Hiring Great Salespeople Isn’t Easy

Right now, in the year 2020, sales managers across the country, (maybe the world), are asking the same tired questions to prospective salespeople.

How is this possible???

Do you know how many times I’ve been asked something along the lines of “sell me this pen?”

The thing is, that doesn’t really prove anything, no matter how good the pitch is.

If you’ve been in the sales arena for a while, you know that question is coming. And you know how to answer it. But that rehearsed response doesn’t prove anything about your actual selling ability.  

As the sales manager looking for somebody, you might wind up with somebody that seemed great in the interview, and just isn’t holding up to that initial first impression. 

Hiring is always a bit of a gamble. But hiring a salesperson may be even harder than hiring for any other role. It’s a skill set that can be difficult to determine in an interview, especially if you’re not asking the right questions. 

The culture of sales hasn’t really changed much in forever, something that I am longing to change. Because of that, interviewing salespeople isn’t evolving much, even though not many companies are looking for the Willy Loman’s or “Always Be Closing” style salesmen anymore. 

The roleplaying aspect of “sell me this pen” is incredibly helpful, but that’s the wrong part of the sales cycle to have them act out. Frankly, it’s a waste of time. Again, it’s too easy to plan for, and that’s not really how good salespeople work. The most success is usually found through a different kind of sales skill set.

That skill set usually lands in the discovery section. And this is where you should roleplay during an interview. You’ll be able to really focus on their soft skills, determine that they know how to ask the kind of questions to find the best clients, and see if they’ll put their needs ahead of the needs of the client in real life.  

Then you should roleplay a sales situation where you turn them down. Don’t prepare them so that you can see how they react. Can they keep up the rapport? Would they be the kind of salesperson to accept a no, or do they keep pushing?  Believe it or not, you don’t want a salesperson who tries to close every client. And this will show you if that’s who you’re dealing with. It can also give you an idea of how they handle conflict in general.

The other important thing to figure out during an interview is how they handle their day-to-day. Do they plan and use processes, or do they just go with the flow? And are they going to be flexible enough to follow the processes within your company?

Ask them:

  • how they plan their day/week/month,
  • how they prioritize their leads, territory, and inherited book of business,
  • how they incorporate a new sales process into their habits.

This might not be as important if you don’t have concrete processes in place. Maybe freewheeling could work for you. But, usually, the most successful salespeople use a process, whether it’s yours or your own. And it’s a good thing to know about a person before you hire them.

More than anything else, just listen! What kind of questions do they ask you? Have they done their homework about your company? If not, they may just be looking for any job they can get. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing for them, you have to consider whether or not you want to hire somebody that might not be in it for the long haul. 

And pay attention to those soft skills. Focusing on how they communicate in an interview can give you a good idea of how they’ll communicate with your team, management, and clients.

If the interview goes well, the next step should be to give them one or more personality assessments. The right assessments can show their communication style, and hopefully their motivators and selling style. Knowing all of these will make managing them smoother and more fulfilling for you both. 

There are no guarantees when it comes to hiring, but if you have the right tools in your toolbelt, finding great salespeople will be a little easier. 

If using assessments during hiring or with the team you already have is something you’re interested in, check out my podcast, Sales Throwdown. We talk a lot about how much DISC personality assessments help in sales. You can also email [email protected] for more information on getting assessments for you and your team.