Phone Screening Sales Candidates the Right Way

March 30, 2017 at 2:12 PM by Rob Stevenson

Sales Candidate Phone Screen

This is the second installment of a multi post series about conducting role specific, repeatable, standardized phone screens. Part one on general phone screen questions can be found here.

This one goes out to all you Sales Recruiters out there. While there’s a host of standard questions you can lob candidates during phone screens, when it comes to sales recruiting, this stage is a valuable opportunity to carve out some serious context. While a similar title and experience at a peer company can be attractive, not all sales processes are created equal.

Average deal sizes, sales cycles, contract lengths, prospecting, trial opportunities, and quotas are going to be different in every organization. That's why before you bring these lucky devils into HQ, you need to make sure there’s a chubby middle section on the Venn diagram of both organization’s sales set up.

Read on for a list of phone screen questions you can use to determine if your sales candidate’s experience is in line with your sales habitat. Stick around til the end of the post and you’ll find a handy printer-friendly checklist you can stick on your recruiting team’s monitors. Go forth and recruit likewise!

What is the length of [company’s] sales cycle?

The longer the sales cycle, the more important a relationship focused approach becomes. If your company typically has a short cycle and your candidate is used to a longer one, they’ll probably be able to adjust. If they’re used to one or two call closes and your deals typically take 90 days or more, it could be a stretch for them.

What’s your average deal size and length of contract? (years, months, one-offs?)

Related to the above, larger deal sizes and longer contracts typically take more time, are conducted with a more senior decision makers, and all in all require a defter touch. For extra credit, be sure to ask candidates about their current company’s average deal size and their own personal average deal size. That will give you a sense of how their performance compares to their peers. 

What was your quota over the last few quarters?

This question not only lets you know if they were producing at a level on par with your own reps but also gives you a sense of their progress. If their quota didn’t increase over the past few quarters, were they missing goal or barely hitting it? It doesn't necessarily mean they aren't good sales pros, but it's an important data point to consider. 

What was your attainment against quota?

This one’s obvious, as it's crucial to track performance. Consider their answer in the context of how their quota changed (or did not) in the recent past because this will tell you if they were truly hitting or exceeding their goals. 

Who is your typical buyer persona/decision maker?

Is your candidate comfortable talking to professionals at the level required for your company’s sales cycle? This isn’t necessarily limited to people who haven’t sold to senior level people, either. If they typically sell into the C-level, and your company focuses on Directors or Department Heads, is this role actually a ‘hot new opportunity’ for them?

How was your sales territory determined?

Again, more alignment. Organizations divide up sales territories differently so it’s important to get this one out of the way. If they are used to selling in the Southwest but your org does not have a huge market there, know that there will be an adjustment. 

How are you building pipeline? (prospecting?)

Is your organization full of SDRs and rakishly good looking marketers generating leads for your sales team? Or do reps have to go out and eat what they kill? A sales person who is used to getting loads of inbound requests and having appointments made for them might not adjust well to doing all their own prospecting.

Of course, you’re probably not going to find a sales arena exactly like your own, so while looking for candidates with apples-to-apples experience is the dream, it’s not necessarily a realistic goal for every search. The above questions represent a handful of areas that can let you assess how easily a candidate would be able to transition and succeed in your sales environment. Oh, and here’s that checklist I promised. Good luck!

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