So, you want to interview a sales candidate? What questions should you ask?
Let’s start with the assumption that you are NOT making the mistake of winging it. You’ve thought about the key characteristics for success. (See my earlier post on “Six Ways to Hire the Wrong Home Performance Sales Candidate“.) Now, you want to ask questions that tease out how well the candidate embodies those characteristics. And you want to make sure that the best sales job the candidate does is the one he or she does to get a job with you!
I think one important approach here is to use questions that get at behavior rather the recitation of facts. What would the candidate do? And, unlike stock market funds, one of the best predictors of what a candidate will do in the future is what they’ve done in the past. Ask them what they’ve done, and you’re looking for both performance results and behavior.
Another thing I recommend it tailoring the questions to the candidate. Do YOUR homework, and you’re better positioned to ask the right questions, questions that get to the heart of what that candidate would do for you and your company.
Let’s explore this with some sample categories and questions. Again, you want to focus on those categories you’ve determined are most important for your candidate, not necessarily those listed below.
- Tell me about yourself?
- What are you doing for EnergyWorks Contracting right now?
- What are some of your largest accomplishments?
- What did you learn in your research about our company that interested you enough to come here today?
- What do you like least about being in sales?
I want to see how the candidate interacts a bit before the questions get more direct. And I want to see how well he or she has prepared to handle a few of the expected questions.
General Sales Skills
- I see you’ve worked at _________ (commercial? residential? size?). What experience do you have selling for companies our size? In residential sales?
- How did you prepare for your last sales call?
- What was the toughest sale you made last year?
- What caused you to lose the last deal you lost?
- And then after response, What could you have done differently to win that sale?
- Describe your sales cycle? [How does that compare with the sales cycle in your company? Watch out if it’s a very different cycle than what is needed in your home performance business.]
- Tell me about the sales process you use. Walk me through it start to finish.
- How did you prepare your sales presentation for Energy Works Contracting?
- How can I contact the managers for whom you’ve worked in the past? And then, How would your (former) supervisor describe you?
Here’s a big mistake the home performance world makes. Too many think the the audit sells itself. It doesn’t. You have to sell improvements (unless you expect the government or ratepayers to pay the freight–in which case you’re not in the right place). Previous sales successful experience–especially residential, in-home sales–should be a good predictor. So we’re asking first whether their experience is relevant and translatable. And then next, if they can produce the numbers you need:
- Tell me about the past year’s sales you generated at Energy Works.
- What did you do your first year there?
- What was the size of the largest sale, second largest sale and third largest sale in both the first and the last year? How did you get them?
- What was your sales quota? How often did you make it? And what did you report on your taxes?
- How is your quota determined? How do you monitor your progress toward your goal?
- How have your sales goals changed over each of the last 3 years?
What to look for: Can they sell at at least the minimum levels you need? Are you expecting them to sell more than they’ve ever sold before? [If so, how will you help this do that?!] Do they have goals? Have they shown growth?
The above would be my top two areas to explore. But having done your homework, you should have a few additional criteria you’d like to measure them against. Below are some examples. They may or may not be the important ones for you. What would YOU like to see in a candidate? You don’t have to ask all of these questions–and certainly not in a first interview. But if you’re going about this right (instead of wrong), you should have time to explore the important areas in follow-up interviews and with variations of the questions when checking references.
Additional traits and questions:
Customer Service Skills
- How often do you deal with customers in person? By phone?
- What customer situations do you handle?
- What was the last customer problem you solved?
- What was the last compliment you got from a customer?
- Describe the last time you brought someone in to help with a customer.
- Describe a tough customer that you won over? How did you do it?
- How many sales opportunities do you have open with customers right now?
- How did you plan your day yesterday?
- What filing system do you use?
- Describe the last time you varied from your normal routine.
- What have you done to make your job easier?
- How have you kept track of your appointments? How do you track follow-up tasks?
Attention to Detail
- How did you proof you last big project?
- What was the last error you caught?
- What is the most tedious task you perform?
- Who approves your work?
- How have you judged the quality of your work?
- Describe the last team you worked on.
- How did you establish rapport with the last new person on your team?
- Describe the last time you went beyond the call of duty.
- What deadlines do you face daily?
- How did you make sure all your work was completed yesterday?
- What goals have you set for yourself?
- How do you keep your manager informed of your progress?
Ability to Learn
- How have you kept your skills current?
- What was the last new home performance skill you learned?
- Tell me how you get up to speed on a new mini-split system?
- What did you have to learn to be proficient in your current job?
- Describe the last time you sought help from your manager with a problem.
- How do you get your assignments at EnergyWorks?
- How much daily direction do you get from your manager?
- What was the last time you did an outstanding job on a project?
- When was the last time you sought help from a co-worker?
- Describe the last time you helped one of your co-workers?
- What was the last gnarly problem that came up in one of your projects?
- Tell me about the last time you sought help to solve a problem?
- Describe the last time you helped another person solve a problem.
- What is the most creative solution you came up with for a homeowner [or different type of client, depending on background]?
- What did you do the last time you had conflicting priorities?
- What software package did you use on your last project?
- What other packages have you used?
- What have you done in the last 3 months to keep your computer skills current?
- What was the last problem you had to troubleshoot on your computer?
- How did you learn your last new piece of software?
- How many hours did you work last week?
- What circumstances cause you to exceed that number?What have you done to improve your performance in the past year?
- Describe the last time you went above and beyond to complete a project?
- Describe the last time you were not satisfied with your work.
- Describe the last time you’ve bent your standards to attain success.
- What company rule or practice, do you not agree with?
- Describe the last time you had to oversell to close a deal.
- How far you gone to close a deal?
- How did you earn the trust of your customer during your biggest sale last year?
- How much of your job involves listening?
- How did you determine your customer’s needs on the Customer X deal?
- Describe the last time you misunderstood a client request.
- What did you listen for during the first sales call at Customer X?
- Describe the last time you had a miscommunication with a prospect.
- How many sales opportunities do you currently have open?
- What system do you use to keep your deals on track?
- How much freedom, do you have in making a deal? Give me an example of how you use this flexibility?
- Tell me about the last few objections you encountered during a sale and how you tried to address them.