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VOL. 129 | NO. 162 | Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lori Turner

Lori Turner-Wilson

Six Revealing Sales Interview Questions

By Lori Turner-Wilson

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The new hire failure rate is astonishing and expensive, and it’s even worse for sales candidates who can be among the toughest to properly vet. Leadership IQ reports that of 20,000 new hires tracked in a recent study, 46 percent failed within 18 months.

The failure is largely due to an ineffective interview process with a direct correlation between the quality of questions and insightfulness of the responses, according to Barrett Riddleberger, CEO of xPotential Selling, who suggests trying these revealing questions with your next sales candidate.

What is a qualified buyer to you? Candidates that can’t successfully answer this question are likely wasting time chasing low-potential prospects. Good responses include: profile of ideal targeted buyer, decision maker, budget alignment, and needs we can meet.

What are the three best questions for a first prospect meeting? You’re seeking well-thought-out business and issues-focused questions that are likely to uncover need. If your candidate is shooting from the hip in their response, their sales process is likely equally laissez-faire.

What are two ideas you learned from the last book you read on selling? This question goes to a candidate’s attitude about ongoing development and ultimately his “coachability.”

How do you acquire leads to fill your pipeline? If you’re seeking a hunter who can identify his own leads, then you’re looking for a proactive method that’s sufficient to keep the pipeline full. If the candidate’s response is that they ask for referrals from existing customers, your follow-up questions might include: How many referral conversations do you have a month? How many new sales do you target a month? How many new prospects must you put into your funnel each month to reach that target? Assess whether the candidate’s sales funnel assumptions seem realistic.

What words do you use on a cold call when talking with a gatekeeper? If it’s a hunter you’re seeking, this response should be well rehearsed, as it should be delivered many times every day, to the point that it doesn’t sound scripted.

How do you define a successful first meeting? You’re looking for candidates that want to become a trusted advisor and gather enough information to determine next steps, even if that means walking away. Of course, this looks different if you’re in an unusual “one-call close” selling environment.

In the end, recruiting sales talent is more art than science. You will make bad hires. Accept it as a cost of business and correct those hiring misfires quickly so they don’t infect your workplace culture.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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