The hiring process for a sales rep isn't just an evaluation of the job seeker. As the person conducting the interview, you're also on the hot seat. The questions you ask and your ability to determine the true capabilities of the candidate will lead to one of three outcomes for your company:
1) The candidate is a great hire and contributes greatly to company success
2) The candidate is an average hire and pulls her own weight, without distinguishing herself
3) The candidate is an abysmal hire and becomes a liability
...No pressure, right?
As a manager or executive, you've gotten to where you are by being where these candidates now sit. You've run the sales gauntlet and, if you've kept up with the times at all, you know what works and what doesn't. It shouldn't be too difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, but here are three in-depth questions that will give you the information you need to make the right decision.
"Word of mouth" and "referrals" are not adequate answers here. You want them to expand on these two standards by describing their own process of leveraging their relationships with existing clients as a springboard for winning new ones. They should explain WHY...the answer you're looking for: past results. The key is details, details, details. Any salesperson worth his/her salt has perfected a formula for generating leads, which he/she should be able to detail in their sleep.
More than ever, sales is a data-driven activity. Modern tools like cutting edge CRM software not only help salespeople become more productive, they also crunch difficult-to-parse data and present digestible, actionable sales reports. The best salespeople take this knowledge and make it work for them. Ask the candidate to outline his or her familiarity with these tools and how they've employed them to drive sales.
Here's where the weak will stumble and the strong will prevail. Ideal candidates will have mapped out a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for prospecting for leads, making the approach, ascertaining the prospect's needs, presenting the product and delivering a strong close. Keep an eye on candidates who can provide easily verifiable and compelling case studies — they should at the very least make your short list.
Look at it this way. The interview itself is a sales process where the candidate tests his sales techniques on you. Put your sales cap on and think like a sales rep. Is the person sitting before you a natural? Is he or she pressing all the right buttons and making a compelling case for their candidacy? If so, there are only two words left to say: "You're hired!"
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