vanilla it might indicate that account management has not been part of their job description or it has not been a big priority for them.  Detailed and diverse answer might indicate that account management is an important part of their selling process.

80% Fit

One final piece of good information that you need to be aware of as you are interviewing.  It may come as a surprise to you, but humans are not perfect creatures.  I know, shocking news, but it is true.  You will not find a sales person who is 100% perfect in all four of these attributes.  Do not waste time looking for the perfect fit.  If you can hire a sales person who is an 80% perfect fit, than you have found a real gem.  Be realistic and recognize that people always need training, coaching and mentoring to improve.  Once a sales person, in your book, has hit the 80% “good enough” mark; you should feel satisfied and move forward with the hiring.

Last Word

Using the above five questions will help you better discover what kinds of behaviors, attitudes, skills, and knowledge the prospective sales person has.  It won’t be perfect by any means, but at least it will help you break through their “sales presentation” of how great they are and help you determine if they really are a good fit for your organization or not.  Good luck and let us know how it goes for you!

Terry Hansen is the founder of Hansen Group Company, Inc and is regularly asked to train sales and management teams and consult with companies on their marketing strategies.  You can learn more about Hansen Group Company by visiting www.HansenGroupCompany.com or by calling 208-346-1005.