by Andrew Armstrong
Hiring always comes with a degree of risk, but this is particularly true when it comes to sales positions. A company’s lifeblood is its revenue, so the stakes aren’t much higher than with these front-line jobs that put your business’ products or services into the hands of consumers.
Whether you are hiring your first sales representative, seeking to staff an entire department, or simply making a replacement, the hiring process doesn’t come without a cost. Make the wrong choice, and it could cost your company as much as 150-200% of the annual compensation of the sales executive.
The 80/20 adage tends to ring true with sales, where most your company’s revenue will come from the elite in your sales force. It would make sense, then to take as much care as possible when hiring sales representatives to stack that deck in your company’s favor.
Having the right interview questions for potential account executives can make all the difference in making good or bad hires. Here are ten such questions worth using:
1. Tell me in detail about how your own proactive sales effort brought about the achievement of a large deal.
Many believe that the most accurate predictor of future success in work, and particularly sales, is past performance. Behavioral interview questions such as this one give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate past success and suggest how they might respond to various scenarios in their new position.
2. If we were to contact your most recent VP, how would they describe your achievements and the areas that you may need improvement?
A top executive at Hubspot conducted a survey of over 1,000 sales hires, in which he determined that “coachability” was the number one predictor of sales success. Candidates should demonstrate that they can turn feedback and coaching into results.
3. Describe a time that you received criticism and how you dealt with that information.
Again, this deals with receptiveness to coaching, learning from failure, and adjusting behaviors.
4. What is inspiring you to pursue this opportunity?
You may be able to determine if the candidate is attempting to escape something or is simply looking for greater challenges.
5. Describe a time when your work attitude wasn’t where you thought it should be.
Everyone has tough days at work, but if the bad outnumber the good on a consistent basis, this may not be the best salesperson for your company. In fact, statistics show that happy salespeople produce 37% more sales.
6. Describe a time at work where you needed to admit a mistake and how you handled it.
If just answering this is a struggle, consider it a red flag. Employees who resist admitting when they’re wrong tend to be difficult to work with and often fail to grow.
7. Tell us about your perfect work environment.
This is particularly important for a salesperson, who may be used to working on a team or autonomously in the field. Both position and culture fit are important elements to finding the right hire.
8. Describe a productivity tech tool that you adopted or learned to use on your own.
Being tech savvy is simply a must today. One recent Salesforce study found that the highest sales performers were 8 times more likely to be heavy tech adopters than their peers.
9. When you lose a sale, do you ask prospects why they choose not to buy? If so, how do you use this information?
Salespeople who take the initiative and work to both improve their role and better handle objections are the most successful.
10. Tell me about a few of the teams you’ve worked with in the past.
Even if you’re hiring an independent salesperson, a company is a “team, ” and this question is a critical measure of someone’s experience and willingness to coordinate and compromise for the greater good.
The average turnover rate in sales is nearly 20%, which isn’t encouraging. To ensure that one in every five new hires isn’t walking out the door within a year, take the extra time in the interviewing stage to ask the right questions and find the right people.
Andrew Armstrong is an independent business and market strategies consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area working primarily with technology and start-up phase clients. He founded and ran his own digital marketing agency, KickStart Search, for 6 years prior to being acquired by Los Angeles-based Wpromote in April of 2015. Follow him on Twitter @kickstartseach.