How to have a successful sales team: What to watch out for when interviewing candidates

Salespeople, regardless of sector or whether they are inbound, outbound, field sales, door-to-door, telesales, or account managers are always good at selling one thing: themselves.

Salespeople have to be. Otherwise, they’d never be in sales. Never get a job, and wouldn’t be any good landing clients if they couldn’t sell themselves successfully.

However, for sales managers recruiting new team members, you need to spot those who can deliver compared to those who can’t. It isn’t always easy. High-performing salespeople are worth their weight in gold. They can make a huge difference to a company. Generate a massive amount of new revenue.

How to have a successful sales team: 10 red flags to watch out for when interviewing sales team candidates

  1. Lacking a growth mindset
  2. No self-awareness
  3. Too arrogant
  4. Don’t ask smart questions
  5. Not a great listener
  6. Limited examples of successful sales outcomes
  7. Moved from job to job too often
  8. Need to be money motivated, but not too much
  9. Can’t control the conversation
  10. An inability to shift gears

Whereas, other less successful salespeople will have a negative effect on a team. They won’t hit targets. Could cause problems and headaches, and in most cases won’t work out and will go elsewhere. To avoid these issues, here are 10 red flags to watch out for when interviewing sales team candidates.

#1: Do they have a growth mindset?

Successful salespeople need to have a growth mindset. Not only for the company they want to work for, but for themselves. Can they show that they’ve made plans, achieved goals, learned new skills, grown and changed over time?

If they can demonstrate that professionally, then that’s a great sign. Even better if they can demonstrate that personally too. If they can’t either way, then that is a potential red flag.

#2: Lacking self-awareness

Top salespeople are self-aware. This means they know their strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect, so if you ask about weaknesses and they can’t cite any then it demonstrates some blind spots. If they can’t show self-awareness, then it should a red flag.

#3: Too arrogant

Confidence and self-assuredness is what you need in salespeople. It’s an asset in a sales role. If someone comes across as confident, it makes them likable, which is largely untrainable soft skill in sales. But it makes a huge difference.

Whereas, arrogance (usually more of a trait amongst younger make salespeople) is a negative trait. It could make it difficult to coach and train someone, as they’d assume they know best. Arrogance isn’t useful in sales, and could easily encourage potential clients to go elsewhere.

#4: Don’t ask smart questions

An interview is a sales pitch. And like any sales pitch, it’s a two-way conversation between two parties who could work together. A key part of that is asking smart questions. In sales conversations, these are qualifying questions.

In an interview, smart questions would be anything a sales/hiring manager hasn’t already made clear. Such as salary and commission expectations, targets, progression and training opportunities. Candidates should want to know this information. If they aren’t asking smart questions then it should be noted as a red flag.

#5: Not a great listener

Listening is just as important. Top salespeople are great listeners. Asking smart questions and practicing active listening is crucial. If that isn’t evident in an interview, then it’s something of a red flag because you have to wonder: Will they manage any better talking to clients and prospects?

#6: Limited examples of successful sales outcomes

Being successful in sales means having determination. Going for the big win, the big deal, and landing it. Generating lots of new revenue at a previous company. All positive signs that you’re hiring a winner.

However, if a salesperson struggles to cite previous examples of successful outcomes, then it’s a red flag.

#7: Moved from job to job too often

Another red flag is someone who’s only stayed in previous roles a year then moved on. January is the main time of year when those who’ve usually struggled to hit targets, or not been a good fit for a company, look for new jobs. If that happens once or twice in a salesperson’s career, it’s understandable, but if there is a consistent pattern then it needs to be considered a red flag.

#8: Need to be money motivated, but not too much

This is a tricky one. It’s definitely not a bad thing if a salesperson is motivated by money. It’s a good sign. However, there needs to be a balance. In a sales role, they ought to be equally motivated by helping customers, finding the right solutions for them, and should demonstrate that with past experience.

If they’re only motivated by earning lots of money, and the status and things they can buy with that, then it’s something of a red flag.

#9: Can’t control the conversation

Salespeople need to ask smart questions, listen, make a pitch, and at times control the conversation. That means guiding a sales lead in the right direction. But it also means stopping and listening too, not talking over a prospect. If they have poor conversation management skills then it’s a red flag. Especially when so many sales meetings are happening using screen share applications, such as CrankWheel.

#10: An inability to shift gears

Part of having good conversation skills is the ability to shift gears. From questions to active listening. Pitching to problem-solving, and even talking about non-sales-related things, like anything both people have in common (such as a shared interest in a sports team).

If a candidate can demonstrate an ability to shift gears quickly then it’s a good sign. However, it’s also a red flag if that isn’t the case.

And there we go: 10 red flags to watch out for when interviewing a sales candidate. We hope this list is useful when you are next hiring for your team.

Key Takeaways: 10 red flags in interviews

  1. Lacking a growth mindset
  2. No self-awareness
  3. Too arrogant
  4. Don’t ask smart questions
  5. Not a great listener
  6. Limited examples of successful sales outcomes
  7. Moved from job to job too often
  8. Need to be money motivated, but not too much
  9. Can’t control the conversation
  10. An inability to shift gears

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