How Not to Interview Salespeople

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This is part of an educational monthly series from our partners at Sandler Training. YEC partners with the sales experts at Sandler Training on a FREE Company Sales Strength Evaluation. [Note: This benefit is for YEC members only. Click here to find out if you qualify.]

At Sandler, organizations consistently ask us for help hiring the right sales talent. So over the years, we’ve learned some pretty important lessons around interviewing sales people. Here are three common pitfalls you should try to avoid, and what you should do instead to find and hire top sales talent.

Mistake 1: Interviewing the Resume

Fast forward to your next interview: It’s 5 minutes before the candidate will be on the phone or in front of you. You say to yourself, ‘who is this person?’ and then frantically print out the resume and skim it. You then proceed to interview the person based solely on their resume, asking things like: “Tell me about the job you had? What was your success there? Why did you leave?”

I’m sure your process isn’t quite this bad; however, here’s the mistake — You’re relying on the resume. As you interview, do you actually know what you’re looking for? Not just “I need a go getter who won’t take no for an answer,” or a “trusted advisor with a rolodex of contacts.” Who doesn’t need that?

Instead, define your needs beyond the resume and the clichés. While this is easier said than done, start with an understanding about what the key job functions actually are and rank the importance of each one. Then ask questions tailored to these functions and skills.

Mistake 2: Emphasizing the Wrong Selling Skills

You only have a certain amount of time with your candidates, so make sure you know which skills are most important for success. For example, we sometimes hear clients say that they ask a candidate to make a presentation during the interview. However, client deals are often won or lost long before the presentation is made.

Having them do a presentation is not a bad idea. However, you may also want to have a process for understanding the candidate’s ability to qualify what a client actually needs. In your world, is that more important than the presentation?

There’s also a chance that, in the past, you’ve hired reps that love to present and then spend their days and nights “chasing” and “following up” with leads. If that’s the case, perhaps your interview process is actually perpetuating the wrong culture and starting your reps out with bad habits that can be tough to break.

Rather than asking them to present, ask yourself: What are the top 10 skills they need to execute to be successful? Then ask your candidate questions centered on these skills. We often see this list vary, but presentation skills are rarely in the top five.

Mistake 3: Assuming What Your Candidate Will or Won’t Do

Don’t assume that just because they can do something, they actually will. What someone “will do” is the hardest thing to judge during an interview. Attitude and motivation can sometimes be faked long enough to get a candidate through an interview.

We recommend that you use hiring assessments to measure core competencies around the following areas:

  • Has ambition and drive.
  • Takes action.
  • Resists stall and objections.
  • Accepts responsibility.

Without these assessments you’re playing Texas Hold ‘em without ever seeing the flop, so your odds of winning are low.

But with a simple competencies assessment — and avoiding the interview mistakes I outlined above — you can effectively discover the most important traits of your candidate, and hopefully find your next rock-star sales rep.