Questions Top Sales Reps Ask in a Job Interview

November 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM

A few years ago, I interviewed Brent for a B2B sales rep job. Like others, he gave solid answers to my questions about his experience and credentials. But something clearly set his interview apart from the other candidates. I couldn’t put my finger on it right away.

Brent was clearly an “A” player. His track record was impressive. After the interview I was puzzled by exactly what made him unique. I had to read my notes a second time. It seemed so obvious from our conversation, but I couldn’t quantify it. But now I’ve figured it out.

This post is for HR and Sales Leaders who are seeking to hire the next Brent. It answers the question “What does it take to satisfy and retain top reps?” It’s also for those who aspire to become top sales reps. Find out if you’re getting everything you need to be successful like Brent. This post includes a link to a valuable tool – the Top Sales Rep's Satisfaction Index. Download it and see what’s important to top performers.

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The Questions Are More Revealing than the Answers

A few days after my meeting with Brent, I finally found the difference. It was at the bottom of my page of interview notes. It was not his answers to my queries at the top of the page. It was the questions he posed at the end.  It began when I asked him, “Is there anything I can tell you about this opportunity?”

The things that Brent cared about were a strong signal about what made him a top sales rep. Fortunately, he accepted the job offer. Within a year, he exceeded his quota. Later, I looked over interview notes from other President’s Club winners. The level of insight in their questions was a key difference.

This is the time of year when turnover happens. Read on and be better prepared to retain, hire (or become) a top sales rep in 2014.

What Top Performers Need

Brent’s questions became the basis for the Top Sales Rep's Satisfaction Index. The complete list offered here evolved from more interviews and research with other top performers.

Top sales reps always put the odds in their favor. In a sales campaign, each action taken must increase the chance of success. The same is true in assessing a job. Top performers want to increase the probability of overachievement. Here are the sales advantages they seek:

New Capabilities:  Top sales reps want to improve their ability reach more customers. They recognize the immense emerging power of social media. They ask questions about social media tools and training they can deploy in the new role.

Challenges: Top reps want to be intellectually stimulated. They are naturally curious and have a thirst for knowledge. They are attracted by gamification and contests. They seek a steady stream of opportunities to test themselves against others.

Access to New Buyers: Top sales reps continually seek to expand their connections. They value help in gaining access to more buyers and widening their circles. A well-defined Buyer Persona and a Buyer Process Map are essential selling tools. These targeting tools provide the advantage they seek.

Competitive Intelligence: Knowledge of competitive strengths and weaknesses is vital. Top performers view Win/Loss assessments as an advantage. They ask for competitive playbooks that enable pre-emptive strategies.

Big Deal Strategy: Top sales people recognize the value in a support structure to win major deals. They ask about the involvement of key executives & stakeholders from all functional groups.

Quota & Compensation: Fairness and realism are the keys. Top sales reps will perform superhuman feats if they believe their efforts will be rewarded. They ask about how quotas are calculated to ensure they are attainable. They want to know when and how changes are made to the compensation plan.

New Product Enablement: Top reps want to be enabled to win with each new solution. How will it satisfy a critical buyer need? They expect to receive the tools to be successful before a new product is launched. This includes demonstration units, simplified pricing, white papers, adequate pre-sales and ongoing market training.

Marketing Support: Additional orders from existing customers multiply the effectiveness of the direct sales rep. They ask for marketing programs that leverage prior purchase history and firmographic data. Support for cross-selling and up-selling are key predictors of future success.

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Next Steps

The lessons I learned from Brent and his top-producing peers are clear. They have sophisticated requirements that go beyond the simple promise of higher income. The topics Brent raised at the end of his job interview were a strong predictor.  “A” players reveal exactly what they believe will make them successful. What does this mean for you?

  • For Sales Leaders and Hiring Managers: Listen to the questions that candidates ask. How deep is their understanding of what it takes to succeed? “A” players not only have a track record of success. They also have a track record of knowing the resources they need to be successful. Use the Top Sales Rep Satisfaction Index to measure your appeal to top sales talent. Be sure you can offer what they seek.
  • For HR Partners to Sales: Retention is directly related to sales rep engagement. The Top Sales Rep Satisfaction Index provides key insight into critical drivers. Assess your sales team’s risk. Find out what it takes to retain your most valuable human sales assets – top talent.
  • For Top Sales Performers: Learn from your peers. Download the Satisfaction Index and see if you have the support and tools to compete at the highest level. If your current situation doesn’t allow you to excel, prepare for upcoming job interviews. Your questions will be as important as your answers.
Top Sales Rep\u0026#39\u003Bs Satisfaction Index

Start today by downloading the Top Sales Rep's Satisfaction Index. We’re entering the time of year when top talent is on the move. Your best chance to Make the Number in 2014 is to start off with a deep team of “A” players.

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Topics: Talent Management, Human Resources, Interviewing for Sales, Talent Assessment

Posted by John Kenney

John Kenney
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