In our last post, we tackled the interview process. In this one, our final installment in the Hiring the Right Salesperson series, I will leave you with specific questions to get at what a candidate really knows, how they work, how they learn and how that relates to the position.
There are literally hundreds of questions we can ask to gain insight into a candidate’s strengths, opportunities and fit for the job. But while a good 30-40 will suffice, sales leaders often tell me they couldn’t possibly take the time to ask them. They fear it will turn off the candidate and that they don’t have that much time anyway. They are very busy people, after all.
However, this is exactly when they should take the extra time. For both the company and the candidate, it’s important to uncover all assumptions and expectations, so that both sides are making decisions based on full disclosure. Most candidates understand that being thorough upfront is in their best interest and that it ensures their success on the job.
If time is a real issue, break the questions into groups for different interviews. If you can boil down the contenders to a select few that is even better as you only need this level of detail on your top one to three candidates.
Now, let’s talk about the actual questions. The following outline will give you a concrete idea of how to target your questions:
Situation – Tailor this question to the event or competency you want to explore. For example: How do you get your foot in the door?
Behavior – What did you personally say or do?
Outcome – What were the results of your action?
Learning – What did you learn? What would you change in the future?
Success Indicators – What are you looking for in the answers? This isn’t really a question as much as it is that the interviewer really knows what they are listening for when they ask.
Case in Point
To demonstrate, we’ll use the example of questions that uncover a candidate’s ability to generate leads on their own.
Situation: Describe how you go about finding and getting in the door with new prospects?
Potential follow-up questions can include:
• How do you know how many new prospects you should have?
• How much time does it take?
• How do you know if they’re worth continuing the process?
• What are the biggest things you’ve learned or adjustments you’ve made along the way?
Behavior: Tell me what you specifically did? Who else was involved?
Outcomes: What was the result of doing it this way?
Learning: What are the biggest things you learned and/or what would you change going forward?
Success Indicators: Again, this is what the interviewer should be listening for.
• Do they dedicate time on a regular basis to prospecting and do they prevent other tasks from distracting them?
• Do they use multiple sources to identify potential prospects (services such as D&B, Manta, LinkedIn, etc.)?
• Do they conduct research to warm up the lead?
• Do they develop a relevant personalized message (some even create scripts or talking points) for why the prospect would want to talk with them?
• Do they avoid selling too early – making sure to build credibility, qualify and set up the next step?
• Do they qualify and gracefully exit if the prospect is not a good fit?
• Do they understand their numbers (success rates) and adjust their approach to increase effectiveness?
We have worked with our clients to develop an entire interview guide following this format. It takes a bit of work and diligent thought to put one together, but you are making a significant — sometimes, million-dollar — investment in the people that represent your products and services to customers. It may be worth the time to really understand what you’re getting.
Does your company have an interview guide along these lines? If so, what questions have you found to be particularly revealing? If not, would it be beneficial for your company? How so?