Hiring sales talent is tricky, as it can be difficult to distinguish between those who are merely strong at interviewing and those who will actually be strong on the job. Why? Sales people are particularly good at reading people and delivering the desired response. The trick is to peel back the onion during an interview to ensure you are getting an unfiltered view of each candidate, which can be done by combining two techniques.
The first is behavioral interviewing, which is based on the premise that a person's past performance is the best indication of future performance. As such, candidates are asked to provide specific, real-life examples of how they handled and behaved in situations likely to arise in the new position. Instead of merely asking a candidate traditional questions related to job responsibilities, the interviewer might ask about a specific time the candidate had to flex his style to adapt to a client or for the candidate to share a particular example of when he had to persuade co-workers. Strong candidates will be able to easily provide detailed examples.
It's not enough to simply ask questions using this style of interviewing. For the full picture of a sales candidate under consideration, you must also gauge his ability to perceive, evaluate and appropriately respond to the emotions of others. It's called Emotional Intelligence or EQ for short, and many researchers believe it's far more important than IQ.
To ensure your new sales hires have a strong EQ, look for these three qualities according to Rain Group and SalesLeadership, Inc., but be sure to leverage behavioral interviewing techniques to gauge the degree to which candidates have them.
Delayed Gratification: Candidates with this quality aren't likely to give up before reaching a complex goal -- such as the pursuit of large accounts. They are willing to put in the work to get the reward. Those struggling in this area aren't likely to stick with executing the daily tasks necessary to keep a sales pipeline filled. When instant gratification isn't achieved, they may lose focus entirely or spend most of their time checking in on existing customers as a feel-good exercise.
Empathy: Empathetic sales professionals can demonstrate that they see the world from their prospects' perspective, allowing them to quickly build trust. After all, what prospects want most is to feel understood.
Assertiveness: The assertive sales professional is able to ask tough questions without an aggressive tone. When a prospect uses a stall tactic such as, "let me think about it," the assertive sales professional might respond in this way. "This is such an important decision, and I can fully appreciate your desire to give it careful consideration. Tell me more about your hesitation."
Recruit better candidates by leveraging behavioral interviewing techniques and focusing on emotional skills.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.