When you’re hiring to fill a skills gap in your sales team, it’s natural to seek out the biggest, boldest and brightest personalities to help you reach target. However, it’s important not to get dazzled by the brilliance of a sales star and neglect to ask them the big questions. With 62% of UK employers reporting to be affected by a bad hire every year, according to a CareerBuilder survey, the pressure is on to secure new talent who not only impress with their sales skills and experience, but also fit in well with your team and company ethos. Here are seven sales interview questions you need to ask in order to make the right hire.

What motivates you as a sales professional?

Whether it’s the thrill of closing deals or the opportunity to earn a bonus, the question of why someone works in sales – and what gets them out of bed in the morning – is imperative to help understand how they will impact your organisation. If you’re a team with more relaxed KPIs and a focus on collaboration, an independent worker who is driven purely by money might not be a good fit. Take the time to ask your current sales people what motivates them most about sales and make sure your new candidate aligns with this. You may be surprised at the results – more than a quarter of staff say that more opportunities would make them more engaged at work, while 20% want career development opportunities, according to Rypple.

What challenges are you facing right now?

This is a broad question that should hopefully help uncover what sales people classify as pressure and how they deal with it. Sales challenges range from difficult customers, a saturated market or territory, new product launches and strong discounting cultures.

The response to this question will not only show what someone defines as a challenge, but also how they approach and overcome these tough situations. Their tone and explanation of the challenge is telling – are they positive and looking to learn from the challenge, or do they seem angry and frustrated by it? Are they measure in their approach to dealing with it or more impulsive?

What sales skills would you like to improve?

This question is a twist on the classic “what are your weaknesses”, aligned specifically with the sales industry.

Team members need sales skills that relate directly to your company’s products, services and style, however there are some skills that have been proven time and again as being vital for the industry. According to a 2013 survey of B2B sales, the ability to listen is one of the key skills buyers look for.

Your candidate’s response to this question will show you how they perceive themselves. Can they identify their areas for improvement as well as their strengths? And are the things they’d like to improve something you can help with as their manager? For example, negotiation and presentation skills can quickly improve with decent practice and training, while account management skills are often just a matter of experience. The key thing is that candidates are aware of their abilities and willing to learn and improve.

Give me an example of how you’ve handled a difficult client in order to get the sale. What did you learn?

No matter how charismatic and friendly a sales person is, they will almost certainly struggle with a difficult or demanding client issue from time to time. This could be anything from closing a challenging sale through to identifying the right decision makers in the organisation.

Sales candidates should provide an example that demonstrates how they’ve put the learnings from this client interaction into practice to improve their skills and navigate future encounters. In addition, they should show how they’ve empathised and built rapport with clients who may have been tricky in the past.

How would you describe your ideal sales manager?

Did you know that employees whose managers have regular meetings with them are nearly three times as likely to be engaged in the workplace compared to those who don’t receive regular meetings? This Gallup research shows that communication between sales managers and their teams is vital, and this all starts when you ask interviewees what they’re looking for.

What your interviewee says about their ideal sales manager will tell you how you can get the best out of them, how they’ll fit into your company structure and whether or not they’ll be difficult to manage. You should aim to find out how much structure they need and what level of autonomy they respond best to.

What does a typical day look like in your current role?

While there will undoubtedly be things in their current role they don’t like, there will likely be elements of their current role that are reflected in your organisation. Ask for a rundown of how they manage their clients, workloads and weeks – this will give you an understanding of their ability to plan, organise and prioritise their time. It will also highlight how much direction they will need from you with regard to prioritising accounts and projects.

Other questions to ask include how candidates record information in their CRM to help guide their activity and how they organise their calendar and to-do lists. You’re looking for someone with the right attitude and self-discipline for your team.

Why should we hire you?

This question will help to reveal if the sales candidate understands what it takes to succeed in the role. Their response should reveal confidence, mentioning the job, culture and people they’ve met during the sales interview process. They should mention the skills, experience and behaviours they possess that make them a good fit for the role, including specific account experience that translates into your company and product knowledge and experience. Ultimately they need to demonstrate their ability to add value to the business.

Ask the experts

Along with asking candidates the right sales interview questions to ensure they’re a good fit for your team, you need to ask your recruiter questions to ensure you’re on the same page with the kinds of sales people you’re looking for. Contact the team at BMS Performance to get the conversation started.