The most important action you can take in building and developing your sales team is a hiring decision. Sales talent is not only hard to identify; but also, a skill that many of your hiring managers have never been trained on. While some organizations may have a set block of questions for each stage in the interview process, the true value of these questions lies in understanding the “Why?” behind them.

CognITek has placed thousands of top performing sales professionals in myriad industries. We have pulled together a few of our best questions for you to use in uncovering the sales talent that will elevate your team’s performance and set the new standard for achievement.

  1. Why Sales as a career choice?

Here you are looking to determine if they found sales or of sales found them. Top tier reps choose to be in sales. Bottom performers fell into sales because something else was not working. True sales professionals will have something in their response relating to their drive and goals. Be skeptical of candidates that only reply that they are a “people person” or indicate that they want sales because others told them they would be good at it.

  1. What are the top three characteristics that successful sales professional share?

To best understand the desired response to this question you should first survey your current top performers to see what they have in common. Then look for candidates that have the same drive, gregariousness, natural intuitiveness, etc…

  1. Tell me about a goal that you set for yourself that you did not achieve?

This question is designed to see if your candidate can look back and reassess their performance and accept responsibility. What you do not want to hear is that the reason they did not close the sale or achieve the goal was someone else’s fault. 

  1. Explain your current sales process to me.

While this technically is not a question, it is important to assess whether the candidate is a student of sales and understands the process required to get to YES. It will help you determine if candidate fully understand the stages and metrics behind building a pipeline or are they just chasing after bright, shiny objects.

  1. How do you identify new prospects in your target market?

It does not matter what industry or market they are in currently. You are looking to see what resources they use outside of the leads and accounts in their CRM that are handed to them. Top tier reps will belong to professional associations, engage in networking groups, and leverage their existing customers for referrals.

  1. Where do you fit on the sales spectrum if new business development is at one end and account management is at the other?

Depending on the type of representative you are looking for the candidate’s response will determine if they are a fit for your opportunity. Closers will trend toward new business development while relationship driven sales representatives will gravitate toward account management.

  1. How do you conduct pre-call planning?

Once again, you are looking for a process or habit. It does not have to match your team’s current method, but the lack of any procedure should be a red flag. Pre-call planning could be a simple review of web research, LinkedIn or CRM data. Top tier candidates will even share with you how they conduct their post call review.

  1. What are your favorite questions to ask prospects?

Professional sales representative spend more time asking questions than relaying features and benefits. Candidates that can share examples of thought provoking, open ended questions that focus on the prospect’s business goals and challenges will stand out. Candidates that can also provide closing questions are ideal.

  1. How do you handle objections in the sales cycle?

Look for a process. Candidates that have had formal sales training will relay the value of listening, understanding, and then replying. Skilled candidates will even share what method they use: Feel, Felt, Found; Empathize, Clarify, Isolate, Respond; Understand and Reframe; etc.

  1. What is your best closing method?

Most top performers will have a go to closing technique that they use. If a sales candidate struggles to come up with a response here be very wary as they are not a natural closer.

  1. When do you stop pursuing a prospect?

The right answer is once they have become a client! However, not every prospect can be sold. Look for persistence and candidates that go back 5-8 times while seeking advice from their sales leader if the prospect keep throwing up objection after objection.

  1. Describe the ideal culture for you to thrive?

Most successful sales professional thrive on autonomy. If you have a very structured sales regimen then you might want to focus on more malleable talent that you can shape and mold into your desired style. True closers are like race horses; you need to let them run out of the gate and give them minor adjustments along the way.

  1. What single accomplishment are you most proud of?

Depending on where the candidate is in their career, you may get varied responses. Recent college grads will not have the depth of a selling career to relay but should still have a substantial goal that they worked hard to accomplish. Sales representatives with experience should have a specific sale to discuss with details on how their specific actions were integral in closing the deal.

  1. What motivates you?

Sales representatives are not like other employment candidates. They want to be recognized and compensated for their performance. Recognition, money, and commission are the most common responses. Top tier sales professionals will have big goals and are not satisfied with the status quo.

  1. What does success look like for you?

Every answer will be different as candidates will have diverse backgrounds. The one common theme you should look for is a defined plan or goal. The most common responses for top tier performers focus on recognition, status, and income.

Note that none of the sample questions provided were focused on industry experience or What Can You Do For Me questions. Top tier sales talent will run if they suspect that your interest is solely focused on what book of business you can bring with you or what competitive knowledge and training you possess. Look beneath the surface and hire the traits and competencies that will result in long term productivity and goal achievement. Lastly, remember that if the candidate does not attempt to close you on the job opportunity that they won’t close any business for you either.