10 years ago
January 7, 2015

Ask These Questions When Hiring Sales People

Hiring sales people is a difficult process, to say the least.  Much like top level executives, sales people have strong personalities, tons of self c

Rhys Metler

Questions to Ask Salespeople

Hiring sales people is a difficult process, to say the least.  Much like top level executives, sales people have strong personalities, tons of self confidence, and know how to manipulate situations to their advantage, which means they normally interview quite well.  Getting beyond prescribed responses requires well thought out questions and an approach that takes prospective hires outside of their comfort zone in order to determine what type of employee they will become.  

Situational questions are a great tool when hiring sales people.  Describe some scenarios that occur within your company and ask how they would handle them.  You’ll want to lay out some of the more difficult situations.  Some examples:

  • How do you handle explaining to a customer that the product they ordered can not be delivered by the previously discussed time?
  • A top customer wants to negotiate pricing below acceptable levels.  How do you get them to buy at standard prices?
  • You made an critical error in a proposal recently presented to a new customer.  How do you inform the customer of the error?

You will want to go beyond customer related issues when hiring sales people and ask questions related to inner office situations as well.  Handling customers is often second nature but office politics can be a different story.  

  • The accounting department has put your best customer on credit hold unfairly.  How do you approach the accounting manager?
  • The person in the office next to you constantly interrupts you while you talk to customers.  How do you handle the situation?

Beyond the situational, here are some other questions you should ask when hiring sales people and the things you will want to look for in their responses.

“What was your biggest failure in sales?”

Sales people are accustomed to talking about their successes, but their failures will tell you more about them.  Be aware of their disposition to the question and whether their response indicates they learned from the failure and adjusted accordingly.  

“What is your approach to cold calling?”

Two things are true of all sales professionals, they all love closing and hate cold calling.  The best understand the value in cold calling and have developed a quality strategy toward it.

“What are your favorite selling books?”

In any position you want to look for personnel that try to better themselves and hiring sales people is no different.  

“What type of compensation plan do you prefer?”

When hiring sales people you want to find out what makes them tick.  The type you really want are those who are motivated by commissions.  

The process of hiring sales people may require more effort than, say, hiring production staff because of the intangible qualities required.  Dig deep when interviewing and you’ll be rewarded with the kind of producer that your company deserves.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 15+ 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 daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day and tropical vacations.