Interview for “The Right Stuff” and hire the hunters with the potential to be the most successful
Interested in hiring the best hunters with the highest potential for sales success? The most important sales traits are typically not teachable and they can be easily faked in the interview process. Behavioral psychologists who study the process have recommended that it is helpful to utilize special questions that are designed to easily identify candidates who have the right stuff.
In an earlier article “Hiring For The The Right Stuff – Part 1”, I shared the three most important sales traits that set apart the successful hunters from all the rest. Although many of the traits that you might expect to be important are — such as relationship skills, organizational skills and persuasiveness, above and beyond any of those by far were three non-teachable characteristics that continue to stand out and differentiate the top 20%, high-performing hunters of the world, and they all center around optimism, drive and the ability to learn:
- Persistent optimism and a sense of humor
- The belief that achievement comes from hard work
- An interest and ability to learn.
I have provided a set of suggested interview questions that if used properly can help you identify which of these important traits your next candidate might possess.
These questions will work but remember that in an interview the one who is talking is selling. The “Interviewer”, usually the sales manager, must be careful to ask questions and then listen carefully to the answers. Often the truth is well hidden behind some code words and phrases that are used to skim through tough subjects. Here are a few examples of screening questions that may be helpful. Remember that to get to the real answer you may need to repeat what is shared and ask one or more follow up questions.
- In terms of sales skills overall, and your own personal development, where would you like to improve? What is the next developmental step for you?
What you’re looking for: it’s important to find out the candidate’s level of self-awareness and confidence. Someone with a high need for achievement should have a clear sense of his or her developmental needs and the topic will be important to them. Also, if you’re looking for an experienced hunter ready to hit the ground running, you need to make sure their developmental needs and skill set fit the position.
- Tell me about the greatest goal that you’ve ever accomplished professionally? You’ve got to be proud of that. How do you intend to top that?
What you’re looking for: This question measures a candidate’s work ethic and need for achievement. Be sure to allow the candidate to fully answer the first question before proceeding to the second one. “A hunter sales person will have already accomplished a very challenging goal, and will be excited to tell you their plan to top it,” he says.
- Let’s review your resume together. As we discuss each job, I would like you to tell me if you were on a sales team, where did you rank? And what you learned and did to move to the next level or position?
What you’re looking for: Rank is always important to Hunter type sales people so an answer of any kind is important. If the candidate responds to the question about why they moved on with vague or evasive statements, then ask the following question: “If we had a magic wand and could improve three things about that job so you would never want to leave, what would they be?” This question is disarming and is designed to get you something closer to the truth.
The goal is to discover a repeated pattern about why a candidate leaves employment. Hopefully the reasons are logical and not linked to circumstances they caused.
- Tell me about a sale where you remained persistent, even though everyone else around you had given up.
What you’re looking for: You’re hoping to measure a person’s optimism, which is one of the three main components of drive. You should look for stories about remaining resilient and sticking to their guns, even after a prospect blew them off or their colleagues decided the situation was hopeless. The stories can be about sales or even about other incidents at work or school where they remained optimistic.
- What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?
What you’re looking for: What kinds of sacrifices has the candidate had to make to be successful? You can also listen for what the person considers to be a sacrifice? Was it that they had to come in a couple weekends last year, or was it more substantial? If you get the sense that you’re talking to someone who wants to dial down their commitment to their job, you’re not talking to a hunter.
- When was the last time you were competitive at work?
What you’re looking for: This question attempts to uncover how competitive a candidate may be. Competitive people will get animated while describing the situation and will likely share that it was enjoyable and motivating.
- Where is your confidence the highest? The lowest?
What you’re looking for: The hunter type will often express confidence in areas that require spontaneity, such as cold calling. If the candidate says their confidence is lowest in situations that demand optimism and spontaneity, then follow up with a challenging question. “Tell me about your cold calling experience. What aspect of cold calling would you like to get even better at?”
If you need a salesperson that is ready to start producing quickly, don’t hire someone who is uncomfortable doing things that require the challenge of cold calling. Successful sales people are comfortable being spontaneous and are always interested in telling you about that next.
Note: Stereotypes for these salespeople aren’t always true. Sometimes a good hunter isn’t such a talkative and pushy person. Often, they just possess a quiet optimism and determination that leads them to be successful.
Good Luck to you in your sales improvement journey!
Will Nowell is the President of Peak Performance MS. Peak Performance Marketing Services is a premier provider of Marketing Services and Automation, Mystery Shopping and Sales Skills Training. Will is the author of, ValueMatch Selling, a best-selling book about how to implement question-based selling in an adverse environment.
Will helps companies establish a sales and service based culture by offering Training, Strategy, and Consulting. If you are interested you can check out, www.Peak PerformanceMS.com or reach out to Will at firstname.lastname@example.org
William J. Nowell
Peak Performance MS