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Sales Leadership
Interview Questions to Gauge Key Skill Sets
Jun 2, 2010 | Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) lock

The following is a listing of questions to help you gauge a candidate's skill sets:

COMMUNICATION. To determine if the candidate is able to clearly present
information, influence or persuade others through oral or written presentations in positive or negative circumstances and listen well, ask:

1. Describe the most significant written document/presentation which you had to  complete.
2. Tell me about a time when you had to influence another person verbally and how you were successful.
3. What strategies do you use to plant questions in your customer’s mind?
4. Listening to customers is an integral part of sales. Outline an instance where your ability to listen to a client’s needs helped you relay information about your company’s product/service more effectively.
5. Do you find it helpful to take notes when talking to a customer? How to you keep track of your customer contacts?
6. During a sales demonstration/presentation, what techniques do you use to repeat the prospect’s key concepts back to him or her?

PROBLEM-SOLVING. To determine if the candidate is able to use a systematic
approach in solving problems through analysis and evaluation of alternative solutions, ask:

1. Can you tell me about a time when you were systematic in identifying potential problems at work.
2. Describe a situation when you had to use complex calculations to solve a complex problem for a customer.
3. Can you outline an example where you have had to come up with several solutions to a customer’s problem. What approaches did you use—brainstorming, research etc?
4. As a marketing strategy, what do think about prospecting for customers on the Internet through social media?

CUSTOMER SERVICE. To determine if the candidate has a service orientation and can place the interests of others before himself, ask:

1. What is your definition of a customer service professional?
2. What do you like most about servicing your customers? Why? Can you give me
 an example?
3. What do you like least about servicing your customers? Why? Can you give me
an example?
4. Tell me about your best long-term account? How did you get it and what have
you done to retain it?
5. What has been you worst experience with a customer and how did you handle it?
6. Can you describe to me a time when you have performed above and beyond the
call of duty to meet the needs of a customer or client?
7. Tell me about a time when you had to call a customer about an overdue account. What strategies do you find to be effective in encouraging customers to pay
8. In your last position, how often did you survey customers or conduct account reviews?

SELLING SKILLS. To determine if the candidate has the necessary skills to succeed in consultative selling, ask:

1. What do you think makes a person “successful” in sales? How do you rate yourself in these areas?
2. Do you believe that salespeople need to be motivated frequently? How often should they be motivated?
3. Do you generate you own leads? How would you go about identifying customers in a new market?
4. Can you describe a situation where your initial approach was not working and you had to try a different method. What did you do?
5. Tell me how you qualify a prospect on the telephone?
6. When you telephone a prospect, what strategies do you use to get past the secretary or gatekeeper?
7. What are the five most common objections you hear from prospective customers on the telephone? How do you handle them?
8. Can you provide me with an example of how you are able to be positive about a product even when discussing a negative?
9. Can you give me an example of a situation where you had to adjust your approach to a prospect/customer based on their body language?
10. What is your ratio of initial contacts to actual sales presentations?
11. How do you handle the concern “I want to think about it.”
12. Tell me about a time when you almost lost a sale/customer and what steps did you take to salvage the sale/account?
13. How do you close a sale?
14. What strategies do you employ to turn an occasional buyer into a regular buyer?
15. How much travel have you done in the past? Have you had to travel in your present position? Can you tell me how you handle/cope with delays?
16. Tell me about a situation where you had to resolve a problem even though it was not your responsibility?

TIME MANAGEMENT. To determine if a candidate is self-directed and able to
accomplish his/her responsibilities in a cost-effective and efficient manner, ask

1. Tell me about which types of contact management software you have used to keep track of your contacts/callbacks?
2. Time management is a necessary factor in personal productivity for salespeople. Can you give me an example of any time management skill, technique or tactic that you have learned and applied at work?
3. How do you handle interruptions and crises? Can you give me an example of a recent incident?
4. What kinds of systems, aids or software programs do you use to organize yourself at the office or on the road?

TEAMWORK. To determine if the candidate has the necessary skills and aptitude for working as part of a group, ask:
1. Do you prefer working alone or in a group? Why?
2. Tell me about your previous experiences working as part of a group or team.Who was involved? What role did you play? What were the results? How did you feel about the experience?
3. How often do you meet with your sales manager? What do you discuss?
4. When it comes time for compensation, do you believe that all team members should be compensated equally or do you favour a more individual determination?

INTEGRITY AND ETHICACY. To determine if the candidate has a strong sense of right and wrong and is inclined to follow established rules and procedures, ask:

1. What policies, procedures or rules do you find most difficult to follow? Why?Have you ever broken or bent the rules? What was the outcome?
2. You’ve heard the expression “The end justifies the means.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
3. Can you give me an example where you have been placed in an awkward position with a client/customer and how you managed to extricate yourself without
damaging the relationship?

About the Author:

The Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) is a national organization of 30000 sales and marketing professionals. Members receive significant savings on travel, business costs and more. The CPSA also offers exclusive sales training and certification programs.

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