Four Questions to Hiring Better Sales Professionals

Great interview questions should challenge your candidates skills

Great interview questions should challenge your candidates’ critical thinking skills

Have you ever wondered why some sales professionals are more successful than others? What does it take to excel in today’s challenging sales environment? Depending on your business, a sales professional can cost your organization between $150,000 and $1,000,000 to hire, bring onboard and start producing. With these high costs, is it any wonder why most leaders struggle with this critical hire for their organizations? When you talk with CEOs or Vice Presidents of Sales, over 70% of them agree that they have hired the wrong sales professional at least once in their career. So how do you find the right person for your sales team every time?

I have several ideas and questions I’ve used to help my clients find the right professional for their sales teams. There are several intangibles that most successful sales professionals possess and you can uncover them by interviewing candidates several times and by asking specific questions during the interview process.
When I’m hiring sales professionals, I make sure that they’re interviewed at least three separate times by the sales manager. Each interview serves three purposes. First, I want this person to be honest with me during the process. Second, I want to know what I’m getting when I hire this person. And finally, I want them to know what I expect from them before they make the decision to come work for me. During these separate interviews, I may also use an assessment tool to better understand who they are and what they do best. There are many great assessment tools available but we can talk about them in a future blog.

There are several kinds of questions I love to ask during my interviewing process to help me understand with whom I’m interviewing. They are very simple to incorporate into your interviews and they give you a clear understanding of the type of person to whom you’re talking.

The first question is what type of sacrifices have you made to be successful?
This is a great question, so wait for an answer. There is no right or wrong answer but listen to what they say. Selling today is a tough job. It requires emotional resilience and sacrifice if you hope to excel. So what have they given up in the past to be successful? Are they still capable of this today?

The second type of question revolves around goals. I like to ask, what is the toughest goal you’ve ever set for yourself? Stop, listen, and then begin asking follow up questions. My favorite follow up question is why did you set such a tough goal? This gives you a clear indication of who you are dealing with. I find that winning sales professionals set tough goals. You want people who set tough goals but also why they set them. Look for a complete response. And be sure to ask if they achieved the results they wanted. Don’t let them give you a preplanned answer. It may take time to understand their goal setting process. Some younger sales professionals may not set goals for themselves. Remember, reaching the goal is only so important. What you become to achieve it is critical to future success. Keep in mind that people frequently grow more through setbacks than success.

The third question is about how they respond to a competitive environment. Ask them to tell you the details about a tough deal they worked on. Listen closely for the specifics and how they responded. How would you expect them to deal with a similar situation? During this question look for a competitive drive in this person and how far they will go to win a deal. Do you feel they went too far or not far enough? Ask them why they did this. What drives them toward success? Look for clues on what success looks like for them. How do they see a competitive market and their role in it?

The final question I ask is simple. What are you driven to prove? This question gives you incredible insight into what you should expect from them if they are on your team. Most great leaders and sales professionals are driven to succeed by many different reasons. Reasons are what drive people to succeed in life. Don’t judge the reasons; just make sure that you understand them. Many sales hiring failures come from the breakdown between the employee’s reasons and the organization’s results.

If you ask these questions and help the person you are interviewing to answer them, you will be 90% home in finding the right sales professional. Try these questions out and you’ll be amazed at how much better you become at hiring sales professionals.

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