9 Sales Associate Interview Questions to Recruit Stellar Sales Reps

Posted by:
the Attention team
on
November 11, 2021

Interviews are an important part of building a great sales team. To hire the right people, ask tough questions that test for creativity, initiative, willingness to learn, and fit with your company culture. Here are 9 sales associate interview questions to help you build the dream-team.

1. How do you think our sales organization could improve?

A great way to gauge genuine interest in a position is to test both how prepared the candidate is for the call and how invested the candidate is in the specific organisation’s success. Did the candidate do enough research? Does their response show inventive and original thought?  Does the candidate have a go-getter attitude? 

Extra-credit points go to candidates that show a familiarity with the latest sales technology solutions. For example, especially resourceful candidates may recommend using sales software to improve training outcomes. Attention is the AI sales coach that can help your new hires become super-sellers in record time and improve your organisation’s ability to surpass targets.

Of course, uncreative responses that take an “everything is already perfect” approach are not what you’re looking for. Similarly, a “that’s not my problem” mentality shows that the candidate may be indifferent to company wide growth. You are looking for candidates that are invested in the team’s overall success, not just in checking the boxes on their personal to-do list. 

Even if the candidate is evidently unprepared, they should still be able to form a coherent argument and recommend improvements. Having lackluster improvisational skills is a definite red flag for a future sales rep, so avoid candidates who can’t think on their feet!

2. What are your go-to questions when speaking with prospects?

Engaging sales reps know asking questions is as important as the pitch. Responses will vary depending on the sales rep’s particular focus and their respective audience. However a feature common to top sales discovery questions is that they are designed to understand the prospect’s needs. Also look for responses that strike the right balance between exploratory questions that encourage conversation and focused questions that determine fit. If the candidate has no prior experience, look for answers that display an understanding of the nature of the work.

Red flags for this question include responses that are too narrow to lead to vibrant discussions with a prospect, such as yes-or-no style questions that provide little utility for either party. Candidates whose questions are too scattered will likely be unable to successfully qualify prospects during calls, and may have trouble meeting their targets later on.

3. How do you stay motivated after a bad day?

You’re looking for future reps that can maintain a positive outlook in the face of rejection. Check for insights into the candidate’s particular coping mechanisms and tactics to see if they are a right fit for your company culture. Bonus points go to candidates who take a team approach to motivation, and think about helping others who might be struggling even more than they are.

Red flags: Does the candidate’s response indicate that they give up easily when the going gets tough? Is the candidate unrealistic? Do they take an overly rosy approach to answering this question? This may indicate the candidate is unresponsive to the need to make changes, ignores metrics, and has a hard time processing personal shortcomings.

4. What would your last supervisor say is your Achilles' heel? Would you agree?

This is a strength and weakness question in disguise. Does the candidate display self-awareness? Look for answers that show nuance. Of course, candidates should be honest and comfortable sharing their shortcomings. But the best candidates will also demonstrate effective objection handling skills. After all, they are pitching their value to the team, and should be able to persuade you of their ability to succeed despite past setbacks. Passively assuming criticism just won’t translate well into a sales context. Extra points go to responses that showcase a history of asking for help and provide evidence of efforts toward self-improvement.

Red flags: While some push back is welcome, candidates that take a highly defensive approach may be unable to take feedback well and improve their skills after being hired. No one is perfect, and responses should acknowledge areas where growth is still possible. 

Attention helps you identify new sales reps’ weak spots and track their performance over time. It’s the perfect tool to get your new reps where they need to be.  

5. Tell me about a time you changed someone’s mind. What steps did you take to persuade them?

Persuasion and sales go hand in hand. Great answers will outline the candidate’s thought process and convey a knack for problem-solving.

Other things to look for: Is the candidate perceptive? Are they able to tailor arguments in a discussion to particular individuals’ preferences? Is the example provided broadly applicable to sales?

Red flags: Does the candidate take a brute force approach to persuasion? Is the candidate a bad listener? Ask yourself whether the candidate’s approach would alienate potential buyers. Watch out for examples where success was short-lived and the candidate was more set on securing a short-term win at the cost of establishing a long-term relationship.

6. Why sales?

What you’re looking for: Interviewees that can share a well-thought-out narrative linking their interests and experience with the job in question. Reasons for joining sales could include: the candidate wants to acquire transferable skills, enjoys networking, thrives in a competitive environment, enjoys a challenge, values interpersonal communication, and has a strong work ethic.

What you don’t want: A response that claims sales is the way to go because “it’s easy”. A naturally charismatic personality just won’t cut it without a willingness to learn and train. Becoming a good sales rep takes time and effort, and a complacent attitude could jeopardize the team’s progress.

7. What would the perfect sales manager look like for you?

This question allows you to get a feel for whether the candidate’s conception of leadership aligns with the company culture. How independent is the candidate? Are they comfortable learning on their own? Does the candidate welcome feedback, or shy away from constructive critique?

Red flags for this one will include candidates that are looking for constant hand-holding, or candidates that place the burden of their own personal progress on the manager’s abilities. You really don’t want a team member who can’t assume responsibility and lacks the resolve to improve.

8. In your opinion, which is a bigger problem: consistently missing your monthly targets, or having dissatisfied customers?

Look for an answer rationale that lines up with your organisation’s specific priorities and takes a goal-oriented explanation. Does the candidate have the ability to weigh the pros and cons of each side? Are their communication and analytical skills strong enough to advocate for a given option persuasively? Top candidates will be at ease giving relative value assessments and will be able to argue for a particular side even in light of conflicting benefits.

Candidates that see the world in black and white terms will struggle to connect with prospects and assimilate conflicting information. Shallow answers are therefore red flags here, because they may hint at a discomfort with making judgement calls. Remember, regardless of which option they choose, candidates should be able to persuade you why one is a bigger problem than the other.

9. What’s your proudest accomplishment? 

This question is great because it allows a candidate to showcase what they value, and gives them a chance to show off! Responses should preferably be about recent and relevant professional achievements that show impact and are quantifiable.

Candidates should also be able to articulate what distinguishes this achievement from other noteworthy accomplishments. Strong answers will include a challenge the candidate faced and explain how the candidate exhibited growth in light of the difficulty. If the example given is not directly sales-related, the candidate should be able to tie the accomplishment back to a sales context.

Steer clear of candidates who are unable to relay the significance of their selected event to a third-party. Moreover, candidates who list outdated achievements from childhood or adolescence are a no-go. After all, you’re looking for candidates with enough maturity to contribute their relevant professional experiences to the team.

The Bottom Line

Filtering through a sea of applicants can be overwhelming. Use this guide to help find candidates that are effective communicators, understand the industry, and will continue improving and growing long after being hired.

Attention will shorten the time it takes to transform raw talent into a team of top sellers and help you reach full productivity faster. Learn more about Attention today.

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