Five techniques for interviewing a champion salesperson

According to latest research 55% of the sales workforce lack the qualities required to succeed. (Source: Caliper Corp)

So, as a business owner or manager, how do you find your sales champion?

According to Shweta Jhajharia, founder of The London Coaching Group, you first need to understand the three essential qualities of a successful sales person, and then you need to ask the right questions when interviewing candidates.

Let’s start with the three essential qualities:

Your salesperson should have a big ego/self-esteem
They should have empathy
They should be able to tell a story

Now let’s look at the interview process:

 First Step: Find out how they’re built.

Start by figuring out where they’ve come from and how they’ve gotten here so you can get an idea of who they are as a person.

Describe instances in your upbringing that have forged you into the person you are today.

In your life right now, either personal or career-wise, what are you having the most difficulty with?

What have you learned from your parents or guardians?

These questions give your candidate the opportunity to tell a story – helping you figure out if they’re a good storyteller. If they’re smart and a good salesperson, they’ll ensure the stories are centred on their strengths – showing their confidence and ego. The lessons they have learned will give insight into their empathy.

 Second Step: Get their accomplishments.

Not only should they be natural high-achievers, they should also have the pride and self-confidence to be able to immediately name their achievements.

Was there a time in your life when, despite everything seemingly against you, you still succeeded and achieved great results?

Are there any other areas in your life where you have made significant achievements? Any sports or hobbies?

What are the top four things you’re proud of?

The answers to these questions will show achievement levels as well as their level of confidence around those achievements.

 Third Step: Figure out how they measure up.

Have they learned skills that they can use in other situations?

Who is the best salesperson you’ve ever met? What differentiates you from them?

Can you tell me a few authors or educators that you have read or that you follow? Who would you consider as one of your mentors?

The first question helps you assess not only their skills, but also their ego. The best answer you can get from that question: “Me.” If they answer anyone else, the second half will give insight into where they feel their “room to grow” is.

The next question, about their personal education, will not only reveal their accomplishments, but also their dedication to their own education.

 Third Step: Test their empathy.

This is arguably one of the more difficult qualities to get out of a candidate. However, there ways to draw this information out:

What are your best memories?

If I brought your best friend into this interview, what would they say about you?

Who in your life is your biggest fan? Why?

These questions give the candidate the opportunity to display their strengths and good qualities. If they aren’t taking advantage of every opportunity, they aren’t selling themselves. If they can’t sell themselves, how are they going to sell for you?

 Fourth Step: Review their CV and see if they have good judgement.

Here are a few short questions you can ask, using the CV as a reference point:

Your three last positions were <read them out here>. What made you leave each of these jobs?

In any of these, were you unhappy? What was the issue?

In any of your jobs listed here, did you ever disagree with your boss? What happened?

Describe two flaws you found in your previous bosses.

Describe two flaws that some of your bosses have pointed out about you.

You want to figure out how they behave at work, and what their reasoning is. In the end, you want to draw something controversial out of them – to see how they face situations that are typically difficult in the boss-staff relationship.

 Fifth Step: The ultimate ego test.

This is the final step, and the one that will seriously separate out the best of the best: tell them that they’re not a champion.

As Chet Holmes puts it: “You seem like a nice person, but I only have one opening. I need a real superstar. While I’m sure you would do well in many endeavours, this is a very competitive industry and I doubt your particular skills and personality will hold up in this position. To be truthful, I don’t get the impression that you’re really a superstar.”

Don’t be gentle here. Be polite but firm. However, don’t be aggressive and definitely don’t act judgemental.

Many salespeople just cave and accept this; they pack up and leave! But champions stick around and challenge you.

The best response you can get from them: “Why is it that you think that?” This is the ultimate question they can throw back at you because they are proving their salesmanship: when faced with a hesitation, ask a question, find out the problem and then solve the problem.

By following these interview steps you sort the wheat from the chaff and find your true sales champion.