How to Interview Sales People To Find The Best Candidate

It can be a difficult task as a sales manager when it comes to hiring a new sales person. Once you’ve gone through the process of finding out where to find high quality sales professionals and have advertised for the role, you will need to start preparing your strategy for successfully interviewing them. The funny thing is that they will be doing their best to ‘sell’ themselves to you because they want your to buy their talent – but how can you be sure the person sat in front of you is the right one to hire? If you’ve never interviewed anyone before, or you want an easier step-by-step guide, these basic steps should make it easier to interview sales people.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Get them to fill out a standard job application and a resume/CV. You should always have an application form for new hires because resumes are often written by professional resume writing services, and are specifically designed to catch your eye, using buzz words like “able to work on own initiative” and so on. A resume is basically an advertisement for your applicant and it can be difficult to pick out the core skills they bring to the table. On the flip side, an application form asks specific questions of your potential sales person, meaning they have to think on the spot and provide real examples of situations and problems they have faced. You also get their work history in chronological order, which doesn’t always happen on some resumes.
  2. Have a list of basic sales skills to hand whilst interviewing. With a list of the most basic and fundamental sales skills, you can measure the sales persons aptitude during the interview. You can either use it as a guide to keep yourself aware of certain characteristics or you can take it a step further and rate your potential hire on each attribute, noting down any reasons for high/low ratings as you proceed through the interview.
  3. Prepare questions in advance. To interview sales people, you have to think like them too. Adopting open questions that encourage the applicant to open up will allow you to get more of an idea about them and what strengths and weaknesses they might have. Having a number of questions will also make the interview flow more smoothly without awkward silences while you both figure out what you want to say. A good aim for an interview is to have the applicant talking 80% of the time, with you filling the other 20% with questions or clarifying statements to ensure you understand what they are saying.
  4. Use these example questions as a starting point:
    • Tell me a little about yourself. (You can then ask them to elaborate on certain areas of interest to you)
    • What experience do you have in sales and how for how long?
    • What knowledge and experience do you have in _____________ industry? (Fill in the blank with your industry)
    • Think back to the most successful sale you achieved. With that sale in mind, tell me about it and what you did to secure the sale.
    • What would your co-workers say is your greatest strength?
    • And what would they say is your greatest weakness?
    • Why do you want to work for this company and what steps would you take to add to our success?
  5. Introduce yourself and your company. Before the interview starts, it is always a good idea to introduce yourself and talk about where the business started, what they have achieved and where they hope to be in the future. The reason for this is to take control of the interview and to show the applicant what the company is all about. It might also help them to fill in the blanks if the company is new or there isn’t much information available for the applicant to research.
  6. Ask the applicant your prepared questions. Once the interview starts, this is the where you work through the questions you prepared earlier. Take your time and don’t rush through. Keep things as friendly and informal as possible without becoming unprofessional. Interviewee’s are usually nervous and if you can encourage a relaxed atmosphere, they will be much more open, honest and talkative and you’ll be able to better gauge whether they are right for the role.
  7. Ask them to sell you something. If you are interviewing applicants with little or no sales experience, it can be a good idea to bring a pen, stapler, or other office object with you to run through a quick role play exercise with them. If they have a natural aptitude for selling, they will start by asking you questions about yourself or your business first, rather than diving into the features and benefits of the item. If you are interviewing an experienced sales professional, however, they might find this exercise cheesy and it could put them off.
  8. Follow up. When the interview concludes, thank the applicant for their time. Regardless of whether you have decided to hire this person or not, it is always proper and respectful to follow up with a call or written correspondence to confirm your decision. Nobody likes to apply for a job and never hear anything so be thoughtful to your applicants feelings.

Quick Sales Tips

Here are a couple of tips to look out for when you interview sales people:

  1. Most common phrases to listen out for while interviewing a sales person that may alert you not to hire them:
    • What is the sales target?
    • What is the minimum I must sell to hit that target?
    • How many other sales people do you have?
    • I have excellent customer service skills.

    If they are asking about targets at this stage, and are also asking what the minimum they must sell is, then they are already thinking about the minimum they must do to get by. If they are concerned about other sales people, they are showing a worry about competition. On the surface, excellent customer service seems like a positive. But those type of people are more likely to let the customer control the sale and either not be able to close the deal, or worse still: offer the customer something that the company cannot feasibly provide them.

  2. Most common phrases to listen out for while interviewing a sales person that may alert you that they would be a great addition to your sales team:
    • How soon can I start?
    • Is there a limit to how much I can sell?
    • How much does your top sales person earn?

    These types of response show that your applicant is positive, enthusiastic, confident enough to not worry about competition, and that they want to sell as much as possible to become a top earner in your company. All very desirable traits in a sales person that you should probably snap up and hire!

Leave a Comment

About | Contact | Sitemap | Privacy Policy | Log in