What’s Troubling You? Reveal Sales Candidates’ Opportunities for Improvement With These 8 Interview Questions

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Nobody’s perfect. Even the most qualified sales candidates in your pipeline will have their shortcomings — and that’s okay. Once you’ve hired them, you can offer the support and resources they need to close gaps in their skills or turn areas for improvement into newfound strengths.

Of course, some challenges are easier to overcome than others. While the right training, coaching, and management is often all it takes, certain shortcomings might prove too hard to address, signifying a candidate won’t be a successful addition to your team.

As part of the recruiting process, you should be looking to uncover your candidates’ particular opportunities for improvement. This will help you determine which promising prospects your company can support, and which would be better off elsewhere.

By asking the right interview questions, you can get to the root of your applicants’ challenges. Here are eight such questions I personally recommend:

1. Please Share a Time a Customer Was Displeased With You. How Did You Resolve the Situation?

Everyone makes mistakes in their careers, and sales roles are especially prone to missteps. Sales pros work with various kinds of customers, juggling different personalities and expectations. It’s all to easy in that environment to make a bad call every once in a while.

Sales candidates who can’t remember a time they made a mistake are likely overconfident or aren’t in tune with clients. Be wary of hiring them.

For those candidates who do share their past mistakes, listen carefully to how they describe the steps they took to handle the adversity. Look for evidence of empathy, open-mindedness, and creative problem-solving skills.

2. What Hinders Your Productivity?

Social media notifications, the constant stream of emails, family matters — we’re all susceptible to productivity killers. However, if a possible sales hire is particularly weak to a productivity killer your team faces frequently, that’s a red flag. For example, if your sales team is full of multitaskers and a candidate expresses that focusing on more than one task at a time is distraction for them, then this probably won’t be a good fit.

3. Please Share Your Sales Process With Me

What you’re looking for here is evidence of how strategic a candidate is in their approach to making sales. Some candidates will struggle to craft an actionable plan because they’re determined to simply get out and sell — and that’s a bad sign. Similarly troubling is a candidate who can’t seem to explain their process clearly because it’s too complicated.

Instead, look for candidates who can quickly organize their thoughts and communicate their processes clearly and succinctly. These are hallmarks of a candidate with a real plan.

4. What Part of the Sales Process Is Most Challenging for You?

Selling is a multistep process, full of various procedures, barriers, and tactics. Even the best sales reps have one part of the process they could do without. Some may dislike cold calls, while others might hate sitting in the office researching new prospects.

A candidate’s answer to this question reveals whether they will be able to easily perform all the tasks necessary to your company’s preferred sales process. Their response will also offer key insights into their ability to persevere through even the most arduous duties.

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

5. Tell Me About a Time You Felt Stuck in the Sales Process. What Did You Do to Move Forward?

Sales reps are constantly under pressure. They need to keep communication open with customers, close deals, hit sales goals — the list goes on and on. Inevitably, they’ll run up against a wall of some kind.

Feeling stuck can be a fight-or-flight moment for a sales pro. You want to know whether your candidate can overcome obstacles by asking for help or taking a step back to analyze the situation.

6. How Much Time Do You Spend Cultivating Relationships With Existing Customers, Versus Hunting for New Clients? Why?

Some sales reps have a can’t-get-enough attitude. That desire to excel can yield mixed results. Those who can balance the need to land new business with taking time to nurture current customers have no issues. On the other hand, candidates who can’t focus on anything but obtaining new clients will have trouble maintaining long-term relationships with customers, and that can be a big problem for your company.

7. When Do You Know It’s Time to Stop Pursuing a Customer?

While some sales reps are constantly striving to improve, others can’t move on from rejection. This question reveals whether a candidate knows when to accept that a customer is never going to say yes.

Candidates who offer a specific number of outreaches or detail moments they’ve stopped pursuing a customer in the past are candidates who know how to use their time wisely. Candidates who don’t have such a clear process for dealing with rejection may be likely to get hung up on lost causes.

8. Describe Your Current Sales Manager

This prompt offers unique insight into what a sales candidate needs from their manager — and that, in turn, can help you determine whether your company’s management style will resonate with this candidate.

Look for those candidates who don’t have much to say or who seem to focus on negative details. They may have trouble with authority or an inability to work well on a team.

Sales talent, like any talent, always has room for improvement. When you’re on the hunt for new reps, don’t worry about finding a candidate who is perfect in every way — you never will. Instead, focus on finding a candidate whose shortcomings are ones your company can help them overcome.

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

By Karyn Mullins