Need to hire a Sales Rep?
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Has it ever happened to you that…..
A person who did very well in the interview could not perform as expected in the job.
This happens when a candidate comes prepared for popular sales interview questions.
And as expected, the interviewer asks him the so called “popular sales interview questions”.
The candidate aces the interview.
However, when the time comes to increase sales for the company, the candidate fails.
Thus, it’s important to present the candidate with “The Unexpected”.
Hence the tactics shared in this post are to go above and beyond the regular interviewing style. The trick is to have a conversation where you indirectly judge the candidate for the following 5 traits:
Understanding of what triggers a purchase.
Ability to perform under pressure.
/* The post shares why each of these traits is important and how can you test the candidate for each one of these. Hiring Made Easy */
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How I boiled down to these 5 most important traits?
By getting to learn from great sales leaders.
Why is Empathy important?
Empathy differentiates best sales reps from the average ones!
1. Empathy (in sales) is the ability to feel how would it be if you were in your prospect’s shoes. Let’s pick an example to understand this better. Let’s say you are a sales representative for a SAAS company that provides Cloud Computing Services. An empathetic sales rep would be able to gauge what is possibly going on in prospect’s mind.
2. When a salesperson reflects this empathy through his words, he gains the trust and belief of the prospect.
3. Empathy helps to establish a connect with the prospect on an emotional level.
4. Once this connect develops, it’s easier for sales reps to gain deeper understanding of what problems the prospect is facing.
5. And with a deeper understanding of the pain-points, sales rep will be able to address it better with a solution from your product offering.
6. Empathy also helps develop better human connections with in the team. Thus making the team stronger.
How to test for empathy?
Let’s see a few examples.
1. Ask an open ended question. Neither does It might not have a definite answer. Nor are you looking for one. However, you are interested in the candidate’s approach towards asking the question.
Interviewer: How will you explain colours to the blind?
Candidate A: It’s not possible to explain colours to a blind person.
Candidate B: I understand the pain of being not able to see. How a blind person is devoid of seeing the beautiful nature, his face, his family. How so many times he might be getting hurt to bump into something accidentally. However, by the grace of God, he is blessed with other sense abilities i.e. touch, taste, smell, hear too. May be, I can try to explain blue with the coolness of water or red with the heat of fire.
Clearly, Candidate B’s approach looks more empathetic.
2. You can also do a pretend play to understand the empathy quotient of the candidate. You be the prospect, let the candidate be the sales representative. The sales rep’s company sells a sales automation tool. And the sales rep is on a discovery call with you. Get into this imaginary conversation with the sales rep and observe three important things:
1. Is the candidate listening well?
2. Is the candidate interrupting when you talk?
3. Is the candidate pausing to process the information you provided as a prospect and then responding productively?
4. Is the candidate asking questions to get a deeper understanding of pain points of the prospect?
5. Is the candidate asking relevant questions to the product offering.
3. Ask the candidate a question to reflect empathy as a leader.
Interviewer: “How would you deal with an underperformer in your team?”.
Candidate A: I will tell him to put in more efforts to reach the target. I will try to push him out of his comfort zone. May be, I will give him some incentive.
Candidate B: I feel performance is not a direct indication of a person’s capability. So, my first goal would be to find out why is the performance level low. May be, my team member is facing some problem. OR, he needs to be trained for a particular skill. May be, he is having some personal problem that is distracting him. Once I know what’s bothering him, I will help him improve.
Clearly, Candidate B is more empathetic in his approach.
Why is articulation important?
Articulation is the ability to clearly express your message.
So that it can be easily understood and interpreted by the listener/reader.
Articulation is something a sales representative needs to do all time in his job.
What does a salesperson do on the job after all, besides being a great listener ?
A salesperson :
1. Answers client queries.
2. Explains the product offerings.
3. Writes emails.
4. Makes calls.
5. Makes presentations .
6. Makes proposals.
7. Closes deals.
All these tasks are different ways of communication.
The more clearly they communicate all this.
It’s easier for clients to understand.
Thus making it easy to take action on and get more business.
How to test for articulation?
1. Ask open ended questions.
2. Ask questions which cannot be answered in a yes or a no.
3. Because, You are not looking for a right or a wrong answer.
4. However, You are looking at how clearly and confidently is the candidate able to express his thoughts.
Let’s see a few examples:
Example 1: Ask the candidate to describe some everyday object but with a twist. You may ask something like:
Interviewer: Help me visualize a water bottle. Assume, I have never seen that before .
Candidate A: A water bottle is something you can use to carry water along. It may be made of plastic or metal. You can add ice to keep water cold.
Candidate B: A water bottle is a container in which you can carry drinking water along with you anywhere. So that you can instantly quench your thirst and you shall not need to look for a river or a well. /* Assuming water bottle is a pretty new invention, fridge didn’t even exist */
Whose answer appeal more to you ? Candidate A’s or B’s?
Example 2: Ask the candidate about any of his possessions and why did he buy it.
/* Interviewer’s interest is not in finding which phone does the candidate use. But to find out how clearly can he express the intent of purchase. */
Interviewer: Which phone do you use?
Candidate: iPhone XS.
/* Had the answer to first question being Samsung Note 10 or any other phone. Just the subject of question would change. And thus the reasoning in the answer. */
Interviewer: Why do you use iPhone XS?
Candidate: Because it has a great design, great user interface, high quality camera. The app store has a bigger collection of apps etc.
/* The next question is asked to create a conflict. Why? In order to see if the candidate can resolve the conflict using articulation as well as clarity of mind. */
Interviewer: But android phone counterparts are equally good in camera quality, user interface and play store, Still why iPhone? That too on a premium price.
Candidate: Actually Sir! To be honest. The feeling of possessing something so valuable is awesome. It was more of an emotion driven purchase for pleasure.
So, instead of beating about the bush and trying to justify your purchase, a candid answer is the indication of great articulation.
Why is the understanding of “what triggers a purchase” important?
People buy stuff only for one of the two reasons:
1. To seek pleasure.
2. To distance from pain.
The better the seller understands this the more he will be able to sell.
Let’s understand this with a story. A story that deals with distancing from pain aspect of sales psychology.
The other day I was at a fair. There were 6 different stalls selling cold sugarcane juice. The perfect drink to beat the heat on a hot and humid evening. One of these 6 stalls outperformed the rest 5. Want to know how?
Here is how.
1. A big cooler right in front of the stall. ( Great Idea! Helping people further to beat the heat.)
2. Lego play station. (To engage the kids while parents were waiting for the juice and chatting with each other.)
3. Fun squiggly dinosaur straws. (To motivate kids to drink juice instead of soda.)
4. Ample Space to sit with some foldable stools. (To give some rest to buyer’s feet.)
5. Mobile Phone charging station. ( Self-Explanatory )
6. This juice shop was located somewhere mid-way in the fair.
How did the seller come up with such innovative ideas?
The answer is simple. Because he did what best sales reps do. Best sales reps focus on buyer’s journey. And that’s exactly what this seller did. He kept himself in buyer’s shoes and understood his pain points. He then thought of ways to bring buyer far from pain. Look at the picture below to get the clarity on what I just said.
Learn more on buyer’s journey over here.
How to test for understanding of “what triggers a purchase”?
What triggers a purchase?
You face a problem.
You look for ways to solve it.
A product/service comes to your mind.
You evaluate it on your budget.
You buy it if you like it.
You like something that your friend owns
You feel like having it too
example: air fryer
You buy it.
You are at a super mart for grocery shopping.
And you are hungry.
you will be inclined to buy more snacks.
You are at a cake shop,
just to buy a cake,
but you end up buying a dry flower bouquet along with the cake,
just to make your loved one feel more special.
There can be numerous triggers to purchases a person makes.
Being able to suggest the right product/service at right time is what a best sales rep does.
Ask the candidate to tell you last 5 purchases he made and what triggered those purchases.
If you find him coming up with powerful triggers, he scored well in this test.
Besides, if the candidate is able to sell himself to you when you are in a need of a good salesperson to increase sales. Consider he has passed this test.
Why is Creativity important?
Creativity is the ability to come up with a unique and probably an out-of-the-box solution to a problem. Creativity makes use of divergent thinking, which is solving problems with many possible solutions.
Below are 3 wonderful examples that come to mind where companies leveraged creativity and made all the difference.
1. Instacart crowdsourced logistics. How? It hired personal shoppers to pick up fresh groceries from nearest supermarket and deliver it to the customer with in 2 hours of placing the order. A very similar concept like Uber.
2. LUX* chain of resorts got super creative to enhance customer experience and rose from the verge of bankruptcy to one of the top 5 hotels. To know more about this listen to our podcast.
3. Farmgirl flowers instead of buying burlap for their bouquets, they get it free from coffee shops. It’s also interesting to know that the farm girl behind the farmgirl flowers used the cash back of $700000 to keep them going during slump. Hear their complete story.
At Forbes, they say creativity is a secret weapon in sales. Creative sellers try to avoid one-size-fits-all approach. They try to outwit the competition by leveraging the creativity. They avoid routinizing their approach to sales. So instead of just writing a cold email, they would write the email by focussing on how will it grab receiver’s attention. Out of hundreds of emails you receive every day, observe the mails you opened and ponder on “Why” you opened those only. And you will understand what I am trying to say.
How to test for Creativity?
“The person who is capable of producing a large number of ideas per unit of time …. has a greater chance of having significant ideas.” – J.P. Guilford
Guilford’s test of Divergent Thinking – Alternative Uses Task
Interviewer : Tell me 10 different uses of chair other than sitting.
/* Interviewer can pick up any object. The idea is to see how divergently can a person think. */
1. We can use is as a stool to draw something out of a top shelf.
2. We can use it to play musical chair game.
Sorry Sir can’t think of any more.
1. We can use a chair to create a play tent for kids.
2. We can use a chair as an obstacle to jump over in a hurdle race.
3. We can use a chair as a prop while dancing.
4. We can use a chair to transport an injured person.
5. We can convert a chair into a coffee table by removing the back rest.
6. We can burn a chair, if wooden, to get some heat on a cold winter night.
7. We can use a chair upside-down as an umbrella, if light-weight and made of plastic.
8. We can take a chair, decorate it like a throne for the king in a play.
9. We can convert the chair into a puppet theatre.
10. We can use chair as a subject for live sketching.
Clearly, Candidate B scores better on the creativity test.
Why is “Ability to Perform under Pressure” important?
The pressure on a salesperson is same as that on a cricket team while chasing the target.
Each sales rep always has a target to reach.
Being able to perform under pressure is a very crucial skill for a sales rep.
How to test for “Ability to Perform under Pressure”?
The best way to test this is to create a stressful situation during the interview itself.
Also, make sure that the candidate does not realize your intent of doing the same. There are different ways to create stress during an interview. Some are as follows:
1. Contradict what candidate is saying.
2. Try to shake candidate’s confidence.
3. Dig Deeper for an answer that you find is a bit superficial.
The idea is to see whether candidate gets stressed or turns it into an interesting conversation.
Sales is essential to survival of any business.
Good salespersons can help with the survival.
But YOU are not in business to survive,
YOU are here to THRIVE.
A talented sales team can help you thrive,
if you make the right hiring decisions.
Hire for attitude,
Coach for skill.
Hiring is first half of the game,
Coaching the sales team the right way
makes the second half.
Sales Leaders have the ability to change the game
Either be One, or find one for your business…
Besides coaching your sales team,
providing your sales team the right tools,
is like cherry on the cake.
Wonders are not far from happening!
Happy Hiring 🙂
In order to thrive, You might also like to read this insightful article about “100s of leads but only a fraction getting converted.“
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