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Nine Questions You Need To Ask When Hiring a B2B Sales Candidate

Romaana Mahtey | 1 June 2022


Hiring the right B2B sales candidate (or indeed, any prospective employee) is a gamble. You’ve only got a CV, a handful of half-hour interviews, and one or two references to rely on. Can you really be sure that the sales candidate you’re about to hire will make good on their promise to close deals and do their part to drive revenue up? As with any sort of prospect profiling, it’s all about asking the right questions and getting as much information about the person sitting in front of you, or on the other side of a telephone, as possible. Here are nine questions to ask when hiring a salesperson:

1) How do you keep your finger on the pulse of your target market and their industries? 

Whether they subscribe to company newsletters and trade publications or interact in forums or on relevant LinkedIn groups, a sales rep should know their prospects’ industries as well as their own – otherwise, how can they sell and add value to them throughout the sales process? A great salesperson will relish the opportunity for continual learning, make market research a part of their sales approach, and will actively do this without outside motivation.

2) What’s more important: meeting targets or keeping current customers happy?

Beware of a sales candidate who only thinks about their monthly commission. Of course, generating revenue is the reason why sales teams exist in the first place, but a sales rep with no people skills or no inclination to help their prospects is no good either. Being able to form relationships built on trust and offer stellar service not only facilitates the sales process but guarantees a healthy ongoing relationship with a client: one that will very likely bring in repeat business.

3) Have you ever lost a sale but still kept in touch with the prospect?

A good sales rep will be able to handle the inevitable rejection that comes with the job. A great sales rep will not only handle the rejection well, but make an effort to maintain the connections they’ve created with their prospects. Given the time and energy they’ve invested in these connections, it only makes sense to nurture these leads as they could become customers in the future.

4) How would you fit an elephant in the fridge?

Whilst we're not really looking for a specific answer to this question, it does a good job of conveying how your candidate will interpret curveball questions like those they will inevitably receive in a sales role.  It's a great way to test their quick-thinking ability and see how flexible they are. Such is the nature of sales that no day is the same, and a sales candidate needs to be able to respond to however a potential customer is behaving. Asking them an unexpected question shows their logic and thought processes under pressure too. 

5) How did you get on with your previous marketing team?

The sales vs marketing cold war that’s dominated businesses for decades has well and truly thawed now, or should have! There’s plenty of data to suggest that sales and marketing teams that are aligned have a positive impact on revenue generation and facilitate integrated lead generation. Your ideal candidate will have, hopefully, been on good terms with their previous marketing department, because marketing has access to a wealth of information and insights about leads that are worth their weight in gold for sales.

6) What part of the sales process do you struggle with most?

There isn’t really a right or wrong answer to this question – every salesperson will have their own strengths and preferences. Some may enjoy nurturing their client relationships, others enjoy the thrill of the pitch. The important thing is that their strengths are aligned with your business and culture. And if they enjoy prospect profiling more than selling, then maybe they’d fare better in marketing!

7) Are you a creative or analytical thinker?

You might have got an idea about their ability to creatively solve a problem after asking them how to fit an elephant in a fridge; now’s the time to delve deeper. As much as charisma and spontaneity (the right brain’s domain) are valuable skills for salespeople to have, being left-brained is advantageous too. A salesperson needs to adapt to new technology (CRMs etc), be able to interpret data and be methodical – especially when it comes to using CRMs such as HubSpot and Salesforce. For example, updating lead details on a daily basis, recording minutes from sales calls, moving leads down deal stages, and setting follow-up tasks.

8) On a scale of one to 10, how patient are you?

We’ve joked about the aggressive sales stereotype in a previous blog – but how many times have you met someone who is both aggressive and patient? Patience is most definitely a virtue required during the sales process, especially in B2B industries where sales cycles are much longer and there are multiple people involved in decision-making processes. Hand in hand with patience comes persistence; your candidate should be the type of person who won’t give up on a lead after the first, or even third, meeting.

9) If you were the managing director of this company, what would you change to increase revenue?

This is another opportunity for you to get a sense of their creative thinking ability, as well as whether they’ve bothered to conduct thorough research into your business and industry. If they’ve done their homework, chances are they’ll also do the same for every prospect.

Download our guide if you’d like practical advice about how to craft the ultimate sales pitch, or get in touch if you’d like to find out how lead generation services can help you reach out to your prospects:

win more b2b sales pitches guide