B2B Sales
November 23, 2020

The 8 Questions For Sales Candidates On A Phone Screen

It’s no secret that some sales candidates exaggerate skills and competencies on their resumes. That’s why interviews are important to determine if candidates are as good in real life as they appear to be on paper.

Phone screen interviews are the best top of funnel filter in the interviewing process when hiring for sales talent.

“The key with the phone screen is to replicate a real-life scenario that the candidate will face on the job,” says Hilmon Sorey, Managing Director at ClozeLoop.

Salespeople often speak with prospects who are stressed out, in a rush, have higher priorities, and don’t want to commit to the next step. Phone screen interviews present an excellent way to test how candidates handle high-pressure situations.

It’s imperative to outline the focus areas of evaluation to uncover insights on how the candidate will likely perform in the role.

The 8 Areas to Evaluate

  1. The opening conversation – the phone screen interview begins as soon as the candidate picks up the call. Here you’d want to evaluate how the candidate responds as you begin the conversation with some urgency.
  2. Relevance – find out if the candidate can clearly articulate experience and goals relevant to the job.
  3. Achievements – can the candidate name and quantify their achievements, this will give you an indication of how they think as a salesperson and if their achievements fit the role and your performance expectations.
  4. Weakness – asking the candidate what he/she isn’t good at, or is not interested in doing professionally allows you to evaluate coachability and introspections.
  5. Sales Skills – dig into how specific sales skills were aquired and used previously.  Are they relevant to your position?
  6. Compensation – The ability to talk about money is critical for success in sales. When asked about their salary expectations do they get squirrely?  Or are they able to maintain their posture?
  7. References – To calibrate references ask the candidate about the people who they collaborated with and those who held them accountable. Take note of who they mention here, as these are the folks to ask about when it comes time to validate through reference checks.
  8. Close the conversation -This part of the phone screen is an example of an experiential interaction to gauge specifically how the candidate closes in a real-life scenario. Do they attempt to close for the next step?
“The entire phone screen should take no more than 30-minutes. It uncovers tremendous insight into how the salesperson will perform on the job, instead of just how they will perform on the interview” says Cory Bray, Managing Director at ClozeLoop.

Evaluating Responses

Here are some of the common warning signs to look for. When a candidate:

  • Is overly accommodating during the opening conversation
  • Demonstrates no sense of urgency
  • Gets flustered
  • Does not follow directions when responding
  • Regurgitates the job description or information on the website
  • Provides nebulous achievements
  • Is unable to answer questions or evades them
  • Gives “I can’t remember” or “I’m a perfectionist” responses when asked about weaknesses
  • Gives theoretical answers without citing experience
  • Does not attempt to close by getting a clear next step

This post contains excerpts from Cory Bray and Hilmon Sorey’s latest book — Hiring, Onboarding, and Ramping Salespeople. Want more? Buy your copy on Amazon today!!

Follow Cory Bray and Hilmon Sorey on LinkedIn.

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