You’re hiring a new sales rep and you’ve done the hard work of attracting, prescreening, and shortlisting your sales candidates. Now for the last crucial step in the process: the sales interview. Figuring out how to interview sales reps the right way can be stressful and confusing.
That’s why I created this handy pocket guide on how to conduct a sales interview in 6 steps, including a list of sample sales-related questions.
Step 1: Develop job-related questions by talking to sales reps currently in the sales role.
- What are the salesperson’s daily responsibilities?
- What are the Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other Characteristics (KSAOs) required for sales success?
- Which of the above are you willing to train in a new sales rep?
You need to have a good idea of what a bad, average, good, and great answer to each question you create looks like. One of the best ways to figure out what’s requires to be successful in the sales role is to assess your existing top sales performers.
Step 2: Ask the right types of questions by sticking to behavioural and situational interview questions.
For a situational interview question (“What would you do in…”), you can describe a major job requirement that the candidate will be doing during the sales process, for example, prospecting leads, and have them walk you through their approach.
For a behavioural interview question (“Tell me about a time when you…”), ask the candidate how they handled situations that are likely to happen in the role you’re hiring for such as handling objections or failing to meet their quota.
Step 3: Include a job-related test.
One of the best ways to predict a candidate’s future on-the-job performance is to give candidates a test of their on-the-job performance.
Luckily for sales, job-related tests tend to be straightforward: get candidates to write you a mock cold prospecting email or conduct a mock sales call about your product/service.
Step 4: Follow the (modified) KISS principle – Keep It Simple & Structured
What does a structured interview look like? Simple: Ask all the candidates the same questions, in the same order. If you don’t follow a structure, and instead conduct slightly different interviews for each candidate, you won’t be able to compare across candidates in a fair and objective way.
Step 5: Create an interview scorecard using a rating scale.
Create a simple rating scale (e.g., 1 = Bad, 2 = Average, 3 = Good, 4 = Great) and use it to rate your candidates’ answers during the interview. Record or take a few notes about candidates’ answers to justify the ratings you give.
Using a rating scale ensures you can use candidates’ overall scores to compare them with each other instead of relying on gut instinct and first impressions.
An example of an interview scorecard
Remember: our gut instincts can be very unreliable especially when it comes to sales candidates who are often masters at selling themselves. Use the data to hire instead.
Step 6: All things being equal, hire the candidate with the highest interview score.
Congratulations on your fantastic new sales hire!
Bonus step: When possible, conduct interviews with more than one interviewer to get multiple perspectives of the candidates.
Group interviews are often more reliable and accurate because they tend to “average out” any one interviewer’s biases.
Ideal’s list of best sale interview questions
Imagine you have to find leads for our company from scratch. What’s the first thing you would do? What tools would you use?
How do you decide when you’ve done enough research on a prospect?
Tell me about a time when a prospect told you, “It’s too expensive/I don’t have the budget/I don’t have the authority to make the purchase/I don’t have time right now.” How did you respond? What specific actions did you take?
How do you decide when a prospect is ready to close a deal? What specific tactics do you use?
Tell me about a time when you failed to close a deal. What would you would have said or done differently?
Give me your best example of going above and beyond to keep a customer happy.
How do you decide how to prioritize your time between prospecting new leads and managing existing accounts?