Inside Sales Interviewing Tips and Questions for Hiring Managers and Candidates

June 14, 2017 Richard Harris

So often we see posts and articles about what to look for and how to find the best inside sales or SDR candidates in a candidate search. We then see other articles or posts talking about improving your interview skills as a sales rep. Rarely do we see a single article that actually speaks to both at the same time. That’s why in this post – I’m going to share my best inside sales interview tips and questions for both hiring managers and candidates. 

At Sales Hacker, we believe these two should be more aligned. In fact we believe that everyone is looking for the same thing no matter which side of the interviewing table they sit.

So we decided to tackle this head on and combine the topics. While this is written with a certain spin towards inside sales, we feel these sales interview tips could be easily aligned with any other department in the organization. 

The Five C’s of Sales Interviews

In school, five C’s is not a great track record. But in sales, those who embody the five C’s receive top marks. To create a strong inside sales team and a supportive sales culture, sales management should be on the lookout for candidates who possess the following five qualities.

1. Courage

courage in sales

For many, going from zero to done deal can be a scary process, and obstacles such as cold calling a complete stranger, opening yourself up to rejection, and facing deadlines requires courage.

Perhaps the most courageous thing a salesperson can do is learn how to be honest–and even vulnerable–with a prospect.

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ve probably heard me talk a lot about relationships. and how important it is to build a genuine relationship with a prospect.

Well, relationships are based on mutual trust, respect, and honesty, and if you can’t lay your cards on the table and bare your soul to the person on the other end of the line, building those relationships becomes an uphill battle.

Now, many rookie and veteran sales reps mistake courage as cockiness, but strutting into a sales meeting and trying to carve a relationship out of stone will never work.

True salesmanship, and true courage, require the opposite of cockiness. Candidness. Understanding. Openness. And if you can work up the courage to do that, relationships practically build themselves.

How do you test for courage in the interview process?

Interview Questions For Sales Managers To Ask:

Can you share an experience where you had to stand up to someone who probably had some level of authority higher than yours?

What would you do if your boss asked you to do something you know isn’t in the best interest of a deal?

Can you tell me about a time when you walked away from a deal because you knew it was not good deal for yourself or your company?

Interview Questions For SDR Candidates To Ask:

How do you handle delivering bad news to your sales team?

If you could change 3 things in the organization outside your sales team what would they be? Have you mentioned this to the other members of the leadership team? (Why not?)

In my opinion, the ability to successfully walk away from a deal, or communicate early in the sales process that you will walk away from a deal if it is not mutually beneficial, is the single greatest ability a sales person can have.

Remember, there are two winners in sales on every deal:

The one who closes it.

And the one who abandons the bad deal. 

Now some people fake courage. Often phrased as “fake it til you make it”. But what does that really mean? Let’s explore that topic more in in 2nd C.

2. Confidence

confidence sales interview tips

Just as courage should never be mistaken for cockiness, neither should confidence. An “I know everything so I know what’s best for you” sales approach is bound to make you enemies, but confidence is a bond that can build trust.

Identifying Confidence In Sales

In sales, true confidence is knowing your own value (and the value of your product)

Being confident sales means knowing how to communicate that value to anyone based on their unique perspective regardless of their interest level.

Confidence means being comfortable with what you don’t know, and comfortable enough to ask for help.

In the context of inside sales, it’s also about being completely honest with your prospects or customers.


Be honest with your prospects – if you don’t know the answer, tell them!
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They will appreciate the honesty and will respect you more in the long run. In fact, telling the truth makes you feel more confident as opposed to the “white lies of sales” which create anxiety, concern, fear, and paranoia.

Confidence in inside sales is also about being completely honest with your prospects or customers.

That’s why a strong inside sales team is also a diverse one. Not everyone will share the same skills, knowledge, or experiences.

But together they can fill in those gaps, leverage each other’s unique talents, and evolve as one unit.

Being confident in your own abilities will help you strengthen not only your own sales performance, but your team as well.

Interview Questions For Sales Managers To Ask:

When was the last time you pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone?

How many times does it take you to do something new before you feel confident about it? Can you provide an example?

What is one thing you are most confident about in your life? When did you reach this level of confidence?

Interview Questions For Candidates To Ask:

How do you improve your skill sets as a leader? 

What’s the worst experience you’ve had as a manager and how do you think it helped you grow? 

3. Coachability

sales meetings 1 on 1

The further you get into the 5 Cs, the better you understand why other Cs such and Cockiness and Conceit have no place in a functioning sales environment. The cocky can’t be coached, but the courageous and confident certainly can.

Sales coaching is a tool that every sales manager, as well as those in leadership roles, should always have in their tool box.

Coachability is a quality every salesperson should possess. To get better at one’s craft, it’s important to be able to embrace the help of others. It’s important to understand the value of trainers, coaches, and those with more experience.

Some people may feel patronized by the idea of coaching. Perhaps they view it as a referendum on their character or their abilities. This is absurd.

A true salesperson feels fortunate there are others willing to help them improve, and comfortable relinquishing control and allowing others to guide them.

While it is a topic for another post, part of the problem with coaching isn’t the inability of the sales rep to be coached but the lack of coaching ability by the manager. All too often we see managers who create busy work as an excuse to not do coaching.

In fact, they lack the confidence or courage to deliver effective coaching out of fear of “not being liked” or even worse, they have an “well I didn’t get any coaching, so neither should you” type of an attitude.

A true salesperson feels fortunate there are others willing to help them improve, and comfortable relinquishing control and allowing others to guide them.

Interview Questions the VP of Sales Should Ask to Understand Coachability

In your life, whose advice do you seek out when you don’t understand something?

Can you share a time where someone asked you to change your pattern or behavior even when you didn’t want to, but in the end you learned they were right? How about where you tried something different but in the end you were right?

Interview Questions For Candidates To Ask

How do you differentiate between the baby-sitting sales reps and coaching them

When I ask your team what kind of coach you are, what do you think they will tell me?

4. Consistency

consistency sales interview tips

Nothing in life is all that hard. It’s the discipline to stay focused that is the hard part.

Your field salespeople are not going to feel the same each and every day. They’re not going to walk into the office bearing a carbon copy of yesterday’s mood.

Things big and small effect us in ways we can understand, and ways we cannot.

Hence, why maintaining consistency in your work ethic, in your sales tactics, and in your office interactions is one of the biggest challenges that salespeople face.

There’s no wrong way to stay consistent. It’s about doing your best to understand your own needs.

The key to consistency is not to try to feel the same way every day. That’s impossible. The key is to figure out how to deliver the same performance every day, regardless of how you’re feeling.

Forcing yourself to stay consistent doesn’t always work. Instead, try to determine what your mind and body require to deliver the desired performance.

On a particularly bad day, maybe you need to go for a walk before your next call. Maybe you need to hear the voice of a friend, or watch a video of baby goats, or do some push-ups.

There’s no wrong way to stay consistent. It’s about doing your best to understand your own needs. It’s about being honest with yourself, and with your colleagues, about how you work best.

Interview Questions for the Director of Sales to Ask the Candidate

What is one of your favorite regular routines you follow?

Have you ever changed a regular or routine process in an effort to make it better? How did you like the results of the change?

Interview Questions for the Field Sales Rep to Ask the Employer:

How do you make sure the team in consistent in their messaging?

How do you instill positive discipline as a way to coach the team towards consistency?

5. Compassion

compassion sales interview tips questions

Salespeople are change agents, not problem solvers. And part of their job is to listen to other people’s problems and try to understand their pain and then provide guidance on a different and hopefully better way of doing things. While it takes courage to be honest and vulnerable, it takes compassion to listen and understand.

People have been tossing around empathy as a sales skill for the last few years. In fact, we’ve written on the topic as well.

In sales, empathy typically means you understand how someone feels.

Compassion on the other hand is deeper, it means you go beyond understanding their feelings, but also feeling it as if it were happening to you. 


In sales, empathy is the X-Ray, compassion is the MRI.
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Having compassion allows you listen to others and feel where they’re coming from.

Truly compassionate people will listen to a prospect complaining about, say, their unintuitive CRM, and focus on the more human element behind this grievance.

What’s behind their basic frustration with their unintuitive CRM? Do they not like their job? Do they feel disrespected in some area of their lives? Do they feel like others don’t listen to them? That they have no control? That they’re powerless?

Salespeople who have compassion can understand the problems behind the problems, which enables them to relate to prospects on a deep level, and build a valuable rapport.

Interview Questions An Inside Sales Manager Can Ask About Compassion:

Have you ever gone the extra mile for someone? What did you do? Why did you do it?

What do you think the difference is between compassion and empathy?

Interview Questions Candidates Can Ask Sales Managers

Have you ever gone the extra mile for your sales rep? What did you do? Why did you do it?

What do you think the difference is between compassion and empathy?

Conclusion

When considering who to hire or which company to choose in your job search, it’s easy to fall back on resumes, sales metrics, and standard garbage interview questions.

Sure, that stuff is important, and in many cases promising or positive leading indicators, but if you can, try to look past the companies and the numbers.

Try to look at the person. Get into their psyche, dig into their soul and inner being.

  • Do they seem courageous?
  • Confident?
  • Do you think they will help you and your organization?
  • Will they help your career and personal brand grow?
  • Do they view coaching as a privilege or a burden?
  • Will they be able to do what it takes to remain consistent day in and day out?
  • Do they practice compassion?

We believe the candidates and employers with the five Cs are ones to invest in. They’re well-rounded, eager to learn, and willing to help. So if you can, keep the five Cs in mind during the next round of interviews we think you will become more successful regardless of which side of the table you are sitting.

The post Inside Sales Interviewing Tips and Questions for Hiring Managers and Candidates appeared first on Sales Hacker.

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