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A Little Interview Prep and Practice Can Help Determine If Sales Candidates Will Be Successful

December 10, 2016

According to Will Brooks, COO of The Brooks Group (a leading corporate sales effectiveness training firm), the single biggest challenge in hiring salespeople is that it is both logical and emotional in nature.


The false-logic challenge is that having someone in place is better than having no one at all. This is a false position based on what we know a bad sales hire typically costs you:

  • Wasted leads and lost opportunities
  • Customer and prospect alienation
  • Loss of goodwill in the marketplace
  • Poor image and reputation
  • Morale problems caused for other salespeople
  • Lost time and energy in hiring, training and retaining
  • Delivery and customer service problems
  • Picking up the pieces after the failed rep has left

The emotional challenge lies in the danger of hiring someone you like regardless of any verifiable level of competency. Couple this with the often-used mirror test hiring strategy (the method of being able to fog a mirror and you have the job) that many companies use and you can imagine the merry-go-round of problems. It is time to get off the merry-go-round – unless you are enjoying the ride.

You’ve heard the advice. Using thoughtful and thought-provoking sales interview questions is a way around to identify the best candidate as well as remove candidates from the running. So, based on common themes across hundreds of TriMetrix HD “outside sales” job benchmark profiles (more about TriMetrix below) we’re offering a list of sales interview questions you can use to determine if your next sales candidate is a fit for your organization, your product, your team and your culture. Using these questions will help. Using these questions and administering the TriMetrix HD Talent assessment will significantly improve your sales hiring.

Suggested Sales Interview Questions

What are your longer-term career aspirations?
[Getting to know the candidate,  achievement orientation]

Give me an example of a time when a manager provided you feedback you didn’t agree with. How did you handle it?
[Is the candidate coachable?]

How would you start working a territory from scratch?
[Planning and Organizing skills]

Walk me through your process for developing a prospecting plan.
[Planning and Organizing skills]

What’s more important: planning or action?
[Balance of planning and action]

Walk me through your sales process of choice.
[Sales Strategies]

What was the last sales book you read?
[Continuous Learning]

How do you evaluate the best way to invest your time in a typical day?
[Self Management]

What expectations do you have of your manager?
[Manager – Subordinate relationship preferences.]

Describe the ideal sales team you’d like to be a part of.
[Teamwork skills]

Where specifically do you need to grow your sales skill set?
[Sales Strategy knowledge]

Where do you see the world of sales prospecting going? What’s the best place to find {buyers in our market}?

How do you differentiate yourself personally?
[Self-Awareness, knowledge of strengths]

What separates a top sales performer from everyone else?
[Knowledge and focus on continuous improvement]

Knowing what you know now about professional selling, what advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your career?
[Self-awareness, continuous improvement attitude, personal accountability]

What’s more important to sales success: selling skills or interpersonal skills?
[Which does the candidate prefer using. Are they disciplined or like to wing it and rely on their winning personality.]

Walk me through your process for preparing for a face-to-face call.
[Organized use of systems and procedures to be efficient and effective]

What have you found to be the most effective way to open a face-to-face sales meeting?
[Sales strategy]

Give me an example of a time that you completely mismanaged your first face-to-face meeting with a prospect. What did you learn from it?
[Awareness, Coachabilty and Continuous Learning]

How do you go about crafting a recommendation for a prospect or customer?
[Organized practical thinking skills]

What role does sales team alignment with the bigger organization play in the overall success of the sales team?
[Team player, them vs us mentality, big picture understanding]

What makes a world-class sales manager?
[Answer will be based on past experience with good and poor sales managers.]

What’s more important: profitability or volume?
[Profitability is connected to value selling. Volume is connected to speed and discounts.]

What tools do you use to learn about a prospect before making contact?
[Sales strategies]

Describe your biggest success as a salesperson.
[Understanding the candidates work experience, depth, resume.]

Describe your biggest setback as a salesperson.
[Understanding the candidates work experience, depth, resume.]

Describe a time you lost a longer-term customer. What happened? How did you handle it?
[sales strategies]

What’s more important: being decisive or slowing down to pay attention to detail?
[It is the extremes that will derail a sales person. Too slow, worried about making mistakes or being too impulsive. Both are sales killers.]

Describe a time you had to over-service an account that didn’t mean much commission to you personally. How did you handle it?
[Sales strategy]

How do you handle situations when a prospective buyer insists you cut your price?
[Sales strategies]

Holding out to find a candidate that is a “best fit” for the position will benefit you and all of the candidates, and will result in an employee who is successful.

To further assess a candidate, as well as the available position, look no further than the TriMetrix® Assessment System (a unique four-science assessment to identify the talents of your applicants, define the job’s talent requirements objectively and train, coach and develop internally). We also offer the Sales Strategy Index, a sales strategy assessment, sales DISC assessments and personal motivators assessments  for use in the hiring process and to supplement internal training programs. Let us share more about these powerful sales hiring tools by completing the inquiry form below.

The Nielson Group offers best-in-class solutions to define jobs, assess talent and develop people for high performance across your organization. To learn more and discuss your specific needs, send us a note by filling out the form below:

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