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Decoding Sales Interviews: Spotting True Potential

Updated: Aug 4, 2023


Interviewing salespeople can be a tough task. One may often find that salespeople are inherently talented at presenting themselves well. It's crucial, however, not to be swayed simply by their interview performance, but to focus on genuinely gauging what the candidate can contribute to your team.


Preparation is Key Before diving into the interview, it's vital to be clear about what you're looking for. Outline and recognize the essential characteristics you expect in the potential candidate.


Top 10 Characteristics of an Exceptional Salesperson:

  1. Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of consumers, which aids in trust-building and relationship development.

  2. Confidence: A genuine belief in one's abilities and the quality of the products they're representing.

  3. Tenacity: Determination in reaching goals while maintaining politeness and amiability.

  4. Adaptability: The capacity to quickly adjust to changes, whether they're market-driven or client-specific.

  5. Communication: Effective conveyance of their product or service's value.

  6. Active Listening: A keen sense of understanding customer needs through attentive listening.

  7. Subject Matter Expertise: A deep knowledge about the product or service they're pitching.

  8. Time Management: The ability to prioritize tasks for optimal productivity.

  9. Team Player: Collaborative skills to mesh well within a team and meet collective goals.

  10. Positive Attitude: Optimism, especially during challenging times, indicating resilience.

Strategies for Assessing a Sales Candidate To evaluate the authenticity of a candidate's sales acumen, consider incorporating these tasks or questions:

  1. Have them describe a product or service, gauging their communication and persuasion skills.

  2. Pose hypothetical situations like dealing with a disgruntled customer.

  3. Request examples of previous sales successes, looking for consistent strategies.

  4. Test their communication and interpersonal abilities through hypothetical consumer interactions.

  5. Task them with presenting on a product, allowing them to ask preliminary questions.

  6. Assess their time-management by scheduling multiple meetings in one day.

  7. Repeat questions to gauge consistency in their responses.

  8. Measure their follow-up frequency, looking for courteous persistence.

  9. Test their preparatory research about your company.

  10. Engage their critical thinking skills with unconventional questions.

Examples of Critical Thinking Questions:

  • How would you count the number of gas stations in the US?

  • Without measuring tools, how would you estimate the height of a building?

  • If stranded on an island, what three essentials would you bring and why?

  • Would you rather fly or be invisible, and why?

  • Estimate the volume of golf balls a school bus can contain.

  • If you could invent an ice cream flavor, what would it be and why?

  • How would you determine if a pen writes underwater?

  • Design a vending machine targeting a specific demographic.

  • If you could eliminate one day of the week, which would it be and why?

  • Describe a database to someone non-technical.

Conclusion: When evaluating responses, prioritize candidates who are confident, empathetic, and possess excellent communication skills. Notice how they react to unexpected changes and their depth of knowledge about their product or service. But above all, always value perseverance when scouting for your next salesperson.

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