Most people get into sales at some point in their careers. Maybe it’s that storefront job they took in high school, or that telemarketing job in college–many people have experienced working for sales, but not many make a career out of it.
Sales is not easy. There’s the pressure of hitting quotas, the toughness needed to handle rejection, the mental organization to get through each day’s schedule, and the overall challenge of communicating well–it’s very challenging.
The high employee turnover in sales can be connected to many of these things. However, sales organizations and businesses are constantly refining hiring processes to get the best and have employees that will stay and excel.
How do you find these people who are tough enough and ready to face the challenges of sales–especially inside sales?
The interview is crucial in identifying applicants who could be your next sales star or another pillar in your sales teams. Next time you have to hire a salesperson, use these sales interview questions to separate the jobseekers from the career builders.
These questions and prompts probe character, decision-making and drive. Having these questions answered will make the selection process much easier for you.
Tell me how you’d use social media in your selling.
Social selling is touted as the now of sales. You need an inside sales rep who is not social media-savvy but knows the place of social media in inside sales. If they haven’t used social media in selling before, make sure they’re open to learn and use social profiles as an extension of your company (or at least create profiles for that purpose).
What’s your research process before a sales call or a meeting?
It’s important to ask them what kind of information they’re looking for before the call. Aside from basic information, do they look for important nuggets like mutual connections on LinkedIn? Do they look for cues and clues that would help them further personalize their communications with prospects?
What do you think of continuous learning in sales?
Look at how they’d respond to this question not commonly asked in interviews. This would give you an idea how they respond to that occasional oddball question from clients and prospects.
In your last sales position, what did you focus on more, nurturing existing client relationship or chasing after new clients?
While this question’s answer probably largely relies on how their past companies managed sales, you want to be on the lookout for aspirants who know that one or the other can never be left behind. Both are crucial in inside sales and expanding the sales pipeline.
What drives you?
Screen for cheesy answers. Get to the core. Is it money? Recognition? Helping others? Being on top? Depending on what your company’s values are, you’ll get an idea if you have an applicant that could fit your sales culture well.
Have you ever had the experience of probing why a deal failed?
You’re looking for salespeople who are persistent and are willing to get better after every call. These are the type of employees that drive success from the sales floor. Make sure that they are able to understand why this is important–and if they never had the chance or direction to do so, ask what they would do if they were in such a situation.
What can we do better?
Ideally, your aspirant has researched about your company, your sales process and your products. More than having the right suggestions, what you’re looking out here for is if they did research before the interview. Major brownie points if they did.
How do you stay positive during a tough day?
The sales life is ridden with rejection. It’s definitely crucial for a salesperson to have the ability to self-inject positivity when needed. Ask them for their techniques.
How would a past client you closed a sale for would describe you?
In the age of consultative selling, we’re looking for words like “knowledgeable” and “helpful”.
What are your top three approaches when handling customer objections?
Ask them about techniques they use when responding to price objections, early objections and other types of resistance from customers. Listen if they have a process in place.
What would you prefer: No happy customers or not hitting quota each month?
Of course, no one would prefer anything here–but ask them what’s worse. Depending on the position they’re interviewing for and the goals of your company, they can make the wrong or right answer that would demonstrate their fit.
Tell me about your longest slump and how you turned that around.
It’s good to let them know that yours is a reasonable company. You know that everyone has bad spells. Ask them to tell you about it: what led to it and how they turned it around.
What’s your favorite question to ask prospects?
With today’s sales climate, salespeople are really better off asking questions that shooting spiels. Ask them what’s their go-to question that gets prospects to open up about their pain points.
What will be the pinnacle of your career?
According to Glassdoor, lack of opportunities for growth is one of the top reasons salespeople go on to look for another job. If your company is unable to provide growth opportunities to the person you’re interviewing, you’re better off letting them walk than to have to go through hiring again sooner than you’d like.
If you would be hired here, what would your first three months be like?
Don’t expect them to have a fully structured answer. This question will tell you a lot about the research they’ve done and if they understand the direction of the company. Is it going to be a good fit? Do they describe their first three months on par with the goals you’d set for their position? Are they asking questions to form a better thought-out answer?
How do you use content in sales?
Nurturing leads and attracting prospects through useful content are major ingredients of the inside sales recipe. Ask the aspirant how they would use content in day to day operations. Do they have knowledge about lead tracking and nurturing? What is their attitude towards working with marketing teams?
Describe your ideal prospect.
This is a test of whether they did research on your company or not, and if they are capable of selling to your target clients or not. You’d have to watch out for details–how well do they know the audience and if they can give a general overview of the common pain points for ideal clients of your company and product.
Why did you get into sales?
You want someone who will stay so definitely give less points for people who would say monetary benefits (like commission and spiffs) as their main motivation.
What’s your number one signal that it’s time to stop pursuing a client?
You’re looking for tenacity and persistence. Ask them how many attempts they will make. Ask what creative techniques they’ve used before that turned a “cold-ish” lead into a client. Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group recommends up to eight attempts before retiring a lead.
Choose a topic and explain.
Let them choose something they’re capable of explaining thoroughly. What you’re looking for is helpful, consultative demeanor as opposed to someone “giving instructions”. Are they patient in fleshing out details, looking at you for cues of interest or confusion? The important thing to note here is how they conduct themselves when faced with the task of explaining something thoroughly.
Have you ever turned a prospect away?
Sales is not about seeing what sticks–that’s why you form buyer personas and pinpoint your ideal clients before launching a sales campaign. If your candidate says they will never do that, it’s time to do some explaining that not all potential customers are good fits.
How do you keep yourself updated about your niche?
They should be able to give you specific processes they had in place in their past job. Even if they’re from a different niche, they should demonstrate understanding of why being updated is crucial. Having prior go-to techniques is a good demo of this.
What do you hate about selling?
Is their least favorite part of the sales process a crucial step in the sales process of your company? Might be better to let them walk.
What’s your ideal collaboration process?
There are a couple of things to watch out for in their answer to this question. First, how do they react to the idea of collaboration within sales teams? Many sales professionals have strong personalities and having the ability to collaborate is key in making a team shine. How have they fared in previous situations where collaboration was needed?
Cover the basics and dive deep into specifics
Of course, you need to go over work experience, previous sales numbers, and self-declared strengths in all interviews, but hiring for sales is a whole ‘nother challenge that needs extra focus and toughness. You’ll get candidates who have practiced their answers anticipating the ole’ sales interview so you really want to shake things up because the job of an inside sales rep is definitely chock-full of quick decision-making and thinking of their feet.
While asking the same old questions will give you some insight into the mindset and experience of a candidate, getting rehearsed answers is not very useful in assessing whether the candidate is a good fit for your company.
In order to bag sales reps who will exceed targets even in a new role, you need to be thorough in your questions, taking note of behavioral traits and decision-making which are often more important than sales experience itself.
FREE EBOOK: 21 Tips Seasoned Sales Reps Won't Tell You
Sell smarter. Close more.
- The tips include:
- Recognizing buying cues
- How to handle follow up calls
- Working on your speaking voice
Latest posts by Dan Sincavage (see all)
- 11 Power Sales Words to Use in your Sales Emails - March 24, 2017
- How to Inspire Your Sales Team at Work - March 22, 2017
- Sales Follow-Up Calls and Emails: Why, When, and How - February 22, 2017