The Best Interview Questions for Sales People

by Chris Young

best interview questions for sales peopleWho you hire to be your sales people will significantly shape the future of your company.  

Too many sales managers and HR professionals rush the sales hiring process because they are caught off guard by a sales team member who quits unexpectedly.  

Do not waste time interviewing sales talent that does not fit your hiring scorecard.  If the sales candidate does not have the requisite sales experience, educational background, and acceptable sales personality assessment scores - stop right there. 

For those candidates who make it to the interview, you want to ensure you are asking the right questions in the interview.  Here are questions you should be asking sales candidates:

How would you describe the culture of our company?

Those that say they do not know enough to describe the company have not done their research, which is a sign they aren't committed enough to becoming a part of your company. 

Those who do answer and are in the ballpark of what your company culture is like have great potential.

What is your sales philosophy? 

Is it a value-based sales philosophy or price-based?  How does it fit or not fit with your sales philosophy?

Tell me about your best boss.  

Take careful notes.  How do they like to be managed?  What inspires them?  Motivates?  Is it similar to your leadership style?

Tell me about your worst boss.  

Again, take careful notes.  If their description sounds anything like you, then its' a big red flag.  Your behavioral styles probably won't work well together.

Have you used a CRM tool?

Using a customer relations management (CRM) is critical to tracking sales performance. Those who have not been required to use a CRM have a difficult time when they are required. If a candidate already has experience with one, it will making the onboarding process much easier.

Tell me about the most difficult Customer you ever had.  

Remember when asking this question to not hint the answer by saying, "and how did you resolve it?"  Candidates who offer tenacious and creative resolutions in their answer are good candidates.

Please describe your typical work week.

Do they plan their work and work their plan? Do they set aside time for prospecting?  Cold calls?  Remember, the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

If offered the position, will you accept it?

Put your candidate on the spot with this question.  The answer seems obvious, but the candidate may be hoping to get a raise from or make a point with their current employer. Believe it or not, this happens frequently.

If hired, when would you be able to start?

This is more of an integrity question than anything.  How they treat their current employer is how they will treat you.   If they offer less than two weeks, your future is dim with this candidate.  They are willing to jump ship and leave the rest of the passengers without a lifeboat.

What questions do you have of me?

This is their opportunity to show what they know as well as interest.  An intelligent question like, "Can you share who your ideal Customer is?" scores big with me.  An unintelligent question like, "How much vacation do I get?" gets zero points.

The interview should be deeper than the traditional questions asked.  The interview is a powerful way to shape the mind of the candidate as well as understand how they think.  Your company is unique, and your interview questions should also be.  Remember some general rules when asking interview questions, but develop a structured set of questions tailored to your company's needs.