Interviewing – When Sales Skills and Experience Really Matter

A man points to the word "Skills"

The focus of any job interview should be on what is needed to succeed at the specific job you are hiring for. 

You should always begin with a very detailed job description that defines the intellectual, motivational and performance competencies required for success. For some jobs, skills and experience are critical; for others, they are less important. When you are hiring for a sales position for example, consider carefully what you will be asking your new hires to sell, to whom and how.

If your new sales reps will be involved in transactional sales at a rather junior level, you can probably train them in the sales skills they need and teach them what they need to know about their products, services and their customers. They can learn a viable sales approach and process and pick up the skills of how to communicate effectively and move toward success. Interviewing for this kind of selling where sales and products are relatively simple should focus on attitude more than experience. 

But if you are hiring a sales rep who will be selling more complex and solution-based offerings B2B, the vote of interviewing skills training experts weighs heavily in favor of both attitude and successful experience at selling. You cannot afford to wait until your new hires get fully trained to ramp up to speed and be productive. You need them, from the “get-go,” to know how to

  • research the customer’s industry, their business and your likely competition 
  • articulate your value proposition and solutions that are unique to each customer
  • follow a proven sales methodology
  • understand the customer’s buying process and identify key buyers
  • bring value to each interaction and present persuasively
  • prioritize accounts
  • negotiate and close
  • maintain and grow customer relationships

So how do you find all this out in your interviews? Practice behavior based interviewing. If this is new to you, your time in an interviewing skills training program will pay off quickly. You will learn how to dig beneath the “black and white” claims on the resume to the “flesh and blood” experience of the job candidate. You learn how to ask questions and probe for the truth behind the candidate’s effort to impress. 

When you can uncover what truly motivates them, their fit for your sales culture and their commitment to your company through superior interviewing skills, you are much more likely to hire someone who can help clients succeed, build a loyal customer base, and hit their sales targets. 

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