The interview for any position is only as useful as the questions you choose to ask.
Job candidates can bring a load of stress and anxiety to the interviewing process, but leaders should be able to think deeply about what they're looking for in a match.
The more you align your questions with proven predictors of success, the better interviews will be at helping you select candidates.
What Makes a Good Sales Rep?
Every candidate would like to believe that they're the greatest salesperson in the world. While we all marvel at Jordan Belfort's skills, trying to (misguidedly) emulate that energy can lead to a slew of problems.
Instead, when you're looking to bring on a new sales rep, you'll want to find a candidate that's:
- Open-minded and willing to learn
- Knows how to build relationships
This may sound like a pretty cliche list, but a good sales rep does have to be the person that can get along with everyone.
In order to engage with leads and convert them into prospects, and then into customers, they'll need to have a firm understanding of your company's goals, sales process, and industry.
All of that comes from adaptability, ambition, and persistence.
What Makes a Good Sales Manager?
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 boat – 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, while typically making less than their reports. They have to work harder to stay savvy on what’s going on out in the field, while remaining in touch with what's happening at home base.
Finding a solid sales manager can be critical to the success of your sales team, so you'll want to find someone who has all the best qualities, like:
- The ability to coach and teach
Sales managers have to lead by example and need to be comfortable bearing that responsibility. If they're willing to be available to their reports or hold any sort of accountability, they're definitely not a good fit for any team.
6 Qualifying Sales Manager Interview Questions to Ask
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 some 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 or 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. 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.
5. 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.
6. What Tools or Resources Are Currently Missing That You Feel Would Raise Performance?
This starts to give you a sense of 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.
6 Qualifying Sales Rep Interview Questions to Ask
With sales reps, you don't necessarily have to focus on their qualifications as a leader so much as a face to the name of your company.
They're going to be the ones interacting with clients on a direct level, so you'll want to make sure they're capable of putting the best foot forward for your brand.
Here are some interview questions that will help you qualify any candidate that comes to the table:
1. How Do You Learn About New Trends in Your Target Market?
Regardless of the industry they're coming from, a solid candidate will know how to keep themselves relevant and up to date in any target market. This question will cue you into their ability to find relevant blogs and channels.
Don't be afraid to dig a little deeper and ask them to give you an example of where they do their research or a recent bit of information they've learned.
2. What's Something You Taught Yourself Recently?
It's important for any business to invest in their staff's education and skillset. But it's equally important for team members to be able to take on the initiative to teach themselves where they can.
This demonstrates self-awareness and a desire to learn and grow. Do they aim for quick wins or are they actively trying to develop themselves, both personally and professionally?
3. How Would a Former Client Describe You in Three Words?
Again, the sales representative that you hire is going to be representing your company. Do the comments of past customers align with your brand? Does the candidate match your company culture?
You'll also learn if the candidate understands client relationships on a deeper level by their answer. If they give you very surface level responses, like "friendly" or "helpful," then they may not have a ton of experience truly engaging with clients.
Look for deeper responses that can signify a true commitment to providing value to customers, not just finishing a sale.
4. Describe Your Ideal Sales Manager.
This question works on two different levels.
First, you'll get a quick look at what kind of report the candidate is going to make. Whether they prefer a hands-on manager or to be left to their own devices, you'll learn how they work on a team and under management.
Secondly, you'll be able to assess their fit on a cultural level. If your company is fast-paced and relies on team members being able to adapt on their own, then maybe someone who answers that they like an involved manager isn't the best fit for your business.
5. Can You Describe a Time When You Had to Implement a New Process or System? How Did Your Team Respond?
You'll learn how they adapt to a situation and handle change, or if they don't at all. The ideal sales expert is an agile learner who can take responsibility for implementing new initiatives when necessary and guide the rest of the team through the transition.
6. How Do You Build Trust With Your Team?
Trust is an important pillar in any business. As a sales rep who is a part of a team, and could potentially become a sales manager, the ability to establish trust can be invaluable.
How they answer this question can tell you almost everything you need to know about them as a team member and how they approach teamwork.
Hiring, promoting, and onboarding talent can sometimes be a complex and demanding process. Even once you get through the interviewing process, getting an eager employee on the right track takes time.
Still, you'll be able to find candidates that will have an easier time integrating themselves into your team by asking the right questions.