It all started, thousands of years ago, when someone asked someone else to sell the piece of slate or papyrus in front of them. Now it's more likely to be a pen, a water bottle or maybe even the videoconferencing tool you're meeting on. While sales techniques have evolved and certainly what we're selling has, sales representative interviews have remained pretty much the same. After all, unless we work for Michael Scott, we likely aren't selling office supplies.
It's ridiculous to not try to improve sales interview processes. Especially when you are expanding to a new country, where a sales representative is likely your first hire. Or when you are looking for someone more senior. Who has proper experience in a niche.
A sales representative interview should help you get to know your potential teammate, understand their ways of working, and give you a sense of how they are able to build relationships that convert into deals. And for our interviews, it's also to get an understanding of their technical sales background.
You have to know who you want and cater the interview to that.
For us, we don't want sales reps who have just worked at big companies. We want senior sales reps that have at least ten years' experience on the ground, with existing tech buyer networks where they are able to go to market with a lesser-known — at least locally — tech solution. And we aren't looking to poach sales reps from other teams. When Rick handpicks the best sales representatives in each market and vertical, these people have already decided that they want to become an independent. And of course they speak the local language, are embedded in the local culture and know the local tech and economic environments.
So, each sales representative interview process is different. But that doesn't mean we can't learn from them. We surveyed our network of tech companies and strategic partners to learn about what they ask prospective sales reps in a job interview. Today we share their tips.
It's no longer about their ability to sell a random object, but there are new ways of testing a potential sales rep on the spot.
"How would you adjust your strategy for selling to different buyer personas?"
Allison Buenemann, industry principal, Seeq Corporation
"I try to create a sales situation and try to see how they behave. What is their priority: Listening to the client or get their message across?"
Jose L. Sastre, managing partner, Meetel
"I ask how they would approach a sales campaign to demonstrate a basic or advanced understanding of the sales process they use and what works for them to make them successful."
Nick Howard, CEO, Klaatu IT Security Ltd.
"Have you ever done cold sales or door-to-door sales? How long did you last? Bad sellers don't last long in such jobs. Also role-playing scenarios and the way they sell themselves in the interview gives me a lot of insight."
Lorena Smit, CEO, Golden Goose Events
"How do you define 'sales'?"
Haluk Çavuşoğlu, CEO, Cloudflex
Want to get to know your next sales colleague? Get them to talk about themselves and their own experiences.
"What was the sale you are most proud of? What was the most disappointing loss?"
Robb Miller, VP of sales, Algonomy (formerly Richrelevance)
"To understand sales competencies, I want to understand how fast of a learner and implementor they are. So tailoring a question based off their previous experience around learning and execution would be key for me."
Julian Marcuzzi, VP of revenue, Predictable Revenue
"What do you think your customers think of you?"
Giacinto Spinillo, freelance senior sales executive, and Jussi Mäntynen, general manager, Unikie Inc, both shared this certainly eye-opening question
"What are the most important lessons you have learned in the past, that will make you successful in the new role?"
Guido Jongen, sales director Benelux, Nuance Communications
"Can you describe your sales experience and highlight one event and skills you used to close a deal?"
Magnus Anseklev, global sales director
"What are your most important soft skills and describe real examples of how you used it?"
Christian Blondeau, business development director, Teach'r
"What do you like best about your job?"
Leonardo Maimone, sales and marketing account director, Sales Force Europe, Italy
"Would usually ask them to recap a story about a challenging sales opportunity: What was the situation? What were the blockers? How did they overcome this? I'd be looking to see how they used their skills, acumen, how they leveraged their organization and resources to find success."
Nick Adams, VP EMEA, Globalization Partners
Of course you want a good problem solver. While you want to keep much of the conversation positive, some interview questions are just meant to check how they got creative when things get tough.
"How do you assess the market potential? What is an example of a complicated problem you solved?"
Adrienne Alterman, sales and business development manager, Eero by Amazon
"What has been your toughest negotiation in your sales career?"
Eoin Cruise, VP of channels and product development, Xunison
"Talk me through a sale you have recently lost. If they pick one they were losing but turned around, I like that."
Gavin Page, CRO, Sales Force Europe
"How do you currently develop and maintain your sales pipeline?"
Alistair Maclennan, sales director, Digital24-7Ltd
"Tell me about a good creative deal you've closed, and how you overcame obstacles."
Rick Pizzoli, CEO and founder, Sales Force Europe
Generic will get you nowhere. Don't forget to make your sales rep interviews relatable to your own business. Especially in technology, you need to know they have understand the domain, the target markets and the target verticals.
"We lost a customer. How would you reverse that?"
Axel Kloth, CEO, Abacus Semiconductor Corporation
"Ask him or her to describe our company."
Frieder Hofmann, key account manager, Automobilclub von Deutschland
"Given the product we have as a business, which prospects would you target during your first week and why?"
Ludvig Andén, VP sales and partners, Universal Avenue
"What value does our product deliver?"
Hauke Holtkamp, CEO, ECOMPLY.io
It's not about them, really. It's about the customer. See if they can center their sales process on their targets.
"How do you approach the engagement with a new lead? I expect their response to be about listening to the business problem that the lead has in order to identify what value we can provide."
Miguel Rosado Boulet, professional services sales account executive, Adobe Digital Experience Cloud
"What are the demands of clients and what would they like to achieve?"
Marek Grzegorzewski, business development manager, Sales Force Europe
"How do you create value for your customer?"
Karl Magnusson, senior business development and sales executive
"Who do you normally contact in customer organizations? How high in the organization do you feel will be the best place to pitch effectively?"
Dan Jee Soh Ye, telecommunications business development executive, AWTG
"The question I ask those who have to sell is: To sell, do you need to be able to convince the customer or do you have to contact many customers to find the customer who can use what you are selling? If he chooses the first option, that's not good."
Sergio Di Nunzio, sales manager, Yesssit
"What is more important: To sell a product or to understand the customer to sell the right product? All answers are OK, it depends if it is necessary to sell a product or a solution."
Johannes Durstberger, sales representative, Austria
"How do you lead people to agree with you? How do you solve a direct conflict of someone who believes the opposite of you?"
Sofia Fernandes, head of business development, BGI
"Tell me about the business challenges the target customers are facing and how would the solution/product/service address them better than others in the market."
Paul Solski, international business development specialist
Do you have more key questions to find great sales representatives? Find us on LinkedIn or Twitter and tell us!