How to test sales reps’ soft skills during interviews

Posted in Sales team management.

It is no doubt essential for an employee to possess skills that are easily quantifiable and teachable. However, focus is increasingly shifting towards soft skills. Soft skills are all about the qualities that allow someone to interact with others in a harmonious and effective way. A sales rep with excellent soft skills are at a distinct advantage because of their frequent close contact with clients.

You might be able to acknowledge the value of soft skills but do you know how to test for it when deciding on hiring a new sales rep ? Here are some questions you can ask during interviews that might help to guide you towards getting a rep with the qualities you and your clients will benefit from:

Organization and time management

Being able to organize one’s work in a timely manner helps to get any job at hand done more efficiently. Sales reps that are on the road need to be masters of their time in order to take orders and create quotes, build proper client relationships and get necessary admin done simultaneously.

*  What specific tools do you use to keep yourself organized at work? Explain how you make use of these tools.
*  How do you determine what daily, monthly and yearly tasks deserve top priority?
*  How do you plan your workday or workweek?

Teamwork

Good teamwork is the ability to work and collaborate with others to achieve a shared goal. Sales reps are usually part of a team so no matter their individual tasks, they need to be able to band together with others for the sake of the greater good.

*  Tell me about a time that you were involved in a less-than-successful team project and how did you handle the situation?
*  Have you ever worked with a colleague that you did not get along with and how did you resolve the conflict?
*  What do you do in a team situation to make yourself valuable?

Initiative

This soft skill refers to an individual’s ability to actively look for solutions without having to be prompted to do so and at the same time being able to put ideas into action.

*  Tell me about a time when you did more than what was required of you.
*  Has there been a time when you’ve discovered a problem on your own and what did you do to solve the problem?
*  Did you ever seek out learning opportunities without encouragement from superiors or colleagues?

Adaptability / flexibility

Sales reps will often have to think on their feet when dealing with a client, a new product or something similar. It is also likely that one will need to fulfil different roles at once and adaptability is vital in this instance.

*  Explain a time when you encountered a major change in either your job or personal life, and how you adapted your behavior to accommodate this change.
*  Imagine that you have received negative feedback from your sales manager about your performance. What actions do you take?
*  What techniques do you employ to cope with stressful moments at work?

Problem-solving

Stumbling blocks and obstacles are par for the course in any job. A company needs a sales rep that is willing to face a problem head on and formulate solutions that are practical and can be implemented successfully.

*  Think back to a situation where you encountered an obstacle. Explain what the problem was and the solution you came up with to solve the problem.
*  Have you ever foreseen potential future problems in a job, and how did you implement preventative measures?
*  Tell me about improvements you have made in your previous job.

Communication

Possessing strong communication skills (being able to both verbalize effectively and listen actively) helps a sales rep to build strong relationships with both clients and colleagues.

*  Ask the applicant to explain something, anything, to you. It doesn’t have to be sales-related. The purpose of this question is to gauge whether they are able to convey an idea accurately and succinctly. This is a vital skill for sales reps to have because they will have to talk to clients about products all the time.
*  How would you handle a situation where there has been a breakdown in communication between either you and a colleague or you and your sales manager?
*  Imagine you have to give a presentation on a new product to a client. What techniques would you employ to ensure that the message is being communicated correctly and effectively?
 
 
All of these questions are merely examples. You shouldn’t pepper the prospective sales rep with too many questions. Pick the ones that you feel will give you the best information, according to your situation and preferences. Or better yet, adapt the above questions to create a more personalised interview. You will be able to gauge from the prospective sales reps’ answers whether or not they possess the required soft skills necessary to excel in the sales world and, ultimately, if this is a good fit for your company.