3 Crucial Questions to Ask New Sales Hires

How do you find the right sales people who can actually live up to their interview hype? By asking the right questions to make sure they’re the real deal.

When it comes to scaling a business, there’s no doubt that sales is one of the hardest roles to fill.
While there’s no shortage of salespeople in the work force today, there is a supply and demand imbalance for great salespeople. The challenge for sales managers and executives, of course, is trying to determine the subtle differences between A-players and C-players. After all, sales reps are wired to sell — and turning it on for job interviews is no different.
The stakes for getting it right are are high. Did you know the total cost of a mis-hire can be as much as 3-6 times that person’s annual base salary, and that the average sales mis-hire rate is 50 percent? Then there’s the loss of another crucial resource to consider: time.  Does your expansion-stage company have six months to a year to burn on a rep who’s a bust?
The good news is, according to Kevin Gaither, VP of Inside Sales at ZipRecruiter, there are specific questions you can ask in the interview stage that will help you evaluate three hard-to-qualify sales competences and separate the very best from the rest.

3 Questions to Ask Every Sales Candidate You Interview

1) What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?

According to Gaither, this helps you assess a candidate’s need for achievement. You might also consider asking sales candidates to tell you about a few times they exceeded expectations or went beyond the call of duty. Another question Gaither likes: What’s the toughest goal you’ve ever set for yourself and how do you plan to top it? Ultimately, your singular purpose is to determine a candidate’s ambition and drive.

2) When was the last time you were competitive?

Gaither says this helps you assess a candidate’s competitiveness. And he’s quick to point out that, no, it’s not just about competing in sports. While athletics are a great forum for competition, not all athletes are competitive. What you’re really looking for are salespeople who hate to lose. This competency could manifest itself in trying to beat someone on a treadmill at the gym, or even trying to compete in Friday rush hour traffic (seriously).

3) Think back to the last time you lost a deal — what did you do to recover?

This helps you assess a candidate’s optimism, Gaither explains. Great salespeople have a shameless disregard for reality. Rejection doesn’t faze them (in fact, it typically motivates them), and they’ll often plow through obstacles until they get what they want. Ask candidates to describe a sale where their persistence paid off, or to tell you about how they responded the last time a customer got under their skin. Great reps will convey relentless optimism.
Those three qualities — need for achievement, competitiveness, and optimism — are what Dr. Christopher Croner, author of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, has identified as the three crucial components of drive. By asking the right questions, Gaither says, you can surface whether these traits are truly there, and make much more effective hiring decisions accordingly.
What do you look for when you hire sales reps, and which questions do you ask in interviews to uncover a rep’s need for achievement, competitiveness, and optimism? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

Photo by: Gvahim


Kevin Gaither
Kevin Gaither
VP Inside Sales

Kevin Gaither is the Vice President of Inside Sales at ZipRecruiter, enabling companies to post to multiple free job boards with a single submission. Gaither is also the President of the Los Angeles Chapter at the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals and former Host and Co-Producer at ThisWeekIn Sales.
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