Let's face it: we've all hired bad salespeople at one time or another. When we interviewed them, we were blinded by their smooth talking and likeability, and we could see them being great in front of our customers. But once they were on board, we quickly realized that they couldn't deliver in the field.
Hiring the wrong salesperson is costly. So how can you use a job interview to evaluate whether a job candidate is a great salesperson? Here are the key traits of top performers, and the questions you should ask and answers you should look for to spot these sales stars:
They understand the economics of selling: Ask the candidate to describe how she conducts the process for qualifying and closing a prospect, from initial call to sale. Look for answers that show that she's trying to sell something appropriate to each prospect, given the size of the company and the cost of the product. Look, as well, for her skill at clearly conveying the ROI this product or service will provide.
They ask insightful questions: Great salespeople are naturally inquisitive. They know that in order to identify the buyer's real need or desire, they need to ask probing questions that will lead to the right answers.
To gauge how well they gather information when they're selling, evaluate their performance in the interview itself by the quality of the questions they ask you. As well, ask them this revealing question: What are the three best open-ended questions you ask a prospect during an initial meeting? Look for answers that show the salesperson's skill at uncovering information about a prospect's needs.
They're effective speakers: I'm not talking about superb oratorical skills here, but rather the ability to speak in an easily understandable manner. Sales is all about talking to people and getting them to understand what you're trying to communicate.
Ask the job candidate to give you his 30-second elevator pitch for whatever he's currently selling. This should roll off his tongue, and be clear and convincing. Yet it's amazing to me how many people can't articulate what they're selling and why anyone should buy it.