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Sales Representatives: 7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring One

by Byrne Anderson
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Every sales organization lives and dies on its sales reps. Ideally, you want people who can handle rejection, hit their quota, and stay persistent.

How do you know sales representatives possess these qualities before you hire them? Simple: ask the right questions during the interview process. When you know what you’re looking for, finding the right person becomes much easier.

In general, you’ll want to focus on three things: culture fit, soft skills, and hard skills. They’re ranked by importance, so mind your question order. If a person doesn’t align with your core values, there’s no point in asking about their soft and hard skills.

So, which questions do you need to ask to find the best sales representative for your needs? This list should get you started!

1. Why Did You Choose to Apply With Us?

This is a reversal of the usual “Why do you think you’re a good fit here?” question. These questions seem similar, but there’s a key difference.

Your goal with this question is to force the candidate to take a critical look at your business. You want them to align their values, goals, and beliefs with those of your company. With some luck, they’ll realize that you’re indeed a good match.

Their response should show whether they’ve done their research. Look for responses like, “Your business has won this award and I’ve always wanted to work for a company that keeps innovating.” A “we before me” approach is always nice to see as well.

2. Where Do You See Yourself in Two Years?

This question helps you guess how long you’ll be able to keep the new rep onboard. Are they just looking for a new gig or a long-term stay?

Their answer can also help you determine whether they have focused career goals in mind. This is a critical motivating factor for any sales rep. If you know how they see their future, building a relationship with them will be much easier.

The best way to answer this question is immediately and thoroughly. You want them to prove they’ve established internal clarity on their future. This goes for both their professional and personal perspective.

3. What Are You Passionate About?

An old stereotype in sales says that successful sales reps only care about money. Ask any high performer, and they’ll tell you the same.

Even if this was true once, it’s no longer the case. These days, almost all good sales reps have motivations that go beyond making money. By asking them about their true passion, you’ll get an idea of how you can build a strong relationship with them.

The most important thing about their answer is that they have one. Anything that shows a passion for something other than sales representative duties will work. If they’re not sure, they might not have the internal drive necessary to succeed as a rep.

4. What Are Three Traits of a Good Sales Rep?

Technically, there’s no correct answer to this question. The characteristics of successful sales reps will vary from company to company.

Now, you should know what traits you’re looking for before you hire your first rep. This depends on your value proposition and the sale type (complex or transactional). What you’re looking for is an alignment between your and your candidate’s beliefs.

Ideally, the candidate should stop at three traits. If they try to list more than three, pay attention to how they’re “selling” these qualities. If they’re droning on about them, your prospects may look at them the same way.

5. How Would You Handle a Difficult Prospect?

An inside sales representative must be good at generating new clients. If the client is difficult, though, they need to know when to turn them away.

A good sales rep should never end the conversation abruptly. Even if the client is hard to work with, they must provide support throughout the buying process. The goal is for the client to feel positive about your company or even generate a referral.

You’ll also want the rep to avoid securing a closed-won deal. This sounds counter-intuitive, but bad-fit clients are unlikely to help your business. The candidate should be able to articulate why your company shouldn’t proceed with the sale.

6. What Are Your Favorite Closing Techniques?

If you’re looking to hire a sales representative, you better make sure they know to close a deal. The catch: this might be harder than you think.

For starters, closing a deal isn’t as aggressive as you’ve seen in Glengarry Glen Ross. “Always be closing” isn’t a useful mantra for most reps. What you need is someone who can ask the client if they’ve seen enough value from them to move forward.

Let them give you a few examples of their go-to closing technique. Listen for how they use it, as well as when and where. A good sales rep can leverage closing language at just the right points during the sales process.

7. How Would You Hit an Aggressive Sales Target?

Finally, your sales rep should be able to perform under pressure. This is particularly important for an outside sales representative.

Ask for an example of an aggressive sales target they needed to hit. Have them explain why the target was aggressive and how they compared to a typical target. Pay attention to whether they take ownership of these targets or not.

For example, are they making excuses that the target was too aggressive? Or are they taking ownership of the fact they tried their best to hit it? The more insight they provide about what they could’ve done better, the more likely they’re to be successful for you.

More on Hiring Sales Representatives

Hiring sales representatives is something many companies struggle with. By asking the above questions in this order, you’ll make the right candidates stand out. If you know what you’re looking for, this is all you need to build your ideal team.

Want to know more about topics like this one? Keep reading our Business section!

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