A Question To Use When Hiring Top Sales People

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Magnifying Glass With The Word Recruiting And A Team Of People. Hiring the right sales people is a difficult task and this little role playing scenario will help.  Keep in mind that this is not to be used as the only deciding factor in your hiring choice.  We also recommend that you test (with a Sales Assessment and also during the interview) for competencies, skills, attitude and ability. This is just a useful exercise to test their current mindset and how they currently handle resistance – it’s just a tool that can help you gain a deeper insight into the sales person’s character.

In, “An Effective Way To Identify Top Sales People,” I proposed a role playing situation to use with the sales applicant.  The sales person plays the part of a fire equipment sales person and the interviewer is the prospect.

Sales Person:

“James, based upon your requirements I have determined that the only system that will adequately protect you and your family in the event of a fire is four of our heat detectors and two of the smoke models.  This is because you have so much electronic equipment, that a fire is likely to be one that produces little smoke.  So your fire protection system comes to £1,300.”

The prospect offers some resistance:

“Well, that looks good.  But it is much more than I had in mind.  I was planning on spending closer to £800, maybe £900 tops.  What can you do for me for that much?” 

Now, see how the sales person handles this resistance.

The Typical Response
The typical response you will get from the average sales person is the one who immediately begins to work the math and reduce the offer to meet the prospect’s price. As an example:

“Well, James, what if we went with just two of the heat detectors and two of the smoke detectors?  That would be a total of only £800.  Can we go with that?” 

Potential Integrity Problems: The sales person who quickly chooses the above option could be a problem.  First, you clearly said that the sales person’s proposed offer was the only system that would, “…adequately protect you and your family in the event of a fire…”  Therefore, how can the sales person immediately change the system? Anything other than what was first proposed is obviously inadequate.  If another, lesser system will work, then why did the sales person propose the first system?

Is this the type of sales person that is willing to do anything to make the sale?  Is this a sales person who will look at commissions above the needs of the client?

Listening Skills: Perhaps the sales person never really heard what you said when proposing the role play.  This too can be a problem.  It is likely that the problem is some combination of the two: poor listening skills and professional integrity.

The Second Response
Then, you will get the sales person who tries to get the prospect to raise his price a little in effort to strike a deal.  The sales person will ask you (as the interviewer) if he or she has some flexibility to offer a discount, and then close on a price drop.

“Well, James, we can’t go as low as £800 but let me see if I can get you a better deal.  Could you work with £1,100?”

Price Only Sales Person with Poor Listening Skills
This too can be a problem when it is the sales person’s first choice.  Is this the sales person who, as soon as a prospect says, “Boo…” is ready to drop the price? Also there is a real problem with listening skills here as well. The prospect never said that he could not afford to pay the original £1,300.  All he said was that it was more than he had in mind and asked for a lower price.

The Best Response
The best response you can get from the sales applicant is the one who continues to build the value on the original offer.   You want that sales person who comes up with value building statements and stands firm.

“James, as I said, the system I proposed for you is the only thing that will adequately protect you and your family.  Think of the value of your home and possessions, let alone the safety of your loved ones…”

You’ll see that these sales people will ask questions about the objection to qualify it and to find out more information about it.

The Ultimate Test
When you get that sales person that remains firm and continues to build value and ask further questions…do not give in!  As the prospect, remain solid on your £800 or £900 and do not budge. Test to see if they are an order taker or if they have currently got a good level of negotiation nouse.

Remember, this is only one of the methods used to test the sales person’s CURRENT mindset and approach to selling. You’ll also want to get them to complete assessments and personality tests to get a rounded view but this quick scenario can give you some insight into how they are currently approaching their selling and will give you some more information to work on.

Happy Selling,


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 11 November, 2011

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