Customer Experience News & Trends

5 signs you shouldn’t hire a sales candidate

A lot is written about what managers should look for when interviewing sales candidates. Most covers the positive signs indicating you might be interviewing a sales superstar. But there are negative indicators that will save you from hiring a walking disaster.

Five questions that reveal potential problems in sales candidates:

What do you know about our company?

We all know that prospects expect salespeople to have a good knowledge of their companies before making that first sales call. Having the ability to do the research and come up with appropriate questions is an indication of a salesperson’s value.

So it’s critical for a salesperson to demonstrate the ability to research a prospective employer. If a candidate fails to give a good background on your company, its products, services or markets, be careful.

Attending a job interview without making a detailed analysis of the company doesn’t reflect favorably on the candidate. This type of candidate can’t be expected to perform the detailed analysis necessary to sell in today’s competitive market.

Tell me about a deal you spent a lot of time on but eventually lost?

Rejection is a fact of life in sales. It comes with the job and is normal. Top salespeople learn to deal with rejection. They try to understand the cause and take corrective steps to prevent it.

There are two negative reactions to rejection:

  1. The salesperson simply stops trying. They become oversensitive, cautious and retreat.
  2. They become aggressive with prospects, attempting to overcome the rejection with heavy-handed tactics.

Listen carefully to how the prospect answers this question. Hiring a salesperson who can’t handle rejection properly is usually a recipe for disaster.

What’s your most effective prospecting tool?

You want to hire salespeople who have the ability to find qualified prospects and turn them into long-term customers. Successful salespeople make prospecting an essential part of their daily plan. Be weary of candidates who seem vague or disinterested in prospecting.

Top candidates will be able to explain how they determine who fits the profile of what they’re trying to sell and build a prospect database. They get information with web searches, annual reports, people who work at the prospect’s company and networking.

Weak candidates will describe prospecting as an impulsive quick fix. They spend their time chasing would-be prospects who have no need or interest in what they’re selling.

What was your quota at your last job, and how did you reach it?

Top producers will be able to answer this question quickly and confidently, while average performers will make excuses for why they ranked low on their team or didn’t reach quota.

Be careful when candidates answer this question with excuses about the economy, unrealistic sales quotas or aggressive price cutters. One of the major differences between high and low producers is goal-setting.

Successful salespeople set both short- and long-terms goals, and monitor themselves continually to make sure they’re met.

Less successful salespeople fail to set goals, which leads to time management problems and poor results. They devote most of their time to making sales calls and very little on sales planning. Their goals are self-focused rather than customer-focused.

Tell me about a time you tried to regain a lost customer?

Successful salespeople understand the ebb and flow of business and relationships. They don’t give up without a fight and make every effort to regain the lost business. They find out what their competitor did to get the business and never assume that it was price cutting, even if that’s what they’re told. They don’t let it negatively affect their attitude, and stay in touch with the former customer so they can pick up the pieces if problems develop with the new supplier.

Be wary of candidates who go into various emotional reactions when describing a lost customer, i.e., blaming someone, getting angry or pointing fingers at others inside the company.

Give extra marks to candidates who try to get feedback from defectors so they can take corrective action. They understand that lost customers represent a huge area of opportunity for salespeople, both as a potential source of new business and information about the quality of their products and services.

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