Whether you’re a hiring manager, sales leader, or the CEO of a company, you know it can be difficult to identify and hire top sales talent.
Although an intensive interview process can help you weed out unqualified applicants, you never really know how well a candidate is going to perform until a few weeks or even months into the job.
Hiring the right people can directly impact your company’s overall success and revenue.
Top Sales Rep Qualities – And Interview Questions to Test Them
Although there will never be a foolproof way to hire the best B2B sales reps, we’ve compiled a list of the top characteristics to look for and the questions you should be asking to determine if a candidate is a good fit. These are as follows:
Successful sales professionals are often very perceptive. They can read a person’s emotions and pick up on unspoken concerns. A perceptive sales rep can quickly identify pain points, reasons for hesitation, and other important emotions that often influence a buyer’s decision.
Question: What are some common sales objections you’ve received? Describe a time you were able to overcome a more difficult objection.
Often, sales objections aren’t always what they seem. For example, ‘I can’t afford it’ can often mean, ‘You haven’t proven your product’s value’. How a prospect answers this question can tell you a lot about how they read emotions and navigate tense situations.
To succeed in B2B sales, a rep needs to be a quick thinker. This point goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. After analyzing a prospect, a rep must think on their feet and quickly offer up a solution that will appease a prospect’s concerns.
Question: How would you handle a prospect who has informed you they’re about to sign with your biggest competitor?
A candidate’s answer to this question should reflect their ability to ask questions and quickly understand the prospect’s decision-making process. Does the competitor have a better product? Is the prospect just trying to get a better deal? Have they been promised special features or add-ons? If you continue to play out this scenario, a good candidate will work quickly to offer up a solution that works for this make-believe prospect.
In the job market yourself? Read our guide on landing a B2B sales job.
In B2B sales, a rep who gets discouraged easily will not go far. The right candidate will know how to accept rejection and will continue to work hard regardless of how many times they get shut down.
Question: How do you know when to give up on a prospect?
A good sales rep will know that a big sale can take a few tries but more importantly, they’ll know when to give up on an unqualified prospect. It’s all about striking the right balance. You don’t want someone who will give up right away, but you also don’t want a rep that wastes time on prospects that never plan to buy.
Very few people enjoy getting sales calls or emails. That’s why your reps need to be likeable enough to break the cold call barrier. A good sales rep is able to have difficult conversations without being pushy, annoying, or intrusive.
Question: How would you improve upon our sales process/company/product?
It can be difficult to offer up criticism in a high-pressure situation. A candidate’s answer to this question will speak to their ability to hold a tense conversation—while still being likeable and charismatic.
A good sales rep is self-motivated. You’re looking for someone who needs few external incentives to go above and beyond what their job requires.
Question: Sell us our own product.
A rep’s response to this question will demonstrate how prepared they are for the interview and how badly they want the job. It’s important to remember that the sales pitch doesn’t have to be perfect. A general understanding of your product, your company, and your value propositions shows that a candidate is not only motivated but also smart and willing to work hard.
Although extensive experience certainly isn’t necessary to be a quality employee, it is important that the person you hire has a deep understanding of B2B sales, selling techniques, and different types of sales cycles.
Question: How do your selling techniques change from a short sales cycle to a long sales cycle?
A quality candidate will recognize that a short sales cycle requires a more urgent, persistent approach while a long sales cycle leaves room for more nurturing. The answer to this question will show you how well a candidate understands the world of B2B sales. The more detailed and specific their answer is, the more experience they likely have.
Many times, a sale will fall through because a rep was unprepared or failed to ask important questions. You want to hire someone who will take the time to ask the right questions, learn about their prospects, and prepare for difficult phone calls.
Question: How do you prepare for a call with a new prospect?
A candidate’s answer to this question will indicate how thorough they are. Do they research the prospect’s company? Do they know if the prospect was ever a customer in the past? Do they make an effort to anticipate the prospect’s pain points before even getting on the phone?
B2B sales can be discouraging—but having disgruntled or frustrated reps can bring down your entire team. The ideal candidate will know how to stay positive and bounce back after difficult calls.
Question: How do you stay upbeat on hard days?
The answer to this question will give you insight into who a candidate is as a person and not just as a sales rep. It’s important that a rep understands the importance of having a good attitude and can bring themselves back up in times of stress.
In the world of ever-changing technology, you want your sales reps to be able to pick up new tools and software quickly. No matter how good a rep is—if they can’t learn your company’s systems, tools, or processes, they’ll have a difficult time contributing to the bottom line.
Question: What are a few of your favorite sales tools and how have you leveraged them to make more sales?
This answer will speak to the reps ability to learn a system and use it to their advantage. If a rep can’t name multiple sales tools or technologies, this might be a red flag. More importantly, though, the right candidate should be able to tell you how they’ve leveraged technologies to improve their performance.
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