We all know the joke. How do you know a salesperson is lying? (“Her lips are moving!”) After more than a couple decades of doing this, and having relative success as both a salesperson and a sales manager, I have come to the conclusion that I am not as good as I think I am when it comes to determining whether a salesperson is going to succeed or not. Some questions that might help you:
- “How much money did you make last year?” Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, and others preach “Past Performance is Everything.” We ask our candidates if they can produce their last five years of W-2’s and the last 2 or 3 supervisors that they have worked with. This is probably the best indicator of the kind of individual that is sitting before you. You can’t get much more direct than “How much money did you make last year?” Answer : “$125,000” “Great , I assume you have the w-2 to back it up.” At this point the candidate will either be looking at the ceiling like an astronomer or , you will get lucky and they will look you square in the eye and say “ no problem, how many W-2’s do you need?” Bingo.
- “What is your greatest accomplishment in business up to now?” A favorite of the insurance industry and HR veterans. (Can’t use family) The “tell” here is how quickly and confidently they come up with something. Hesitation is death.
- “Do you love to win or hate to lose?” The answer the HR people are looking for is “I hate to lose”. Everyone loves to win, but the truly competitive person really hates to lose. (See John McEnroe).
- “What was your first job?” This really goes to character , upbringing, and overall DNA. “Well, I delivered papers when I was 12 , got up at 5:30 every morning and collected the money on Saturday.” Hire this person.
- “Why is a manhole cover round?” (Seriously?) We had a software client that actually asked this question. I had no clue what the answer was nor its relevance. (Probably the reason why we never placed anyone there). Answer (if you care) “Because it doesn’t fall through the hole.” Great. Why don’t we all go off and play Trivial Pursuit instead. Five Paul Newman movies beginning with the letter “H” anyone?
- “Do you have any questions of me?” Usually asked by the Sales Manager to cue the parade of closes. “Sure, when do I start?” or “Hey, I’ve got my lamp in the car. Should I bring it in?” or “Yeah, where is my (insert favorite curse word) cube?” (Oracle loves this one).
Interviewers, see if the candidate tries to take control of the meeting (good thing). If they try to move you around, they will be doing that with potential prospects. What is their style? Are they likable without being cloying? Are they confident without being cocky? Do they answer the questions you ask like they are on Jeopardy (not good) or think about the question before the pearls of wisdom pour from their lips? Did they do their homework on your company? (essential).
OK, so now we can’t wait for the next interview, right? Problem is , the new species of salesperson is like the latest Ebola virus, they are adapting to the environment and killing us with their new “super strength” charm . They “Ace” the interview and then fall on their face when the job starts. This is the candidate that I have falsely labelled “can’t miss, best in show, etc.” I would have bet my mortgage on them (and lost). How could we have hired this person? How could we have been so stupid? How could our recruiting company have sent over this guy? Well, we did. Welcome to my world.
Next time, we will attempt to help you with the antidote to this sales version of the Bubonic Plague. And how to deal with Millennials? See you.
Acknowledgements: Jack Welch, Mat Fischer, Paul Woodward, IDC Technologies, Steve Graham, Dave Winter, Eric Miller.