Effective Sales Interviews

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    If it were possible to clone your best salespeople, every company would be living the dream.  Until that day comes, finding the best salespeople is your next best bet.  Finding the right fit for your company can save your bottom line, because employee turnover is one of the costliest challenges any sales organization faces.  Conducting effective sales interviews can help reduce employee turnover on the front end of the conveyor belt.  Here’s how to find the best fit.

    1. First impressions are an enormous deal.  The interview is a sale.  The first impression you get will likely be the same as the first impression many potential customers receive, so take note of what’s working and what’s not.  If the candidate’s first impression isn’t perfect, is it fixable with minimal effort?  On a related note, this is also an opportunity for your business to make a first impression on the person being interviewed.  To attract the best talent, you’ll want to make sure you’re showing what a great place the company is, so ensure that the interviewing and welcoming area is tidy and professional.  This means interviews should be conducted in the least chaotic place possible (unless chaos is what you’re going for, in which case, knock yourself out).  Trust your instincts about their demeanor, personality, conversational style, etc., because everything you notice is what your clients will notice, too.

    2. Not all sales experience is created equal.  The right kind of sales experience can be a valuable springboard for further success, but the wrong kind can lead to stagnation and early burnout. Competency-based questions help you figure out which skills are easily transferable, e.g., “Give me an example of when you ______,” or “Share a time when you overcame a sales challenge.”  Probing for specific examples to discuss will provide valuable insight as you analyze the candidate’s approach.  Listen to the candidate’s answers and evaluate the nuances.  Does she seem to credit her success to sheer persistence, or does she understand the importance of follow-up?  Does he welcome feedback or does he already think he has everything figured out?  After you receive an initial answer, try digging a little deeper with some more thoughtful questions, such as “Why did you make that choice?” or “What would you do differently now?”

    Valuing first impressions and treating sales experience with a careful eye are two ways to increase effectiveness in sales interviews.  The interview itself is a sale, and if you can avoid hiring pitfalls, you’ll end up with more superstars.  And that will last you til they figure out cloning.

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