Sales Hiring: 4 Great Questions To Get The Most Of The Interview Process

Wouldn’t it be great if there was some magical formula, if applied each and every time you were interviewing a potential employee, would let you know with 100 percent certainty whether the person was a good match? Unfortunately, there isn’t, and if anyone ever does come up with such a process, he will become a very rich man indeed. The truth is, no matter how great a person may seem, there is always the chance she will turn out to be a complete dud, or at the very least, a bad match for the company culture.

Hiring good salespeople is particularly anxiety-inducing because they are such a crucial cog in the wheel. The very skills that make them good at what they do, are the same ones that can allow them to kind of ‘’pull the wool over your eyes’’ during the interview. While you can’t absolutely guarantee a successful hire, asking certain questions can give you some deeper insights that will increase the chances of getting good matches.

Can You Please Describe the Sales Process at Your Current/Previous Job?

Depending on the industry, it is easy to make assumptions about what this person must have been doing day in and day out, and the general sales process. Don’t make this assumption. This is an important question to ask, and will help you uncover lots of helpful information, such as the exact sort of ‘’sales’’ tasks this person performed, the sales cycle, and the complexity of the products sold, for example.

Where Have You Had Greater Success—Servicing Clients or Developing New Territories?

This question is important because it will help determine if a particular candidate was more involved with just tending to existing clients, rather than being directly involved in closing a sale. Then there are some candidates who may have sealed the deal, and handed the ‘’maintenance of the relationship’’ to someone else. Then obviously, you have the people who did both equally. The wording of this question, however, requires them to pick one, and opens the door for lots of good follow-up questions to help determine why they are better at one than the other.

What Are Your Favorite Prospecting Methods?

Instead of just asking people how they go about prospecting, which will just give you a laundry list of the various aspects of their routine, ask them about their favorite methods. This requires them to really give some serious thought to the sales process, and what works and what doesn’t.  Someone who can answer this question well is likely someone who is also more amenable to change and coaching should you believe it is required.

What Challenges Do You Foresee in the Next Five to 10 Years?

It is pretty typical to ask candidates to identify some of the challenges in a specific industry, but this is usually limited to the present moment. A better question would be about the challenges in the next five years, or 10 years. While they don’t have to give you an in-depth treatise, a good candidate should be able to speak intelligently about this. This should be something even someone from another industry should be able to answer to some degree, because they should have done thorough research on your type of business before getting in that chair. If someone can’t answer this type of question, they are probably a bad fit.

It is also important to remember that asking good questions is often not enough; there are a variety of other tools that may be helpful, such as pre-employment sales tests, and personality assessments.

Kelli Cooper enjoys blogging about all things business.