One of the primary drivers of a sales manager’s results is the quality of the team they field. Hiring is difficult, but it’s even more difficult to hire salespeople. These ten questions will help you decide whether or not to hire the candidate sitting in front of you.

1. How do you open new relationships with prospective clients? What's the best way to get the first meeting? 

Your new salesperson is only going to succeed if they prospect. There is no reason to avoid the conversation about how difficult it is to gain the commitment of your prospect's time. You're looking for an answer that indicates that the salesperson will do the work necessary to schedule appointments. 

2. Describe for me what a typical week in sales looks like. What do you do between eight and five each day, Monday through Friday?

What you hope to hear is an answer that includes blocking time for prospecting, time for nurturing relationships, and face-to-face time with clients. You might also ask them to walk you through the last two days they worked in sales, recounting hour by hour what they did with their time. You are looking for good "me management" skills. 

3. What was the biggest sales opportunity you won and how did you win it?

This question will give you some insight into what this salesperson believes a big opportunity looks like (is it really big?) and what they believe contributed to their winning it (how they behaved). Don't be surprised to hear answers that include deals that are smaller than your average deal size and factors that had nothing to do with the salesperson's sales abilities. 

4. Tell me about an opportunity you believed you were going to win but lost. What caused you to lose that opportunity? 

 The best salespeople take responsibility for their losses. If they lost on price, they'll say they didn't do a good enough job helping the client perceive the value they created. If a salesperson believes every loss was beyond their control, then they aren't likely to take the necessary actions to improve their results. 

5. Think about the last deal you won. What was the process you took that prospect through, from target to close?

 You want to understand how they think about the sales process. What steps they took. What commitments they needed. Many will not be trained in a formal process, but may still understand the common stages. This will help you determine what they know and how much training they may need.  

6. What do your prospective customers need from a sales person? How do you create the most value for them?

Tough question. Your “hoped for” answer is "someone who can help them getter better results." That's the game we play now. 

7. Let me give you a hypothetical. I'm your buyer and we've agreed on the solution I need. You come back with a price and I say something that sounds like this, "I really like your solution the best. But your competitor has come in at a price that's almost 20% lower. I need you to sharpen your pencil." How do you respond?

Hope against hope that you don't hear, "ask my sales manager how much I can discount." You are looking for an answer that includes the salesperson pushing back, justifying their price, and reminding their client about the real value they create--and how underinvesting will cost them those results. (Read more about setting your sales prices in this Salesforce ebook.)

8. Tell me about three clients that you personally won. What will they say about the experience of buying from you when I call to check your references?

You expect them to have clients, right? You expect that the names they provide you will say nice things. You want to understand what the salesperson believes they did to win and to serve their client. Then you want to see how that differs from their client's perception.  

9. What is the most difficult part of selling today? 

 This is what you are going to be faced with once you hire this salesperson. If you aren't prepared to help them change their beliefs about this challenge, you are going to be disappointed in your new hire. But you really should be disappointed in your hiring process. You need to know what their biggest challenge is and decide whether or not you can live with it. 

10. Your prospective clients are going to know why they should buy from you. Why should I hire you for my sales team instead of some other, equally qualified candidate? 

This is what the salesperson will be faced with every day. Why should I buy from you? A great answer will focus on the results that they can produce for you and your clients and differentiate the interviewee from other candidates. A poor answer will be the salesperson's attempt to describe why they are better than all of your other interviewees.  

Note: If you are a salesperson, practicing the answers to these questions—even if they are never asked—will help you prepare for your interview. 

Anthony IannarinoAnthony Iannarino is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur. He has been named one of the top 25 most influential people in sales by both OpenView Partners and Top Sales World. Anthony writes for the magazines SUCCESS and ThinkSales, as well as daily at The Sales Blog.





Learn more about hiring the right salespeople in this free Salesforce ebook.