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5 Secrets to a Successful Sales Hiring Interview

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5 Secrets to a Successful Sales Hiring Interview

Written by: Alan Fendrich

Most companies interview salespeople to find out if they are persuasive. And they come away from the interview saying, “They really handled themselves well in the interview.” In other words, the candidate was persuasive in the interview. The interviewer felt persuaded. So they come away from this interview saying, “Wow, this applicant was really persuasive.”

But it turns out the candidate was ONLY persuasive in the interview. Once they got hired, they never persuaded anybody! And a fair number of them never even went out and made sales calls.

At Advanced Hiring System, we’ve been hiring salespeople for a long, long time. It’s WAY more effective to use a psychological instrument, a personality test, to screen your applicants, than to try to screen them by interview.

Before you ever even schedule an interview, you’ve GOT to know for sure you are talking to someone who is motivated the right way.

You’ve GOT to know, do they really enjoy the process of persuading prospects to buy something? You MUST find this out BEFORE you ever bring them in for an interview. You want salespeople who are motivated by money and power. MOST of your applicants will NOT be in that group.

And if you don’t filter them BEFORE the interview to determine whether their values and personality styles are suitable for sales, then you are creating ONE BIG MESS for yourself. If your goal is to discover their personality and values in the actual interview, then you will NOT accomplish what a sales hiring interview MUST accomplish.

So Secret #1 is, NEVER interview an applicant who has not already passed values and styles personality testing.

Your purpose in the interview is NOT to determine if they can persuade you. You need to find out if they have emotional maturity and stick-to-itiveness. Will they follow through? You’ve got to KNOW that, because most people you hire will NOT follow through.

And how are they going to handle rejection? Selling is a great career with a ton of disappointment. The vast majority of people who try selling just get beat up by the rejection. If you’ve done ANY selling, you know that the vast majority of a salesperson’s time is dealing with rejection:

  • You think they’re going to buy today, but they don’t buy today.
  • You think you’ve got an appointment today, but they cancelled the appointment.
  • You think you’ve agreed on a price. But when you come down to the final details, they won’t buy at the price you need to sell it for in order to make the deal.

A salesperson’s life is disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. It takes a special, special person to handle that.

What keeps the salesperson on track is to continue to work the prospect and work the prospect, and work the prospect. A successful salesperson MUST have the ability to stick in there and to keep moving forward. THAT is your number one goal in the interview.

So Secret #2 is: your goal in the interview is to find out if they can take a licking and keep on ticking, as the old Timex commercial said.

In our experience, what works best is a MINIMUM of three separate interviews of each candidate who passed the styles and values profiling. You start the 3 interviews knowing that the first two are generally just a bunch of BS. Really, it’s only by the THIRD interview that they see YOU as someone they can trust. They can talk to you openly then.

And THAT is Secret #3. You will not start getting actual high-quality, TRUTHFUL information until that THIRD interview. Yes, I wish it was not that way. But in real life, it IS that way, so you MUST do at least 3 interviews.

Also – interviewing best practices require that you DO NOT SELL in the interview. Just stay objective. Sit back. Pretend you’re not involved emotionally in the process. Just objectively analyze the quality of the answers.

Secret #4: Scripting is ESSENTIAL for an interview. Ask the SAME questions in the SAME order for every applicant. That’s the only way to accurately compare one applicant against another. You need a grading system to establish the quality of the answers, so you can objectively calculate who your best applicant is.

Related: 3 Keys to Increasing Conversion Rates

The sad fact is, MOST sales managers get tricked into hiring the applicant who created the most rapport. Or the one with the prettiest smile. Or the guy in the Brooks Brothers suit. You’ve got to SCRIPT your interview, GRADE the answers, and compare accurately.

And Secret #5: At the end of Interview Number THREE, you should stress them out. Indicate to them that you are NOT going to hire them. See how they come back and sell themselves to you. Do they demonstrate the ability to keep going, despite rejection? If they don’t handle that rejection well, or if they just give up … then that is EXACTLY what they’ll do when they’re out there selling for you. You’ve got to eliminate those guys.

If you’d like more detail on these and other points in the hiring best practice model, then Join Us this Thursday, at 1:30 EDT, for a live webinar with me, Mike Brooks, and my special guest, Alan Fendrich. You’ll learn a tone of useful information and be on the road to hiring better reps that same afternoon!

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