A: Good salespeople should be excellent interviewers. It is a learned skill. However, when you’re interviewing to fill a sales position, this skill that can really cause you significant problems. Since almost every salesperson you interview presents himself as the ideal candidate, which one actually is the best fit for your team?
One technique to see how a salesperson will handle himself on a sales call is to make the interview itself as much like a sales call as possible. Set the environment to be more like a sales situation. Put your candidate in the position of selling himself to you. If he doesn’t use sales skills or uses them poorly, it will tell you quite a lot about his future as a performer on your team.
Here are five ways you can make the interview a sales call.
- Put yourself in the mindset of a prospect.
Imagine your candidate has a product (himself) that you might be interested in, but you’re not quite sure at this point. You should evaluate the presentation and decide whether or not to buy. If you want to see how the sales candidate reacts to potential buyers it is important that he do the selling, not you.
- Is the candidate good at asking sales questions?
Generally, the traditional interview requires you to ask the majority of the questions and the candidate provides the answers. However, in this type of interview, you are testing whether the candidate is good at asking sales questions. Hence as you’re asking the usual questions, pause occasionally after his answer just to see how he handles the silence.
Will the candidate provide more details on his previous answer? Will he take the opportunity to ask a question of his own and “qualify” you? Or will he just start rambling nervously, saying anything he can think of to end the awkward silence? You will be able to tell quite a bit about how the candidate operates as a sales person.
- Does the candidate try to build trust?
Be aware of whether or not the salesperson tries to build trust with you. As a highly important sales skill, building trust is one that you will definitely want your salespeople to have. How does the candidate go about building trust? How does your candidate go about trying to build trust?
- What is the candidate’s reaction when you challenge his resume?
Bring the candidate’s resume to the interview. Ask specific questions about details of the candidate’s background. Be obviously skeptical and challenge one or two of the accomplishments. See how he reacts when challenged. Does he react aggressively? Does he crumble under pressure? Does he get angry? To clarify your point of concern, does he ask you questions in return?
- How does your candidate close?
In bringing the interview to a close, be vague and say something like, “Thanks for your time, we’ll get back to you.” If the candidate accepts your answer at face value and just leaves, he will probably do the same with a prospect.
The candidate should ask questions to try to clarify your timeline at the very least. He should attempt to find out, on the spot, if he is a candidate for the position or not. The salesperson that gets testy at this point probably isn’t a good choice.
Ken Lazar, CEO
Ability Professional Network, LLC
Experts in Recruiting Sales Professionals