We know that finding the candidate of our dreams is not an easy task. We want it all--perfect tenure, someone who hits the ball out of the park with his sales numbers every year, someone who has all the right C-level contacts, a magnificent presenter, an organized person who gets his sales reports in on time, and, of course, a team player.
Here are some ideas on how to screen during the interview for that candidate who most closely fits your needs.
1. Is the candidate prepared? How many times do you talk to a candidate and it is obvious he/she hasn't done his preparation for the interview? It is clear he hasn't looked at the web site and it is clear he really hasn't researched your company's background. Is that how he will treat his clients if he is hired? Most probably.
2. Is the candidate a fit in your environment? Does she understand your business and your sales cycle? In addition, has she ‘lived' it? If your sales cycle is 6-9 months and she has been selling products that only take a week to close, she probably won't last too long. Can she handle the rejection that comes with the longer sales cycles? If she has been closing deals that are several hundred dollars and your opportunities are $250K+, how comfortable is she going to be with your product line?
3. Is the candidate a good communicator? Is the candidate articulate and clear in his conversation? Listen to him early in the interview and notice how he presents himself. Any question you ask should be answered with a response that is detailed enough to answer your question but not too wordy. He should not go on tangents but stay with the question presented to him. The candidate should be giving you good eye contact (if you are interviewing in person). Most importantly, he should be very confident in his approach.
4. Does the candidate understand sales and the sales process? Having been through some the Fortune 1000 training programs can be a big plus. There are also many independent programs that companies use that give them the sales tools they need to close business. Can he articulate steps in the sales process such as call preparation, needs analysis, benefits, objection handling and closing? Has he walked through a scenario or two regarding his most successful sales call and why. And, of course, is the candidate a good listener? Are they listening to you or just talking to try to sell you.
5. What about the candidate's past performance? Nothing takes the place of good solid experience where she has been a performer in the past. Does she have that “fire in the belly” that will produce revenue for you, or is she burned out? Ask for specifics in the interview. Make certain she can articulate her past business successes and knows her quota and achievements. I always question a candidate who doesn't have a good grasp of her numbers in her past few positions. Drill down on the candidate's quota achievement to understand the details of her business. What was her biggest deal? Does she know decision makers' names? What did she do to make the deal successful (wouldn't it be interesting to hear it was a team deal and someone else did all the work?). How did she manage the process? If you see the candidate uncomfortable during this questioning, you may begin to wonder if she was a true performer.
6. Can you work with the candidate? This may be a very simple question, however, are you comfortable with the candidate and do you enjoy him? Do you feel you can trust him? I'm sure your customers will feel the same way. Ask for details about his favorite manager. You can learn a lot by listening to him talk about people he has worked for in the past that he has admired. If it doesn't sound like you, this candidate may not be a fit.
Once you are comfortable with your selection, make certain you allow others in your organization to screen him as well. Sometimes the opinions of people you respect in your organization quickly verify your feelings about the candidate.