THE INTERVIEW AS A WINDOW INTO SALES COMPETENCY

As a veteran sales leader, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a large number of candidates for a full array of sales roles. As a sales consultant, my client’s frequently ask about best practices surrounding: 1) what characteristics to look for in a sales person 2) how to evaluate candidates during the interview process and 3) how best to ramp new sales people into a productive state as rapidly as possible.
 
The first article in this series, Finding the Right Sales People (http://compendiumadvisors.com/2016/04/finding-qualified-sales-people/) was focused on ensuring that the competencies and characteristics desired in candidates are understood as a foundation for the interviewing, assessment and selection process. This second article looks at how the interview process gives companies a unique window into the sales competencies of potential candidates. This is especially powerful for companies that may not have deep expertise in sales or that are unsure how to effectively evaluate candidates during the interview process.
 

interview 2Hiring the right sales candidate is an ongoing challenge for most companies. The interview process is similar to the dating process in that each party is showing their best qualities to the other party. The risk is that you get a lot of window dressing during the interview process and are then forced to make a leap of faith that the relationship will work out. How do you know that the sales skills and competencies that your company needs can be met by the candidate?
 
The good news is that when you are interviewing individuals for sales roles the interview process is a sales process that gives you a window to observe demonstrated sales competency. This means that you have the unique opportunity to actually observe and assess the competencies of the sales person live and in action before you hire them.
 
A candidate should be able to demonstrate the sales approach and skills throughout the interview that they would use in the field with prospects and customers. Here are a few examples of things to look for during the interview:
 
Prospecting
• Why did they select your company and how do they believe they fit?
• Were they prepared for the meeting (a.k.a. pre-call planning)?
• Did they research each of the interviewers to assess common ground? (i.e. common associates, groups, companies, interests, etc.)
• Did they have clear “take-aways”/outcomes for the meeting?
 
Qualification & Discovery
• Were they effective at discovering your needs and expectations for the role?
• Did they effectively uncover your decision criteria, decision process and timeframe?
• Were they effective in understanding your “Compelling Event” that is driving you to fill this role?
 
Solution Development & Proposal
• Were they skilled at mapping their experience, knowledge, competencies and value directly to your expectations of the role?
• Did they effectively use storytelling to illustrate and reinforce important points?
• Were they able to differentiate themselves from other candidates?
 
Closing
• Did they confirm alignment with your needs (test-close) along the way?
• Did they ask for the close?
• Did they confirm next steps?
 
Demonstrating Other Important Skills
• Did they listen well and respond appropriately?
• Was the conversation fluid and well focused?
• How well did they guide the conversation? (a.k.a. leading the sales process?)
• Were they professional in their approach and presentation?
 
When interviewing potential sales people don’t forget that this is one of the few hires during which you actually get to see the product in action before you buy. If the candidate demonstrates strong sales fundamentals during the interview process then you’re on the right track. If they fail to demonstrate these types of skills – move on.

 
 
Coming Next: PART III – Ramping New Sales People Fast

 
 
 
For more information, please contact Compendium Advisors at Dave@CompendiumAdvisors.com or 925-984-5381
“Accelerating sales by aligning execution with strategy”

May 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

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