Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Interview Top Sales Talent - A (non) Manifesto.

Top sales organizations are always recruiting for good people and not waiting for an opening.  If they find a good hire, they make a place for that person.  More often than not, my clients are unable to articulate what they are looking for when hiring sales people.  While this is not a hiring manifesto, it is certainly a good place to start. 
1.        Can they quickly break down their comp plan, targets and total earnings for you?
a.       What percentages did they earn and what were their accelerators? (I like to ask this in person so they don’t have notes.)  Does it add up?
b.      The candidate should be earning at least 80% of what they will earn on target with your comp plan.  Don’t hire someone whose total comp is $60,000 and give them a $60,000 base.  They may not be driven to succeed.
2.       Do they have a need for approval?
a.       Often people pleasers have impaired prospecting skills because they cannot handle the rejection or failure. 
b.      Tell them something you don’t like about them during the interview and see how they react.  For instance, “I think you are alright, but you really talk too much.”  See if they handle and overcome the objection or if they become angry or offended.
3.       What are their self-limiting beliefs? 
a.        Do they ask you about money easily or do they seem uncomfortable?  I tell them that I don’t talk about the comp plan on the first call to see if they overcome the objection.
b.      Are they afraid to call high, and do they feel more comfortable with purchasing agents than CFOs?
c.       Do they always believe their prospects or do they test the information they are given?
d.      Do they get detailed information about your hiring process?  I like to start describing and then get distracted to see if they come back and get the information they need.
e.      Do they mimic the sales process by asking to move to the next step or by asking for the job?  (50% of the time the top candidate never asks for the job).  
f.        Do they ask you to assess their performance at the interview or to rank them against other candidates? 
g.       Do they believe that Marketing or Inside Sales is responsible for generating most of their leads?  I like to ask them what % of their leads they think should come from Marketing. 
4.       Do they have business acumen?
a.       To what publications do they subscribe?  Can they describe a recent article?
b.      Ask them to name the last 3-4 books they have read and ask pick one to ask “how was this helpful in your job?
c.       Ask them if they review annual reports and what information they are seeking?
d.      Ask them how they get competitive information.
e.      Ask them what type of research they do on prospects and how they use it.
5.       What will be their challenges once you hire them?
a.       Ask them what they like/ dislike about meetings.  Do they “love” going to meetings with prospects?
b.      Do they talk too much?  Are they waiting to reply and stepping on your words, or do they listen to you and ask follow up questions? 
c.       Do they take notes while meeting with you and refer back to them?
d.      How often do they discount and why?
e.      Ask them the #1 reason they lose deals.  If they say” price”, PASS. 
6.       Are the skills they have mastered similar to the ones they will need while working for you?
a.       Ask them to list job titles they typically call on and how they “pitch” that person.
b.      How much supervision are they accustomed to having?
c.       What types of support would they like to have from you?  From Marketing?  From Inside Sales or Sales Engineers? During negotiations?
d.      Ask them if they consider themselves a power prospector, a power closer or a power networker and why?
7.       What Sales Skills have they mastered?
a.       Ask them to rank their skills in cold calling, qualifying and closing according to “master”, “competent”, and “needs improvement”.    
b.      Ask them for their favorite and least favorite steps in the sales cycle and why.  Can they clearly articulate what makes them good at something or do they give you stock answers such as “people like me” or “I like solving people’s problems”? 
8.       Tell me how you spent your last week at work on your last job?
9.       Are they Goal Oriented?
a.       Can they tell you their 6 month, 1 year and 5 year goals?
b.      Do they have them written down?  Ask to see them.
c.       What was the last goal they failed to reach and why?  (This tells you if they review their goals and hold themselves accountable).
10.   Are they trainable?
a.       Ask them about how much training they received at their last job, both formal and informal.  Ask them what they liked or disliked about it.
b.      Ask them which, if any sales methodologies they have used (i.e., Sandler, Miller Heiman, Bosworth.)  Ask them if they continued the training after leaving that company.  (Lifetime learners seldom discontinue their training just because they left a particular job).  Training can be via webcasts, reading books, etc. but I like to know if they have ever paid to attend training on their own. 
c.       Ask them what training, if any they would like to attend and why? 
d.      Do they have a positive outlook?  People who blame others for their failures are difficult to train and mentor.

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