Find The Best Sales Recruits With A Single Question

Need to find the best sales recruits out of a sea of applicants? Zero in on the best sales talent with a single interview question.

In part two of her sales interview series, Board of Experts member and Metal Mafia owner, Vanessa Nornberg, guides us through the phone interview portion of the recruitment process. As an expert with decades of building stellar sales teams, Vanessa has constructed an ironclad process for finding great sales talent. It starts with an email. Sales recruits who pass Vanessa’s simple email test move on to the phone interview, where Vanessa, yet again, has a simple formula to quickly spot great candidates.

“My next step in vetting a good salesperson is still about testing curiosity and commitment.  The idea is this: selling is like going apple-picking. If you’re going to get the apples you want, you have to find the right orchard, locate the tree most likely to have ripe fruit, and then be willing to climb up and shake the branches to get the apples into your basket. I want to hire salespeople ready to climb trees and make sales happen. With a quick 10-minute phone conversation, I decide who gets an invitation to meet with me–and separate the real apple pickers from all the rest with 1 straightforward question.”


Question: What do you know about my company?

Best Sales Recruits: The best sales recruits can immediately talk specific details about your company, your products, and offer her thoughts about both. If she’s really out of this world, then she’ll have also spent time checking out your competitors, reading through your blog (if you have one) or discussing your merchandise that she’s seen sold in stores or online. This kind of go-getter attitude indicates high curiosity – a necessary quality in a salesperson.

Average Sales Recruits: Middle-of-the-road recruits will make it clear that they checked out your website, but won’t have a lot of specifics to share, indicating that they didn’t take a very deep look into your company before your interview. As Vanessa describes, such a recruit “went through the motions, but was not interested enough to do much else.” He might make a good sales assistant, but probably won’t excel as a full salesperson.

Terrible Sales Recruits:  If your candidate can only repeat back to you whatever you put in your original job listing, skip! This indicates a total lack of preparedness, curiosity, or commitment. You can very quickly end the call, and move to the next candidate – saving you time to devote to better recruits.

The one-question challenge might seem oversimplified or unfair, but, as Vanessa points out, it’s very effective for zeroing in on the right sales recruits.

“This one question call may seem harsh, but it avoids wasting the time of the applicants who are trying to kid themselves into doing a job they aren’t cut out for, and saves me countless hours of slugging through in-person interviews with mediocre candidates.”

You can read Vanessa’s article in its original form at Inc. Magazine’s website.

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