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The most effective salespeople are those who focus on customer success. It may sound obvious, but there’s a good reason this sales philosophy is currently trending in the industry.

Back in 2013, a report from Walker predicted that, by 2020, customer experience would be a more important factor in sales than even price or product. In a 2017 follow-up report, Walker largely confirmed that initial forecast. In today’s sales environment, customers are more influenced by their interactions with sales reps than by how much they have to pay for a solution.

It’s critical, then, for companies to build teams of sales reps who are dedicated to delivering personalized customer experiences. That’s how organizations can get a competitive edge in the current marketplace.

But how do you know whether the candidate in front of you is really focused on customer success? Here are four tactics you can use to assess their commitment to the customer:

1. Ask Them to Discern Between Success and Satisfaction

“Customer success” and “customer satisfaction” are two very different measurements. Satisfaction means a customer was pleased with the product and the sales rep’s service. Success, however, means the customer actually reached their desired goal. While customer satisfaction is a short-term accomplishment, sales reps focused on customer success will make longer-lasting progress.

Look for candidates who know the difference between the two. You may even want to simply ask outright how a candidate defines customer success vs. customer satisfaction. Pay careful attention to reps who have practical systems for keeping track of customer success.

2. Put Them in the Moment

Situational and behavioral interview questions can reveal how sales reps act in real-world situations. By asking a candidate to describe how they would respond to a given situation, you can see whether they’re prioritizing customer success over their own concerns.

For example, try a question like: “You go to a scheduled meeting with a customer, and they’re having a crisis that has nothing to do with your product. What do you do?” A candidate’s response to this situation can say volumes about the kind of experience they’re likely to deliver your customers.

That said, it’s important to note that situational and behavioral interview questions can be gamed. Candidates may respond with rehearsed answers that reflect what they think you want to hear, not their actual behavior. You can mitigate this by asking follow-up questions that add new constraints. This approach is more likely to show how candidates adapt to and solve new problems.

For example, you could dig into the original question posed above by asking: “Once they’ve investigated their crisis, they realize your product may have contributed. What’s your response?”

For more expert recruiting insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Talk About Communication Strategies

Effective, personalized communication is key to a great customer experience. Moreover, reps who rely on one style of communication for all customers will not be able to maintain a diverse client list. Different customers will have different needs and preferences, and sales reps must be able to adapt their communication styles accordingly.

To find out whether a sales rep prioritizes personalized communication, ask them to tell you about their communication strategy. Pay careful attention to details like:

• How frequently the sales rep communicates with customers
• The combination of communication methods and channels they utilize
• The steps they take to customize communication frequency and methods for each customer

A sales rep who is focused on customer success will learn their client’s preferred communication styles up front and then flex to their needs as they build the sales relationship.

4. Ask for Examples of Customer Success Stories

The proof of any sales rep’s power can be found in their record of successes — so ask your candidates how they’ve lead previous customers beyond satisfaction and into the realm of success.

You want candidates to get as specific as possible with their answers here. Look for details like:

• What specific problem did the customer need to solve?
• What options did the rep provide, and did the customer take the rep’s recommendations?
• How did the rep measure and report on customer success?
• What kind of sales growth did they see with that customer?

All of these factors are critical in determining whether the sales rep guided past customers to true success, or simply satisfaction.

If you’re interviewing a newer rep who may not have had enough time to build up a track record of success, use the same process but make it hypothetical. Ask the candidate to detail their strategic plan for leading customers to success. If they understand how vital a commitment to customer success is before they’ve taken on the role, chances are they’ll be dedicated to it when they’re actually on the job.

Today, the customer experience is king. If you want to build a team of successful sales reps, you need to hire candidates who put the customer’s needs front and center in all that they do. Follow the tips above, and you’ll have an easier time telling which reps are all talk — and which will really deliver results for your clients and your company.

Karyn Mullins is president of MedReps.com. Connect with Karyn on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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