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5 questions you must ask when hiring for sales

Thought Leadership on Online Staffing presented by Salesmatchr powered by MyStaffNow.

Last week, as I was meeting with one of our sales managers and lamenting about some of the past hires that haven’t worked out, I asked him how he’s been vetting and interviewing prospective candidates. When we interviewed someone together, I got my answer.

What I learned from this experience is that he, along with many other sales managers that I’ve been speaking with over the past few months, don’t have a real process or methodology in place for hiring salespeople. Additionally, they don’t ask the kinds of open-ended questions that let you understand how the candidate thinks. These managers tend to hire based more on the feeling or “vibe” they get from someone. So what’s wrong with this approach?

For one, as a hiring manager, I want to really know how the candidate thinks, and how they might react and respond in certain types of situations. I also want to know how they naturally are as a person: Are they helpful? What is really important to them? How do they react when dealt a hand of really bad cards?

The following are a few questions you should ask sales candidates in some form or variation:

  1. How do you keep up-to-date on your target market?

This question can be asked in a few different ways, but what you should generally be looking for here has to do with learning. Is the candidate a lifelong student? Do they do their homework? I also look to see if they’ve done their research for the interview, because this is when they should open up about the target market they’re interviewing for. Ultimately, you want to get a sense of whether they have the drive and ability to find and keep up-to-date with relevant trade publications and/or blogs.

  1. When do you stop pursuing a client?

I think it’s obvious what we’re look for here: persistence, tenacity and attitude. You could also pose this question in a “Tell me about a time …” style, which allows the candidate the opportunity to share a story from their past sales experiences, because in sales it’s all about the follow up.

  1. What motivates you?

Think about your company culture. What’s important? Is teamwork critical or is competition? This is an open-ended question, so many candidates will take a long pause. Ideally, you’ll get a response with a story of how the candidate was motivated to do something specific, instead of a generic response with vagues ideals and values. And in some cases, money will be a big motivator. This is not a bad thing, but it’s important to find the right attitude when it comes to ensuring the customer’s satisfaction, and you’ll want to look for this in the response!

  1. Tell me about a recent sale that you lost. What happened and what did you learn from it?

In the candidate’s answer, you’ll hopefully hear a little bit about their tenacity and ability to deal with adversity and failure, which are very important elements to a salesperson’s character. How did they bounce back? Did they learn something? What mistakes will they not repeat? Do they blame others for this failure, or do they take responsibility for themselves and how they handled things, vowing to improve the next time?

  1. If you were hired for this position, what would you do in your first month?

The answer to this question is not as difficult as it seems, and your candidate doesn’t have to blow you away. But it is important to see how they would think through an action plan or come up with something to get up and running. No matter how great your onboarding process and training are, it’s still imperative to hire a self-starter in most sales roles.

To sum it all up, come up with questions that help you understand how the salesperson ticks. What are they passionate about? Why do they think a career in sales is right for them? How do they create and handle relationships? I can go on and on, but I hope these five questions will get you off to a great start on your next sales hire!