In order to accurately assess the sales professionals you’re interviewing, you’ll need to employ a series of questions that will help paint a picture of the individual’s manner of doing business. These questions, when asked together and from multiple angles, will help you understand their drive, energy, impulsiveness, discipline, and commitment.
SALES MANAGER INTERVIEW QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO BE ASKING
How do you rank competitively among other account executives in terms of your production?
Obviously, those who enjoy the distinguished reputation of ranking at the top have no difficulty sharing those achievements with you. The sales field is all about competition, and those who perform with distinction relish their positions of power. In such cases, most of your interview will be spent discussing how the top producer got there, stays there, and plans to obtain the next rung on the success ladder.
On the other hand, if an interviewee tells you they fall in the lower 50th percentile for sales and begins to offer excuses, you’re likely looking at a problem producer. Salespeople who do not reach acceptable performance benchmarks immediately volunteer reasons why their numbers were not higher. Sometimes excuses are acceptable; other times, they have little credibility. Only you know what separates excellence from mediocrity in your field.
When dealing with individuals who rank themselves at the bottom of the heap, focus on identifying the patterns for their excuses. Short-term tenures with similar types of companies usually spell inconsistent performance, which should immediately raise red flags in your mind. Proceed with caution.
What are the two most common objections you face, and how do you deal with them?
No matter what field of sales you’re in, stonewalling showstoppers like “We don’t have any need for your product,” or “We’re happy with our current provider,” typically throw salespeople off.
- CONFIDENCE: So the first thing you want to observe is how confidently the candidate attacks the objection. Persuasion plays a big role, after all, in establishing rapport with new accounts.
- CREATIVITY: The second issue lies in the creativity of the individual’s response. If the rebuttals sound like everyone else’s in town, there’s a chance much thought hasn’t been given to what makes the product or service unique. Therefore, beware of candidates who regurgitate responses like:
- “Well, what would you do if you suddenly needed a . . . ,”
- “I bet we could offer more competitive rates than your current provider,” or
- “Change is good. I’m sure that’s how you found your current vendor in the first place. Why not give me a chance to show you what I could do?”
Such trite comebacks typically result in little new business.
How important is the base salary component to you? Would you prefer a straight commission if it offered you the potential for an additional 35 percent in aggregate earnings over the base salary?
Distinguishing aggregate payout potential from guaranteed earnings can be telling. A salesperson with a husband, two children, and a mortgage may opt for a higher base pay with a lower payout potential because the timing in her life dictates conservatism over risk. If you happen to offer the highest base pay program in town while all your competitors offer only straight commission, then you have lots to offer her.
If, on the other hand, you’re interviewing someone who’s fresh out of college, who considers himself a millionaire in the making, and who would opt for the $1,500-per-month base plus minimal bonus over the straight commission package, then beware: You’re probably looking at another example of the classic risk-averse mentality mentioned previously.
The moral of the story: Even if you don’t offer a choice of earnings options (among base salary, commissions, and bonuses, for example), ask candidates how they’d ideally like to see their pay structured. Obviously, the higher the risk that candidates are willing to assume, the greater the reward for you and the aggregate payout for them.