One of the most challenging and important things a business will do is hiring the right salespeople. This is especially true for small businesses and startups, since performance can be impacted far greater by a single bad hire.
Here’s a list of sales interview tips and hiring tips that have served me well over my career working with both small and large organizations.
Situational Questions with Specific Answers
My first sales interview tip, and the most important component of my sales interview process, is to ask situational questions. Examples could include questions like, “Tell me about the most important sale of your career and why you feel that way” or “Tell me about your biggest sales disappointment and what you learned from it”. The answers can be very telling about what is actually done, instead of just how situations would be handled hypothetically. It is also interesting to find out how long ago the situations happened. Be wary of the candidate that has all the answers coming from situations that occurred 10 years ago.
Understand The Role
As a startup, you are often hiring a VP of Sales that needs to provide both a sales strategy as well as function as your main sales rep as you grow. Some candidates may be good at one and not the other, so make sure you explain the role and ask questions for the different attributes and experiences that are relevant. Here’s a blog post from earlier this year that expands upon this point.
Sales Compensation Plan
One of the biggest issues that can lead to employee and employer dissatisfaction is different expectations. The sales compensation plan should help to guide the sales professional’s activities. Make sure they understand it and the expectations. For more info on setting sales compensation plans, here’s a recent post of mine on the components of a sales compensation plan.
Be Prepared For The Interview
This sounds ridiculous, but I see managers going down a candidates resume and asking ad hoc questions all the time. One of my favourite sales interview tips is to create a set of questions for each position that I hire for and would ask most, but not always ask all, to each candidate.
Accept a Lack of Experience
Many startups cannot afford to hire expensive and experienced sales resources. When hiring new grads or sales people with little sales experience, you need to change the questions. The key sales interview tip here is to find out if the candidate is a hard worker, intelligent, willing to learn, can work independently, and can put themselves in sales like situations. There are still many situational questions that can be asked about school or their jobs that will lead you to evaluate these attributes.
Hiring the right team members can be the most important decision you make as you grow your company. Be sure to take time during the sales interview process to get it right and make the best choice. If you have any questions on the blog please leave a comment or contact me and I would be happy to give you some additional information on sales interview tips.
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