4 Interview Questions to Identify Top Performing Salespeople

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conference meeting microphones and businessman A great salesperson has a unique combination of skills—a combination that is difficult to find and just as difficult to interview for. They have to balance persuasion with likability, relationship quality with quantity, and your company’s reputation with the need to make the sale. And this is just the beginning.

So how do you screen for qualities like these? The answer is: very carefully. Like hiring for any position, interview preparation must be planned strategically. When it comes to hiring salespeople, you need an approach that will see past their ability to smooth-talk their way through the typical interview process.

Searching the internet for questions fifteen minutes before an interview will leave you with answers that merely graze the surface of who your candidate really is. Instead, be prepared with questions that dig deep into the applicant’s crucial skills and characteristics, and know what you are looking for in your answers. Asking planned, purposeful questions will be the difference between “Well, the answer soundedgood” and “Yes, that is exactly what I’m looking for.”

Having effective questions selected beforehand is also imperative for the selection phase of the hiring process. By creating a scripted interview guide, you’re guaranteeing a consistent process across all candidates, which will simplify things exponentially when you’re comparing results side by side.

To get great results, the best questions to ask are ones that reveal exactly the information you need to know without explicitly asking for it. The reason for this is simple: If you ask a salesperson if they’re good at talking to people, they are going to give you a resounding “yes”.  Asking a question that requires them to show you their communication skill level is much more valuable.

Here are my four favorite sales interview questions and the answers you should be looking for:

1. On an airplane, what do you typically do to occupy your time?

A great salesperson is naturally personable, and this question will help you gauge how outgoing your candidate is. While it’s not necessarily a red flag if salespeople enjoy reading when they fly, an individual who says he or she typically chats with other passengers most likely feels very comfortable with his or her ability to adapt in conversation. This question is especially great for cold calling and field sales positions, since it gives you a sense of the candidate’s verve for initiating communication with total strangers.

2. On a scale from 1 – 10, how competitive would you say you are?

In a sales team environment, a healthy competitive drive is a great motivator. If every member of your sales team is good, and every member of your sales team is competitive (in a positive way), there’s no reason your team won’t continue to get better and better. With this question, look for an answer that displays motivation to be the best, or evidence that the individual is motivated by the success of the people around her or him.

3. Can you give me an example of a time when you got to the bottom of a situation when someone had trouble communicating what he or she really meant?

While dealing with prospects, salespeople are sure to run into misunderstandings. This goes both ways, and a great salesperson can efficiently and smoothly reassess until both parties are on the same page. If the candidate is able to give a solid example that recognizes the importance of listening, clarifying, and restating, this is a good sign.

4. What’s the biggest misperception that people have of you?

This is an interesting question because it displays the candidate’s self-awareness. In a salesperson, look for admissions such as coming across as overconfident, and then listen to see how the candidate justifies this “flaw” to you.

Remember that these are general question structures, and that it’s important you tailor them to your specific industry. Good answers will vary based on what’s being sold, the types of clients your candidate will be dealing with, and the overall structure of your sales process.

By Adam Robinson