The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Interview questions to identify weaknesses

    by Kristi Shoemaker / April 6, 2011

    EcSELL Institute 6 Pillars of Sales Productivity Pre-Summit Workshop Session Summary

    Instructor: Tony Cole, Anthony Cole Training GroupTony Cole, Anthony Cole Training Group

    Tony Cole shared the importance of identifying and hiring the right sales talent.

    As a Sales Manager, your ability to attract new talent and hold on to top performers is the key to sustained growth. Why? Because human capital is a sales department’s  most important asset.  By understanding the crucial elements necessary for sales success and being able to identify the qualities of exceptional sales performers, you will have the information necessary to strategically upgrade your sales force.  The result?  Being able to achieve an even greater level of sustainable success.

    Here are some highlights from Tony Cole's Workshop Session!


    The five minute interview can tell you a lot about the potential success of the sales recruite. Remember, this is not a social call. This is one of the first steps in the identification process. The five minute interview should look like this:

    Create an environment similar to what they will face on the phone

    Did they close you?

    Did they ask questions?

    Did they establish rapport?

    THE INTERVIEW - How to identify weaknesses before they become your problem.

    WEAKNESS/PROBLEM: Makes excuses

    Questions to ask:
    What is your goal for new sales over the next 12 months?  What keeps you from increasing that number by say 50 to 100%?
        LISTEN FOR: Anything that starts with a "t"

    In your current sales situation when you don’t get a sale, how come?
        LISTEN FOR: "I didn't...."

    What’s the worst year you’ve had in sales?  What happened?
        LISTEN FOR: Excuses

    WEAKNESS/PROBLEM: Lack of commitment

    Explain to me how you are committed to success in sales. Why should I hire you? 
        LISTEN FOR: Watch how they behave.  Do they become flustered with this tough question?  Do they get defensive? 

    Tell me about something that you committed to do and failed.  How did that make you feel?
         LISTEN FOR: You want to find someone that doesn’t get emotionally involved.  If they can stay cool here they can stay cool in a tough phone sales situation.

    WEAKNESS/PROBLEM: Killer Instinct

    If I were watching you in a closing interview, how would I describe your approach to presenting and closing?
         LISTEN FOR: I make sure that when I finish I get a firm commitment to do business by a certain point in time.  (What you don’t want to hear is, I am very thorough, I make sure I answer all their questions, I TRY to close)

    What do you do at the end of the call and the prospect says to you 'I need to think it over.’ No matter what you try, they say ‘I just have to think this over and look at it, surely you understand this is an important decision.’  What do you do?
         LISTEN FOR: I hang in there.  I go for the no.  Also look for ‘close for’ next steps.  If I cant get a yes, what next steps can we take to get closer?

    Suppose I told you that from now on you are not allowed to take “think it overs” at the close.  Think it overs kill us. If they won’t tell us yes, get them to tell you no.  If someone says I have to think it over, ‘it doesn’t sound like you want to solve your problem and end the call.’  Company policy.  How would you feel?
        LISTEN FOR:  Well, I guess if it were company policy, I wouldn’t feel too good but I’d do it anyway.

    WEAKNESS/PROBLEM: Uncomfortable about Money 

    What do you do when a prospect says at the close –Your price is too high.
         LISTEN FOR: I would work with them to uncover how to find the money.

    Ask them how much money something cost, ie: new car, new suit, vacation, etc.
         LISTEN FOR: Look for discomfort in discussing costs, if you see that, we have a problem getting them to uncover budgets.


    What gets you down?  How long does it take you to feel you’ve shaken off the effects of something negative in your life?
         LISTEN FOR: I turn it off as soon as I get back to work.  I don’t let things get to me.  I adjust and move on

    WEAKNESS/PROBLEM: Recovery from rejection

    Give me an example of the last time you dealt with a significant rejection that really bothered you.  (Personal or professional)  How did you deal with it?
         LISTEN FOR: Watch the body language.  You’re looking for someone that doesn’t get thrown off by this.  ‘life goes on’, looking for short recovery time.


    Why do you believe you will be successful for us?  How you go about your job that would demonstrate you are passionate about being successful in selling?
         LISTEN FOR: Look for something that ties to money and what they would do with it.  Look for things like, looking for the next deal, looking for ways to get the business.  I’ve got big things I have to get done.  I have a spouse, a big house, a dog and kids to feed.

    WEAKNESS/PROBLEM: Too trusting

    Give them scenarios to role play:
    1.Ask them to ask you-how do you make a decision to do this?

    2.Ask them to ask you-Will you show the competition their numbers?
         LISTEN FOR:
    1.Tell them no one else has to fall in love with this. Look for their behavior and questions of getting beyond the lie.
    2.Tell them you will not.  Look for them to ask the question a different way to see if you are not telling them the truth.
    Here is a related article on Talent ID and Acquistion titled "Modern Science of Sales Person Selection"

    What are some of your best interview questions?  What do you listen for? 

    previous post How to increase close rates w/ ZEBRAs not ZONKEYs
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    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi is a marketing communications and public relations expert with over 30+ years of experience in a variety of industries. She was an integral part of EcSell's go-to-market strategy and execution from 2008 - 2012. Kristi enjoys taking a holistic approach by integrating all the key marketing disciplines to create synergies that generate maximum results. She is currently the president of KLS Consulting in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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