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Common Mistakes Employers Make When Interviewing Sales People

February 26th, 2014

You may have spent countless hours looking to recruit just the right person for the sales team that you need to launch—yet every candidate seems to fall short. Either the world has failed to create enough sales people or there is something wrong with your interviewing technique. In fact, it’s both.

Statistics show that as sales jobs will grow by 13% in the next decade, sales candidates between the ages of 25 and 40 will grow by less than 1%. Faced with this sales candidate famine, what are recruiters to do when looking for the candidate that will be perfect for the job?

Interviewing from the Resume

This is a classic mistake that recruiters often make. You may not have extra time to look through every resume or remember the qualifications of the candidate even if you skimmed through their profile previously. In these cases, recruiters are confronted with the frantic five minute perusal just before the candidate enters the room. When faced with this situation, you start going down the same clichéd lane that every interview is doomed to go. Instead of asking drab questions, ask them about the sales experiences that they’ve had and how they produced results. Focus on the aspects that you need for the position that is being filled.

One common mistake hiring managers make is taking a resume as it appears to be—no different than the value of a piece of money is exactly the amount shown by the number on its face. This is significant when it comes to salespeople — because sales people are masters of persuasion. Employers need to be mindful about inflated numbers such as increases in untapped market share of 99% or tripled profit margins. Of course, in some cases the information is true and easily verified by asking the candidate to bring more hard facts to the table. Salespeople who can’t produce the evidence and aren’t consistent in hitting their targets will make excuses about not keeping records. If that’s the case — you need to reconsider and recognize this may not be the candidate with the track record you’re looking for.

Focusing on the wrong skills

You don’t have much time to conduct an interview. Even if you are able to extend the interview to a substantial duration, it will ultimately fail if a direction has not been set from the beginning. There are always some objectives that you need to meet in an interview. Not all sales jobs are made the same. One common method of interviewing sales people is to ask them to do a presentation. While making a presentation is a great way for finding out whether the candidate has the skills and confidence required to communicate and make a sale, there are many more aspects that you will fail to see. A presentation is no way of finding out the ability of the candidate to connect with the client and understand what they need. Presentation skills may be the easiest ones to evaluate during an interview, but you have to overlook convenience for effectiveness if you want your interviews to be successful.

Not Asking Behavioral Queries

Instead of focusing on what the candidate has already done ask them what they would do if faced with a hypothetical scenario. Try to understand their behavior and attitude in a particular situation. For instance, if you ask a candidate about how they sold a new product in a difficult market, the candidate will simply dive into their memory bank and deliver the answer. Make your candidate think. Place a scenario in front of them. Provide them with a product to sell and ask them how they would go about the situation. This will also allow you to assess the ability of the candidate to think on their feet.

Assuming that a can-do answer means a will-do attitude

A proactive salesperson is the best candidate. Don’t just focus on acquired skills but the willingness to implement them on the job. Look for factors such as ambition, drive and motivation. The good candidates are confident and more than willing to produce their quantifiable achievements. A solid track record reflects on their reputation and serves a trophy of success as a top performer.

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