Identify the Skill Set You Need, and How to Test for It
Different companies need different types of salespeople. For example, you need a particular set of skills to run a call center tasked with quick sales. Likewise, you need an entirely different set of skills if your goal is to establish long-term customer relationships.
The list of traits and tests below represents a range of skills and attributes that you want to interview for. If you’re starting a sales team from scratch, reviewing the traits listed below will help you clarify your requirements.
If you have an existing team, consider the traits of your most successful sales reps for guidance in making your list.
Courage & Confidence
Being a successful salesperson requires courage. The sales team is fraught with challenges like cold calling strangers, rejection, and meeting goals. Sales reps also need the courage to be themselves and to establish rapport with a lead without being cocky. Some sales managers confuse courage with being cocky, but that’s not what you want.
Confident people know that they, and your product, bring value to potential customers. They’re honest with customers, and they aren’t afraid to admit if they don’t know something. They also don't hesitate to ask questions and get back to the customer with the right answers.
- What do you like best about sales? What’s your least favorite part of the sales process, and what do you do to make that part more enjoyable?
- How do you handle rejection?
- What would you do if your boss wanted you to sell something to a customer when you knew it wasn’t what the customer needed?
Willing to Learn
It's essential that every salesperson has the willingness to learn. Whether through formal training, coaching, or interaction with a team, they need to grow. You want sales team members who are eager to improve their skills. They should agree to change their behavior if it makes them more effective in their job.
- How do you feel about continued sales training?
- Have you ever done something based on another person’s suggestion? Were they right or were you?
- Tell me about a time when your boss criticized you, and how you responded.
Win or Die Mindset
You’ll need to determine how much a "win or die mindset" works for your sales team. You may need closers who won’t rest until they explore every possible way to make a sale on the phone. Moreover, you may need competitive people who use competition with other team members to tackle one last sale that day.
In other environments, you may need motivated staff who don't think that failure is an option. Those people push themselves beyond what they think they can do. However, they may be better working on a team where cooperation is more important than competition.
- What motivates you in a sales position?
- Describe a situation where you worked as part of a team.
- Is it more important to meet sales goals or please customers?
Consultative Selling Skills
Whether you’re selling B2B or B2C, today’s consumers are more sophisticated than ever before. Besides that, the exposure to an overwhelming amount of marketing and sales messages is daunting. Most successful salespeople today know what consultative selling is and have skills in that arena.
Today, salespeople need to recognize that they can’t sell something to someone unless they need or want it. To give an extreme example, you don’t want salespeople wasting time selling magazine subscriptions to someone who can’t read.
You’re looking for sales reps who know how to qualify leads. They should ask the right questions rather than come on strong with their sales pitch. Likewise, they should recognize what it takes to be successful in a short or long sales cycle process.
- Do you use a consultative selling approach?
- Let’s do a roleplay – pretend you reached me on the phone for the first time and sell me [our product].
- Are you better at short or long sales cycle positions?
A successful salesperson needs some level of organizational skill. They need to recognize a structured sales process, and they may have already defined a process that works best for them. For example, they make cold calls in the morning when they’re the freshest. If managing customers using a CRM is an integral part of your process, you’ll want to know if they’re familiar with the technology and know how to use it.
- How do you organize your day?
- What’s the most important piece of customer information you keep in your CRM?
- How do you prospect for new customers?
Fits Into Your Culture
Salespeople, even good salespeople, come in many different styles. You may run across a candidate that you think could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. If your culture supports someone who is a nonconformist, and doesn’t play well with others but sells like crazy, you’ve found a gem. However, if your culture won’t reward that type of behavior, you’re asking for conflict.
- Describe a situation where you worked well as part of a team.
- What’s more important, building customer relationships or closing sales?
- If you’re not having success with a lead, would you rather move on to the next one, or answer all the objections thrown at you?
These are some of the types of questions that help you ace a candidate interview. Keep in mind that you’ll never find the perfect candidate. When a compromise arises, choose the one whose weaknesses you can address through ongoing training. It’s like buying a house. You can change the paint color, but you can’t change the location, so buy the house in a great location!