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? Salespeople 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’re getting an unfiltered view of each candidate.
This 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 his or her future performance. As such, candidates are asked to provide specific, real-life examples of how they behaved in tricky situations likely to arise in the new position. So, the interviewer might ask the candidate to describe a specific time when they made a critical mistake with a prospect that lost them the account, and what changes they implemented as a result. You're looking for details that come easily, versus vague responses, with this interviewing technique.
To get the full picture of a sales candidate, you must also gauge his or her ability to perceive, evaluate and appropriately respond to the emotions of others. That ability is called Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Many researchers believe that EQ is far more important than IQ as a life and professional skill.
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 interview techniques to gauge the degree to which candidates have them.
Delayed Gratification: Candidates scoring high in delayed gratification aren’t as likely to give up before achieving a complex goal – such as the pursuit of large accounts. They are willing to put in the work to get the reward. For those struggling in this area, when instant gratification isn’t likely, they may lose focus on the job or simply call existing customers to check in, which makes them feel better.
Empathy: Sales professionals with strong empathy are likely to build trust quickly with new prospects, as they can demonstrate that they can see the world from their perspective. Prospects want, more than anything, to feel understood, and sales reps with empathy are able to deliver on that need.
Appropriate Assertiveness: The appropriately assertive sales professional is able to ask the tough questions without coming across as aggressive. When a prospect uses a stall tactic such as, “send me some additional information,” 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.”
Lori Turner-Wilson, CEO and founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at redrovercompany.com.