The interview for any position is only as useful as the questions you choose to ask.
Job candidates bring a slew of interviewing worries to the table – but leaders should also think deeply about the interview process. The more you align your questions with proven predictors of success, the better interviews will be at helping you select candidates.
Nowhere is this more important than with sales managers.
Compared to many professionals, sales managers are in an unusual position.
When most folks move up to the managerial ranks, the learning curve is relatively forgiving, since they use most of the same skills they’ve already honed. They also get a tidy salary bump on the way, which provides a shot of motivation.
Sales managers are in a completely different world – and the sales manager interview questions that sales VPs ask them have to reflect that unique reality.
Think about it:
- Sales managers need to develop and deploy a completely new skill set to be good leaders.
- Sales managers typically make less than reports, especially if commission is considered.
- Sales managers have to work harder to stay savvy on what’s going on “out in the field.”
Wow! With that in mind, what makes for a good sales rep won’t necessarily make a good manager. Sales manager interview questions need to reach in and discover a candidate’s uncharted depths.
Let’s review seven awesome sales manager interview questions for doing just that.
1. “What Do You Think Motivates Teams the Best?”
This is one of those sales manager interview questions that really sets the pace. It will help you to understand whether the candidate has been thinking deeply about what moves others forward and what holds them back. A leader needs to recognize the levers of motivation in others.
Subsequent questions will give you a better sense of what motivates the individual candidate. He or she needs to respect that not everyone comes at sales from the same angle: Answers like “money” or “the thrill of the hunt” aren’t universal, so look for a nuanced response.
2. “Tell Me About a Time You Lacked the Skills of Knowledge to Reach a Goal."
Open-ended questions are awesome – just as much so for interviews as for discovery sessions.
The structure of this question doesn’t assume anything about the problem, the action a candidate took, or what the ultimate outcome was. It’s up to them to tell the story, which requires some quick thinking. You should see clarity of thought and some creativity on display here.
A good response will cover three key aspects of what happened:
- What the situation was.
- Why the goal was unattainable.
- What lessons the candidate learned.
A can-do attitude is essential, but everyone hits some roadblocks along the way. A good answer here speaks to the candidate’s ability to reflect deeply and take lessons learned on board.
3. “How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style?"
Even reps with no managerial experience should have a sense of their strengths and weaknesses as leaders. Everyone leads in one way or another, especially on a sales team where junior members can always benefit from mentoring.
A manager may be hands-off or might love poring over every detail to optimize the sales process. Any approach can be successful if it’s applied consistently and with best practices in mind – but sales VPs should be alert to whether this answer matches the company culture.
4. “Which Team Members Have You Enjoyed Working With in the Past?"
It’s as simple as this: A sales manager absolutely has to be a team player.
Candidates may not know all their co-workers inside and out, but they should be able to point to one (preferably two) who they have a rapport with. If they can’t, they may not have devoted enough time to relationship building, and that makes it harder to get the whole team pulling in the same direction.
While not disqualifying, it’s a challenge VPs should see coming.
5. “What Do You Think Makes for a Successful Rep Coaching Session?"
The best sales reps take advantage of all the opportunities they have to sharpen their skills.
One of the most valuable of these is coaching and mentoring they’ve gotten from senior sales professionals. Truly self-aware candidates should recognize what has inspired them to greater heights and how they acted on the opportunities senior personnel presented to them.
Coaching style naturally develops over time. No manager will go into a new post with a menu of skills that work perfectly for every team member. It’s vital, however, that they have some idea of what will form the cornerstone of their coaching: An outlook they aspire to and believe in.
6. “How Will You Earn the Respect of Your Sales Team?"
Building trust with sales reps isn’t done overnight – managers have to be in it for the long haul.
Many sales experts love to do things their own way. They find something that works for them and stick with it. To spark positive change, a leader has to show that he or she knows sales, knows the company, and knows how to act in the team’s best interest.
Some ideas include:
- Work hard – leaders shouldn’t ask anyone to do what they wouldn’t do themselves.
- Advocate for the sales team in terms of targets, external resources, and compensation.
- Drive automation so reps can spend more time on higher-order strategic tasks.
- Provide specific, actionable feedback that helps sales pros achieve their best.
7. “What Tools or Resources Are Currently Missing That You Feel Would Raise Performance?"
This starts to give you a sense for what your candidates will advocate for, as well as their insight into current sales trends and standards. Where do they feel tomorrow’s opportunities lie?
Sales managers are a strategic force multiplier for their entire team, so they should always be thinking about what can makes reps happier, more efficient, and more productive.
What are your favorite sales manager interview questions? Give us a shout below!