3 years ago
January 6, 2015

How to Determine the Selling Skills of a Sales Candidate

It is crucial to have proven processes in place to determine the selling skills of each candidate before you extend an offer.

Rhys Metler

Selling skills between candidates interested in working for your organization can vary widely, which is why it is crucial to have proven processes in place to determine the selling skills of each candidate before you extend an offer. These processes to determine selling skills can also be used to examine complimentary traits and characteristics, such as ability to innovate or even working style preferences. By combining a variety of methods designed to understand and test selling skills your organization can improve its hiring outcomes.

Use Behavioral Interviewing to Assess Candidate Understanding

Behavioral interviewing is an interview technique that uses objective, focused questions to explore how a candidate reacts in specific sales situations. Many hypothetical interview questions you may already be using to assess candidate selling skills are behavioral in nature. Use questions such as these in an interview to determine the selling skills of a candidate:

  • Describe a time when a prospect introduced several objections, but you were able to overcome those objections and close the sale.
  • What is the most difficult sales decision you had to make in the last year?
  • How do you set sales goals for yourself?

Deploy Professional Selling Skills Assessments for Objective Testing

Selling skills assessments are the most objective way to measure a candidate’s ability to sell. Professional assessments are based on the study of thousands of individuals over time to arrive at reliable means of testing candidates’ abilities against a proven inventory of skills. These assessments can incorporate a variety of exercises from the mock sales call to more formalized testing of sales aptitudes, and can provide high level insights on the strengths and weaknesses of your top candidates.

Understand How Key Selling Skills Translate Between Industries

As professional mobility has increased over the past few years, it has become more common to encounter candidates who are looking to translate their selling skills from one industry to another. In many instances selling skills developed and successfully exploited working in one area can indeed be applied to a different selling environment, but not always. For example, the selling skills needed in pharmaceutical sales are often very different than the selling skills needed in technical sales. Dive into a candidate’s skills and the candidate’s ability to import these skills by asking questions about how the skills might be applied in a new position during the interview process.

Examine Past Performance as an Indicator of Future Success

The past performance of a sales candidate is one of the best ways to measure selling skills as it demonstrates an individual’s ability to close a sale reliably in hard numbers. When you want to know how well a candidate can sell, ask for documentation or referrals that can give you insight into:

  • Total revenue for the organization a candidate generated from sales
  • The length of a candidate’s average sales cycle, and the number of sales closed per period
  • Market segments or contact levels in which the candidate excels

Note that although past performance can provide a generally accurate picture of a candidate’s future sales activity, you should not rely on this indicator alone. Many candidates who did not thrive with one organization may become top sales reps under a different manager or corporate culture, and vice versa. Give weight to past performance in trying to determine a candidate’s selling skills, but be sure to take into account to hard sales skills testing, behavioral interviewing, and other metrics.

When you are working to determine the selling skills of a candidate in order to make a hiring decision, there is little room for costly hiring errors. A professional sales recruiting firm can help you navigate all of the methods for assessing selling skills and improve your ability to hire the most qualified candidates who will deliver results for your team. Consider contacting a professional sales recruiting firm now so that you can improve your hiring process before your next round of interviews.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 11+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and two daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day, tropical vacations and cottaging.