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Sales Interviews Does your interview process include a mock sales presentation or involve role- playing with the candidate? It should if you want to increase the likelihood that your next hire will become a consistent sales contributor.

Peak and its customers regularly use live tests to assess the capability and fit of a sales candidate.

In order for this method to be effective you need to provide presentation guidelines. Asking the applicant to make a sales pitch without any direction will be frustrating for everyone involved. Instead, explain the process in detail and give your candidate time to prepare prior to the interview. Communicate if this presentation is a cold- call, response to inquiry, or referral. It is best to have your candidate select a topic that enables him to demonstrate strong product knowledge and confidence, not necessarily your product. They could present something they know – perhaps their car or a piece of software with which they are familiar. As part of the selection process, have the candidate deliver a 15-minute mock sales pitch to members of the recruitment team. The recruiters will play the role of prospective customers and will evaluate the overall presentation.

In this setting you can assess many sales skills. Evaluate how rapport is built and if the “customers” are engaged. Is the presenter confident or arrogant? Did your candidate display adequate product knowledge, and was the pitch organized and presented in a succinct manner? Was the customer educated about the merchandise or service? When presented with objections, were they overcome easily and comfortably, or did the applicant become agitated and frustrated? Was the image of the company conveyed in the appearance of the presenter? When sidelined by the customer did your applicant react appropriately? Was he able to think on his feet to maintain the sale? Did your “customers” buy?

In addition to sales role-playing you can also request that your candidate prepare a territory plan for you. Ask how sales goals will be met and what customers should be put on a hot list. You may look like you’re hunting for leads if you demand a three-month sales plan right out of the gate. However, if a top salesperson is interested in a job, they have already been thinking about opportunities they could seize if given the chance. It’s fair for you to see how comprehensive their thought plan is, as it is fair and expected they quiz you on the subject as well. If your candidate is not excited about selling for you now, they will probably be less enthusiastic (and less productive) later.

An effective interview is more than just a question and answer process. The best interviews will also include live tests, allowing the recruiter to judge the level of preparation, professionalism and organization of the candidate.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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