The Needle in the Haystack
As investors increasingly focus on profitability versus growth at all costs, the importance of building a strong sales department with the right salespeople has never been more evident. It is more important than ever to find This question seeks to find entry-level salespeople who offer value and add to the profitability of the company.
The most successful salespeople are focused on reaching targets, resilient in the face of negative feedback, and know how to deal with difficulties by being persistent. Every leader wants to find their perfect “purple squirrel” who is aligned with the department’s objectives, but ultimately it can feel like trying to hen’s teeth.
Interviews are where we can separate the wheat from the chaff. An interview with the right questions will help us find the right person and reveal whether they will be a good fit for the role, the company culture, and the objectives at hand.
Here are 34 questions separated into categories that will help you find that needle in the haystack while interviewing salespeople. Feel free to contact us and give us your feedback, comments, or your killer questions for hiring great salespeople.
Want to hire the best sales leaders? Here are the 20 must-ask questions to ask when interviewing sales leaders.
Questions based on communication skills
When have you communicated your ideas/your solution to a problem, which occurred at no fault of your own?
Salespeople needs to be objective when speaking. This question will help us to understand what contribution this person can make to problem-solving.
Describe a difficult one-to-one discussion you have had with Clients/ Colleagues / Employers/ Team Members.
The best approach to resolving situations involves listening rather than talking and arguing appropriately to win the argument. This question emphasises those moments of high stress and how Salespeople come out on top in such situations.
What channels have you used to inform others of your opinions/thoughts?
A written message is not the same as a face-to-face message, nor does it have the same impact, and in most situations, the channel matters. This question seeks to find out which situations and communication channels salespeople uses to communicate and how these conversations are resolved.
Think of situations where you have used your communication skills to help a group reach a consensus. Describe what the situation was and what you did.
The fact that harmony reigns in a department are often more important than achieving the objectives. If you have the role of mediator in discussions, it is best to reach a consensus. This question tries to find out if the person is a team player during difficult situations.
Questions based on leadership, teamwork and group dynamics
Give me one example of a change that you have introduced, which has had a positive effect on the business.
This question seeks to find out to what extent salespeople are not only focused on achieving objectives but also on improving processes.
How do you feel that you work within a group? How have you handled differences of opinion between yourself and the rest of the group/members within the group?
We know that this question is a classic, but no less important. More than ever in today’s sales departments, working as a team and being in unison is more important than being a lone wolf. This question seeks to find out if the person feels comfortable working with other people.
When you joined [Name of the company] what actions did you take to evaluate your team? Describe the most important action that you took to establish yourself as the leader of your current team.
The objective of this question is to understand the candidate’s ability to establish themselves as a leader and manager of a team. The interviewer is looking for a specific example of an action the candidate took to establish themselves as the manager of their current team and the results of that action. This will give the interviewer an understanding of the salespeople’s leadership style, ability to take initiative, and effectiveness as a manager.
Talk me through an example of when you have motivated your team. What actions did you take ad why?
Here we are looking for examples of specific actions the candidate took to motivate their team, the results of those actions, and more importantly, the thinking behind those actions.
What is the most important measure that you have taken in the past 3 months to enable your team to perform?
Specific examples of actions the candidate took to improve team performance and the results of those actions help us see the candidate’s ability to measure and improve team performance.
Questions based on interpersonal skills
Give me an example of a time when you have had to deal with an upset member of staff or customer. Or Give me an example of a sensitive problem you have had to deal with. How did you go about it? What has the result been?
The candidate’s ability to handle difficult situations with staff or clients is always important as it can be a differentiating characteristic in whether or not objectives are achieved. The question is looking for specific examples of sensitive problems salespeople have dealt with, the actions they took to address them, and the results of those actions.
Can you give an example where your customers were extremely satisfied? How did you build on this success?
The objective of this question is to understand the candidate’s ability to create satisfied customers. We are looking for specific examples of actions the candidate took to create satisfied customers and the results of those actions.
How would you deal with a situation where the client has more knowledge than you?
More often than we think, the client has all the information or more than we do on a particular subject and seeks consultation to get another point of view. The interviewer is looking for examples of how the candidate has dealt with this situation and the outcome.
Can you give an example where you have diffused a potentially explosive situation with a customer? What action did you take and what was the result?
Managing complicated and chaotic situations with customers is a skill to be reckoned with as it involves advanced customer communication and management skills. Not to mention problem-solving skills.
Tell me about a time when you joined a new team. What did you do to make sure that you were accepted by the group? Do you think that was the best approach?
As we have said before, it is very important to be a team player in today’s sales teams. The interviewer is looking for specific examples of actions salespeople took to be accepted by the group, the success of their approach, and any lessons learned from the experience.
Questions based on personal organisation & productivity
Tell me how you plan your time over a typical day/week?
Time management and creating a task prioritisation plan are always important. However, never more so than in sales. Knowing how to prioritise always helps us to have clear objectives and in turn, hit targets.
Give me an example of when something has impacted your plan and tell me how you dealt with it. What was the outcome?
Understanding a person’s ability to adapt to changes in plans and how they handle unexpected situations will help us calibrate actions for positive outcomes.
Tell me about a situation where time has been imperative. How do you manage to meet the deadlines?
We often forget that prioritising is more important than following a process that is planned to the millimetre. A salespeople’s abilities to handle pressure and re-prioritise tasks when time is short will test even the best salesperson.
How do you balance your work/home life?
Work-life balance is an ever-increasingly important topic today. We want the best results, but we are not looking for machines, we are looking for people motivated by a project with a healthily balanced life. How do they manage that?
Can you give me an example of an instance when you have missed a deadline? What did you learn from it?
It is necessary to know why the agreed deadlines were not met and what was the limiting factor in this situation. However, more importantly, what did the candidate learn from the situation?
In your last/current position, what achievements are you most proud of and why?
To find out what their achievements have been, it is better to ask them and have them explain them in depth. It’s not the same to read it on the CV as it is to have them explain it to you in person.
Questions based on Customer & Result focus
Describe a situation where you have had to deal with customer dissatisfaction. What did you do to handle this situation and what was the result?
Identifying customer dissatisfaction and taking action to resolve the situation is crucial to improving day-to-day processes, so it is essential to know how to manage such situations.
Have you ever had a situation where you have had to deal with a dissatisfied customer? Tell me about it.
Often, we can ask the same question differently so that we have different arguments for the same problem and can weigh up the salespeople’s customer management skills.
Have you ever identified a customer need that was not being satisfied? What did you do about it?
There are two factors at play here. Firstly, identifying the customer’s needs and knowing what steps are to be taken to satisfy those needs. Secondly, the creativity of their solution. What did they see that no one else did?
Tell me about a time when you challenged a customer’s needs specifically. How did you challenge the need? Why did you think it was worth addressing? What was the response of the customer?
Although the client may tell us their needs, it may be that, to achieve the objectives they have, their needs are different. Asking the right question at the right time provides information that will help us solve problems in a consultative manner.
Questions based on Problem Solving
Give me an example of a difficult problem you have dealt with. What did you do to try to achieve it? Were your actions successful?
Problem-solving and understanding the changing situations we face every day are crucial. Its outcome will be the consequence of how salespeople have handled the situation.
Give me an example of a problem you were unable to solve. Based on this situation, what was the main learning and the final result you wanted to achieve?
This question seeks to understand what the candidate learned from the situation and whether he was able to apply that learning to future situations.
Give me an example of the most frustrating situation you have faced when trying to meet a deadline / complete a task.
Managing frustration correctly is synonymous with success and completing tasks is synonymous with managing frustration correctly. It is necessary to take into account how frustration is managed to perform a correct prioritisation of tasks.
Give me an example of when you have had to seek advice in solving a problem? Whom did you consult? Why was there a need to? Did you do what they suggested?
We do not know everything and many times it is better to be humble and seek advice and guidance in fields even where we can call ourselves professionals. It is also important to know whom we consult when we have any doubts and what the result is.
Describe the last time that you disagreed with the strategy of the company. What did you do about it?
Many times to be innovative you have to be against the status quo but more important is knowing how to say that something has the potential for improvement in the correct way.
Questions based on Quality & Dependability
How do you measure the quality of your work? Give me a specific example of that.
We think that our work is good, but we must always keep in mind that it can always improve, so we must be objective and measure and evaluate performance correctly.
Give me an example of a time when you have been under pressure at work. Did the quality of your work suffer in any way? Did you miss any deadlines? How did you feel about that? What was the overall result?
This question is intended to understand the salespeople’s abilities to meet deadlines and deliver high-quality work under pressure. Managing pressure and getting information about their problem-solving and decision-making abilities will help us to know the candidate’s limits.
Tell me about a time when you have been proud of a piece or work that you have done. What were the nature of your achievement and the result?
Understanding the motivation, sense of pride, and sense of achievement of the candidate will help us understand how the candidate can identify and achieve significant achievements.
Tell me about a time when you have been disappointed with a piece of work that you have done. Why was that? What have you learned?
The objective of this question is to understand the candidate’s ability to identify and evaluate their performance, as well as to gain insight into the candidate’s ability to learn from mistakes. You must look back and learn from your mistakes to keep moving forward.
Give me an example of a time you have improved the efficiency or quality of something at work. How did you tackle priorities? What happened as a result? How did you feel about it? What have you learned?
Efficiency and quality at work, as well as obtaining information about salespeople’s abilities to solve problems and make decisions will help us to understand the motivation behind trying to improve the processes, they carry out daily.