Interviewing sales people is one of the hardest things you can do. Some factors that contribute to sales success—like discipline, motivation, and planning skills—are difficult to assess in an interview.
Discipline is probably the trickiest to evaluate because it’s such an abstract concept. It’s important that we spend time learning how to assess this trait, especially since Warren Buffett names focus, which is synonymous with discipline, as the most important contributor to his business success. Here’s how you can break through a candidate’s facade during an interview and find out what you really want to know.
How to Hire Disciplined Salespeople:
What has been a personal marathon accomplishment?
We’re not looking to see if a person has run a marathon. (However running a marathon is a sign of discipline because it takes training, months of eating right, and continued goal setting.) What we are looking for is an accomplishment in the candidate’s life that requires time and patience. Some examples might include: losing a significant amount of weight and keeping it off, learning to speak a new language, leading an organization or charitable event, etc. Recently I interviewed a sales candidate who took up standup comedy. He talked about getting booed off stage the first couple of times but gradually improved and stuck with it until it became a fun hobby. That takes discipline!!
Jim Keenan made a good point when he wrote, “don’t hire people who aren’t great at something else“.
When was the last time you wrote a personal business plan to hit your sales goals? What were the 3-5 most important elements?
If time management and sales activity weren’t both part of that plan, it’s an immediate red flag that this person doesn’t understand the relationship between discipline and sales success. Further, once you find out about that plan, ask deeper questions to find out how they managed to stick to it. Success in sales can often be attributed to accomplishing the “little things” day in and day out. If the job candidate for your sales team can’t describe how he or she is able to break a goal down into several steps, it may be a red flag.
Give them a homework assignment.
Bonus interview tip—never hire someone after the first interview. Between the first and second interview is a great chance to give the candidate a homework assignment. This could even be a variation on question 2, where you have the candidate create an account or territory plan. When they present the assignment to you, make sure to ask follow up questions about how they planned their activities to hit their said goals and ask them to give examples of how they’ve carried out similar strategies in the past.
These are just a few examples of questions you can ask to assess discipline. Ultimately, disciplined professionals are disciplined in their personal life too. Don’t show your cards by asking questions that directly address discipline. Instead, ask about past experience or hypotheticals and pay attention to how the candidate addresses discipline in those answers.
If you’re a sales manager responsible for making hiring decisions, how do you assess discipline of a new hire? How do candidates indicate that they might be successful in sales? If you’re a salesperson, how have you communicated your level of discipline in an interview setting?
Leave us a comment below or let us know on Twitter @SalesEngine!
Are you disciplined? RIVS is hiring a sales manager!
Bill Meidell is the Vice President of Sales & Operations for RIVS. He is a 10 year veteran of the recruitment industry, received his BA from the University of Illinois and MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Bill is often described as a diehard White Sox fan that is passionate about good pizza.