The stakes are undeniably high when it comes to making the right sales hire. A misfit in a sales role not only impacts immediate revenue but also incurs significant costs in time, training, and potential client relationships. When you recognize this, your interview process for sales candidates becomes a very important step in ensuring you’re making the right hire.
It's not just about scanning resumes or asking routine questions; it's about structuring interviews to really dig into how a candidate responds to situations that could mirror what they’d face in this position at your company, revealing their core traits. Crafting interview processes that probe into these essential characteristics before extending an offer is necessary to ensure your company's sales force comprises individuals equipped to navigate the complexities of your role.
Finding the right fit is about unearthing the intangible qualities that pave the way for success. Traits like adaptability or emotional intelligence ensure candidates can meet challenging situations and work hard to overcome them.
Another crucial trait for sales candidates? Resourcefulness. For salespeople, resourcefulness helps them navigate the challenges facing every opportunity, whether it’s coming from the uncharted waters of an early-stage product still developing messaging or an established brand looking to enter a new market. Resourcefulness helps sales reps identify how to navigate a new path and overcome challenges with innovative solutions. This ensures they can support your company in addressing any obstacle that arises during the sales process.
Why Resourcefulness is a Critical Core Trait for Salespeople
When talking about resourcefulness in sales, we generally mean someone who is good at solving problems in new and smart ways, especially when things aren’t laid out in a playbook. Almost every sales job needs some level of resourcefulness. But there are certain types of sales roles where it's even more crucial.
Think about sales jobs in new startup companies, where playbooks are yet to be written, and support teams are a distant dream. In this scenario, resourcefulness becomes a superpower. It's about turning roadblocks into stepping stones. Resourceful sales team members figure things out on their own, coming up with fresh ideas and quick solutions.
Then, there are sales jobs that step into brand-new market areas for a company. These places don’t have established plans either, so the people in these roles need to be creative and flexible to make things work in unexplored places. Sales reps who thrive in ambiguity, turning uncertainty into opportunity, will be the team members who set your company on a path to success in new markets.
When the market gets more shaky or competitive, resourcefulness is the key to rebuilding your sales playbook. Creativity and resourcefulness are the antidotes to stagnation, ensuring your team can craft new ways to sell when the usual methods aren’t producing the same results as before.
Lastly, in the bigger deals with lots of moving parts, being resourceful is key. Tackling upper mid-market and enterprise deals requires more than a standard playbook. There are so many different things going on in these deals and they often can take on a life of their own. So, salespeople here need to be quick thinkers, finding new solutions to unexpected problems as they pop up.
So, how do you use your interview process to separate the okay candidates from the great ones who will value and utilize resourceful solutions to problems at your company?
Crafting Behavioral Questions to Uncover Resourcefulness
Research shows that behavioral questions are gold mines for hiring accuracy in complex roles like sales. These types of questions allow you to dive into real experiences where the candidates describe how they performed and reacted — moving you away from hypothetical scenarios that may or may not play out for your company.
Many interviewers like hypothetical questions (“Tell me what you would do if…”). They say those questions give you a window into how a candidate thinks and solves problems. That may be true, but you don’t want to hire a seller who is just book smart. You want to hire someone who is smart and effective. Digging into formative career experiences tells you how they think, and also if they are able to translate their intelligence into effective action, especially when they are paired with the right follow up questions. Answers to hypothetical questions does little to show whether the candidate will be able to effectively apply their intelligent answer.
When building a behavioral question for an interview, you should start with, "Tell me about a specific time when...". When you’re evaluating a candidate for resourcefulness, pay attention to how they approach the story. Do they blame others for failure? Do they share creative approaches? Focus less on the outcomes and more on how the candidate describes the experience. For experienced sellers, delve into situations where everything went awry, negotiations turned complex, or unrealistic expectations made jobs seem beyond attainable.
The goal of your interview is to uncover the candidate's actions, the results of those actions, and the invaluable lessons learned. Then, discover how they have applied these lessons since. This is the real litmus test on how a candidate will perform in the roles you’re hiring for.
When you’re interviewing candidates for entry-level roles, expect to shift what you’re looking for in their responses. For these roles, where they may not have much sales experience, use these questions to explore personal sacrifices, goal-setting in uncertainty, and overcoming obstacles in different areas of their life.
Interview Questions That Gauge Sales Candidates' Resourcefulness
Not sure where to start on building good questions to help discover a candidate’s resourcefulness? Don’t worry; we have you covered with a list of questions to start with. But as you review these questions, remember it’s essential to focus on quality over quantity. Select a few questions tailored to your role and arm yourself with follow-ups. In a 45-minute interview, you only need three to four questions to really get to the heart of how resourceful a candidate will be in your job.
Consider using some of these questions to learn more about a candidate’s history of being resourceful in challenging sales situations. These questions are tailored for experienced sales reps:
- Tell me about a specific time you worked on an opportunity where everything went wrong.
- Tell me about a specific time when you worked on an opportunity that took much longer than expected.
- Tell me about a specific time when you didn’t have enough pipeline.
- Tell me about a specific time you worked on an opportunity that had a complex negotiation.
- Tell me about a specific time you worked on an opportunity with a complex buying organization.
- Tell me about a specific time when your manager had unrealistic expectations on an opportunity or forecast.
- Tell me about a specific time when you knew you wouldn’t win a deal unless you could influence the buying criteria.
- Tell me about a time you had an important opportunity in a competitive situation, and you knew you were behind a competitor.
- Tell me about a time you received an objection from a prospect, and you didn’t have a way to overcome the objection.
When interviewing someone for an entry-level sales role, phrase the questions differently. They’ll still follow the behavioral question pattern to dig up how the candidate performed in past situations, but will allow the candidate to respond to questions without specific sales experience. For example, you may want to look for situations when the candidate had to be resourceful to overcome extremely difficult obstacles in their personal life, academics, or sports to pursue their passions.
Once again, tailor the questions to your role. Here are some questions you could ask a candidate for an entry-level sales position:
- Tell me about a specific time when you made personal sacrifices to accomplish something important.
- Tell me about a specific time when you needed to get creative with limited resources to accomplish your goal.
- Tell me about a specific time when you set a goal you didn't know if you could accomplish.
- Tell me about a specific time in your career that was especially difficult.
- Tell me about a specific time you realized that a goal you committed to is no longer attainable.
- Tell me about a specific time you needed to make a major change because you weren't on track to accomplish a goal.
- Tell me about a specific time when your to-do list was incredibly long, and you didn't know how you were going to get everything completed on time.
- Tell me about a specific time you've had an objective to meet and lacked the resources to accomplish it.
As you’re conducting the interview, be prepared with follow-up questions. Dig into the nitty-gritty details of the situations your candidates describe. Here are some of the things to think about to help craft follow-up questions that fit with the initial answer:
- What are the specifics of the situation the candidate is describing?
- What actions did the candidate take?
- What were the results of the actions?
- What lessons did the candidate learn from the situation?
- How have they applied those lessons since then?
Identifying Resourcefulness in Sales Interviews
The good news is that when you want to get a sales hire right, you’re already armed with an arsenal of tools to help: behavioral interview questions, thoughtful follow-ups, and a laser focus on the character traits that will help you predict how successful a candidate will be in your role.
As you dig into a candidate’s past experiences, you’ll be able to easily find clues about their resourcefulness in action and understand their problem-solving prowess and adaptability. By anchoring the interview process on character traits proven to pave the way for triumph in sales, you’ll ensure the likelihood of getting the hire right for your team and position.
Ultimately, the art of discerning resourcefulness in sales candidates hinges on more than just scripted responses or polished resumes. It takes a disciplined interview process that is built on identifying the traits candidates need to succeed with you. This way, you ensure a more informed hiring decision and lay the groundwork for assembling an all-star sales team.