Looking to Hire Sales Reps? Here Are 12 Questions You Should Ask

Posted by Saphia Lanier | March 27, 2019 | proposals,
hiring sales reps

Running a business means you have to be great at selling your product or service. If you aren’t, then you’re going to have a hard time acquiring and retaining customers.

Being on top of reaching out to prospects and following up with them is critical to your bottom line. Stats show that 30% to 50% of sales go to vendors that respond first. 

And a whopping 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the initial meeting. Yet, 44% of salespeople give up after the first follow-up. 

This just goes to show how essential it is to have a sales strategy and salespeople to execute it. 

So if you’re on the market for sales reps, then you need to know how to qualify them. 

Here are some questions you can ask to help weed out the mediocre from the bunch. 

1. How familiar are you with our target market?

This is an excellent question because not only does it tell you their level of experience in your industry, but it also determines how well they’d do in your company. 

It’s good to hire salespeople who worked in similar markets, so they know your audience. If they’re good at selling to them, then chances are they’ll be great at converting your prospects.

Also, it’s good to find out how they stay on top of your target market. Perhaps, an aptitude test might also be helpful in screening candidates. Do they read trade magazines, blogs, or other publications? 

If so, then you’ll know they have modern techniques for connecting with and acquiring customers. 

2. What do you know about this position?

It’s common for people to apply to more than one job at a time, which is only fair. You can never know for sure who’s going to give you a call and hire you. 

But this doesn’t mean you should overlook their disregard for details. Did they read through your job description to understand the role? 

Or did they visit your website to learn more about what it is that you do and who you serve? With this question, you can gauge the amount of effort and research they put into learning about your position. 

This shows their due diligence and interest in working for you. So A+ for those who do their homework!

3. What’s your method for generating leads?

Hopefully, your salespeople aren’t relying on a ringing phone to put their charm to use. A top-notch salesperson will have their own go-to methods for lead gen. 

Maybe they’re great at getting referrals from the prospects they close with. Or maybe they have outside resources they use, such as social media and email marketing. 

The idea is to see how much effort they put into a meeting or even exceeding their quotas. For example, using a combination of cold calling, networking, and referrals, among other things. 

If they have some unorthodox techniques, then even better!

4. Were you successful in your last sales job?

You want to learn all you can about the applicant’s performance. One way to determine this is to ask about their history. 

Find out whether they were successful in their last sales position. Then find out how often they met their sales quotas and what those sales quotas were. 

To switch things up a bit, you can ask about a time when they missed their quota. See if they know why they missed it and what they did to prevent it from happening again. 

5. Why are you interested in a sales position?

Some people are jumping into sales because many companies hire applicants whether they have experience or not. In other words, it acts as a doorway into the company. 

And in many cases, applicants don’t want to remain in sales. In fact, some aspire to get into other customer-facing roles and eventually become managers of those departments. 

The purpose of this question is to see if they’ll be honest about their career goals. Ask if they plan to stay in sales or if it’s just a stepping stone. 

If they’re passionate about sales and motivated to succeed, then you have yourself a winner. 

6. What do you know about our target customers?

Here’s another question that’ll help determine if the applicant you’re interviewing did any homework on your company. This question will also help you identify whether they can sell to your customers. 

If they are accurate or close-to-accurate about your customers, then they have less to learn once hired. 

A good follow up question is whether they have experience selling to your customer base. If not, why do they think they’re an ideal candidate for influencing them?

In what ways can they relate to your customers?

7. What do you know about our competition?

One part of sales is knowing about the customer you’re selling to. And the other part is understanding the competition. 

A salesperson that knows your competitors will be able to differentiate your brand products and services when selling to clients. They should be able to pinpoint what makes your brand better than the other guys. 

Then to follow up, you can ask why they think they can sell your product or service against your competitors (and win). 

8. Why did you leave your current position?

There are several things you can learn from asking this question. For instance, you can determine whether they’re currently at a company working in sales. 

Then you can also predict employees leaving and find out their motivations for applying, such as to get a higher paying position or to be closer to home. 

Or maybe, you’ll learn they were fired or wanted to get from under an unfair manager. 

See what happened with their past positions to see if there’s a pattern. 

If the applicant keeps blaming their employers for leaving, then this is a bad sign. You want someone who can take accountability for themselves and their ability to perform well. 

9.  How do you size up prospects before a call or meeting?

It’s good to learn the process your salespeople use to research about prospects. If they don’t do anything beforehand, then they’re going in blind. 

On the other hand, if they’re using tools available to them, then they’re using LinkedIn and other social platforms to learn about prospects. 

The purpose of this is to tailor their communication and sales pitch to the prospect’s needs. There’s a lot you can learn about a person just by looking at their past posts and comments on social media. 

10. Tell me a time when you were high-stressed. How did you deal with it?

Everyone knows sales can be stressful at times, especially when your quotas aren’t being met. However, this doesn’t mean you can conk out. 

It’s good to have salespeople on your team who can manage their stress well. Find out if the candidate has a routine or techniques they use to calm their nerves and get their head back in the game. 

Ask about a time when they were dealing with personal or work-related stress and what they did to overcome it. How did it affect their life and career?

If there are signs that they don’t cope well or require a lot to get through small ordeals, then this isn’t the right candidate. 

11. When’s the last time you lost a deal?

Anyone who says they’ve never lost is either a liar or don’t take risks. Both are bad signs.

The purpose of this question is to learn about what went wrong with the deal. If they don’t have an answer to why it didn’t close in a win, then how will they improve their sales skills?

It’s also good to know how often they lost deals in a quarter or even a year. If they have this information, then that means they’re tracking their success and are looking for ways to avoid similar mistakes. 

12. When was the last time you won a customer?

It’s ideal to learn about a candidate’s losses, as well as their wins. So this question is critical because it tells you how good they are at their position. 

Was it a long time since they won a deal? Can they even remember? If so, ask about the details to see how they speak about it.

Do they show passion for their achievements? Do they know why they won so they can duplicate that success?

Hiring a Winning Sales Team

Your goal is to hire a team of salespeople who are going to drive home more wins for your business. But you won’t get here without asking candidates the right questions. 

With this guide, you’ll be able to narrow down your list of applicants to find the most suitable salespeople. 

Have other go-to interview questions you ask salespeople? Let us know about it in the comments!


Saphia Lanier is a professional B2B copywriter with 12+ years of experience under her belt. She has a deep interest in everything to do with digital marketing, business, and SaaS. When she’s not hammering away at her keyboard and nailing projects, she’s enjoying time with family and learning new vegan recipes.