Sales Interviews and the 15 Questions You Should Ask Your Candidates

What makes a good salesperson?

But more than that, how do we find a good seller?

In my work as a consultant here at Outbound Marketing & Reev I have come across these questions several times.

I always like to say that sales interviews start right at the candidate’s introduction. However, this will depend a lot on how you ask the person to introduce themselves.

To explain it a little better, let’s run to the first topic that we will cover in this text. Let’s go?

A first challenging question

In general, interviews, when the person in the interviewer role asks the candidate to introduce himself, he or she has full control over how to direct his response.

A good example would be:

Before we start, I would like you to introduce yourself and tell me a little about your professional experiences.

The question itself explains, clearly and concisely, what is expected as an acceptable answer.

The respondent knows that anything that threatens to fall outside this limit must be eliminated from their response.

The more information you provide in your question when asking the person to introduce themselves, the easier the candidate’s reasoning will be in providing the answer.

Trying to avoid this, and even already testing your candidate’s reasoning, a good way to restructure this question I put up there would be:

Before we start, I’d like you to introduce yourself and try to tell me, in no more than 3 minutes, everything I can’t help but know about you.

Sounds simple, right?

However, by making the response possibilities so comprehensive, you give your candidate more freedom to select, organize and present such information in a short period of time.

This will give you the opportunity to assess not only what he chose to tell, but how he chose to do it.

Thinking about the sales context, specifically, this type of question is even more essential, considering that it will be possible to already have an idea of ​​the candidate’s potential as a salesperson.

After all, to answer that question, he will have to sell himself.

Now, with the proper presentations already made, we can move on to the other questions.

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Enthusiasm-focused questions

Question #1: What made you interested in the commercial area?

I really like this question for a very specific and even somewhat obvious reason: with it we have the opportunity to see, clearly, what really brought this person to the interview.

The most interesting thing is that, both in cases where the candidate has and in cases where he has no experience in the commercial area, it is noticeable how excited he is when it comes to sales.

Did your candidate’s eyes light up and you could clearly see the excitement in the response? We already have a good start here.

Question #2: Why were you interested in this company? And why are you interested in this position?

Here’s a great example of how you might start the interview conducted by the HR department of Capital Smart City.

This question makes room for the candidate to explain some specific reason why he chose your company.

Pay attention to how firm the candidate will be when giving the answer.

In an ideal scenario, what we expect is an objective and well-structured positioning, indicating precisely the points that brought it to you.

Question #3: What don’t you like about a sales process?

This type of question will provide a perfect opportunity to understand where your candidate is least likely to excel.

Here it is worth observing two things carefully:

  1. If the point he indicates in the answer is his core business, unless the candidate has been willing to change and he has coachability, it is not a good idea to pass him;
  2. Pay attention to candidates who are unable to indicate something they do not like, clearly indicating little interest in expressing their own opinions.

Question #4: Can you describe what you understand as an ideal business manager?

See here how your candidate will stand. Naturally, he will think that if he doesn’t describe the profile of his company’s manager, he will be disqualified.

However, the main point here will be to analyze the hints he will give in his answer regarding his level of autonomy.

In addition, you’ll have good clues about his relationship with work partners and his ability to overcome obstacles in his routine.

Try to understand if, in his response, he appears to be proactive and has no problems receiving orders, guidance and being led.

Question #5: Can you tell me the step-by-step actions you normally take with a lead?

Here it will be possible to observe your candidate’s level of knowledge regarding the sales process.

It will also help to identify how it is geared towards organizing a large volume of information.

Also pay attention to how clear and objective the candidate can be in his explanation.

  • Have all the steps of the process been covered?
  • Did he stick to more specific details that would be essential for a good understanding?

Don’t forget to always question him when something isn’t quite clear.

Strategy-focused questions

Question #6: Can you explain something to me?

The main point here will be to identify how your candidate will be able to choose a topic well and observe their ability to guide a person in understanding something.

If at the end you understood well the concept he tried to explain, a positive point for the candidate.

Question #7: What are the top questions you like to ask your leads?

In a consultative sales process, we know it’s critical to let the lead talk more about the particulars of their scenario (buyer-centric) rather than keeping the conversation focused on the solution.

So, understanding how your prospective new team member handles the consultative selling landscape is essential.

More than that, understand the types of questions this person prefers to ask and whether they indicate a genuine interest in deeply understanding the reality of each lead.

Question #8: How do you handle objections?

Is there a specific process the candidate uses to handle objections?

This is the main question you should find an answer to when asking how to answer objections.

In addition, you should identify whether this process works well for your company’s scenario, which is where the candidate should have this practice.

Question #9: What strategy do you use to generate, develop and close your business opportunities?

The important thing here is to be able to observe how hustler the candidate can be.

If the answer is given in a very comprehensive way, take the time to question him about the details of the process he follows.

Go deeper here as much as possible, trying to get as much information as possible from the respondent.

Remember that this type of question is also valid for cases where the respondent has no experience in the commercial area.

I can say that in these cases, even, it is essential! The answer will help you understand if the person is truly interested in the job.

Question #10: How can you connect with leads? Also, can you explain to me how you understand the importance of this connection?

Note here if your candidate is aware of how to achieve a deep and true connection with leads.

  • Does he know rapport techniques?
  • Is he aware of how NLP could help him in this regard?
  • Does he know any other techniques?

Remember: don’t be satisfied with a vague answer.

Take the opportunity to better understand your candidate’s level of knowledge of sales techniques and how they use them to your advantage.

Questions focusing on practical issues

Question #11: If you started a business tomorrow, can you tell me what it would be like?

Here’s a question focused on understanding your candidate’s goals and motivations more indirectly.

It’s also a great opportunity to get a glimpse into how he’s going to argue about new business ideas.

Question #12: Was there a time when you gave up on a lead? If yes, why?

We know that naturally there are cases where the lead is not fit and the ideal is, in fact, to give up the sale and classify it as lost.

Be careful to understand how your candidate works with this type of situation and, mainly, how he will present the argument that led him to disqualify the lead.

Question #13: Have you ever had a time when you had successive sales losses? How did you manage to overcome this difficulty?

Spoiler: The answer to the first question must be yes, or at the very least, he must have lost at least one sale at some point in his sales career.

It is very unlikely (not to say impossible) that a salesperson would not have suffered a single loss during the development of their work.

Be on the lookout for cases where the candidate will be reluctant to tell you about their shortcomings, or where they simply respond to what they think you want to hear.

Investigate how resilient your candidate can be, understand what this person’s view of those moments is, and again question them further when you feel the answer wasn’t enough.

Question #14: How do you keep your spirits up when you’re having a bad day?

Of course, harder days will come.

Whether on a personal level or even after a meeting with a lead that was not as good as expected, it is essential to understand if your candidate already has some strategy to deal with this type of situation.

Question #15: Tell me about an experience where you had to deal with a particularly difficult lead, but managed to resolve the situation and close the sale.

If the candidate here demonstrates any difficulty in remembering an example, or if he says that it never happened, ask him to make an effort and try to remember a case that he can comment on.

Guide him to be as descriptive as possible, and pay close attention to the details of what he is going to tell, analyzing what actions he felt would be most interesting for that particular situation.

Always remember to question the person about the reasons for each of their decisions.

So, ready to find the ideal seller?

It’s not difficult to know that the sales of Capital Smart City require a lot of flexibility from the professional to deal with objections and difficult leads, a lot of techniques and some good sales skills.

Therefore, the questions asked in a selection process should serve to verify all these points.

Ask challenging questions, challenge your candidates, check their skills. That’s the only way you can guarantee that you’ll hire the ideal seller!


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