When interviewing for a sales position, occasionally an interviewee becomes so interested in getting the position, they get duped by a seasoned sales manager who makes the job seem like an all expense paid trip to an exotic island where it rains money.
Of course, after three months on the job, you are miserable, broke, and working 16 hours a day with commission chargebacks due to unhappy customers.
“As a sales candidate, the purpose of your interview is two-fold. You are there to present your value and determine if this company has the support and strategy necessary for your success. Presenting your value needs to come first. Evaluating the company’s sales structure and strategy comes second. Be strategic in not only the questions you ask but when you ask them. Questions that evaluate the efficacy of a sales organization should be asked once a mutual trust and interest with the interviewee has been established – basically, before you sign the dotted line,” explains Cassie Needels Rosengren, talent acquisition executive at Digital Knack.
Ask The Right Questions
Not only will these questions determine if your company understands sales and your potential manager is a leader, but will show that you (the sales rep who asks them) are a consultative and seasoned sales professional who knows how to qualify and close.
What’s my quota and how are quotas established?
This question establishes if your manager and company are precise on how your quota was designed. Some companies just look at a market, divide everything up by population, and reverse engineer quota numbers to fit investor expectations. All quotas are created equal, but all territories are not. This is a short-sighted mentality that’s designed to create winners and losers, and you may end up a loser depending on what territory or vertical you’re assigned. Look for answers that show a thoughtful process on designing territories based on market research and past performance data.
How often do you adjust territories and quota? What will my territory look like after a year?
Determining how a company justifies larger quotas and territory reassignment is crucial. Is your manager is going to hire 12 more reps and keep your quota the same in the next year? Unfortunately one of the laws of business is all quotas will get higher, and territories smaller. This is due to many companies not having a good business development strategy and opening up new verticals or products that allow for justification of higher quotas and more headcount. The law of diminishing returns applies, and reps start to miss quota and subsequently look for a new opportunity. Rapid turnover ensues. Look for a company who may add a few reps when they add new products and features to their current product.
How many reps are hitting quota every month? How many are lagging?
If a team only has a few hitting quota every month, and the rest of the team turning over at a consistent rate, you can bet they are doing something wrong. Run. If 80% of reps are hitting quota every month, it’s safe to say you’ll be okay.
How do you personally support your reps? What are your one on ones like?
Look for certain keywords that work for you in this answer. Some professionals need more hand holding, others are mavericks who hate micromanagement. Some managers say they’re not micromanagers, but lack self-awareness. Listen for the manager telling you he or she “checks your calls daily” or “has a strict policy about coming in on time.” A good sales manager will start by training and coaching you your first three months on how to succeed within the organization, take the training wheels off, leave you alone when you’re performing well, and when you start to lag help you determine what you need to start hitting quota.
What are the quality of your leads? What are your lead sources?
Marketing managers have the ability more than ever to bring in qualified leads through online marketing, content creation, and other significant tools that bring sales organizations qualified leads. Some sales organizations require 100% rep generated leads from cold calling and client referrals. If you’re required to do all your own cold calling, they better have a really good model of what a qualified lead looks like, a CRM that is tracking cold leads you can warm up, and great training.
What metrics does management consider? What metrics typically equals sales success?
Understanding the metrics they measure and value helps determine success and is an easy way for you to set and achieve goals. The manager should be confident in answering how many calls you need to make, presentations, and your average team close ratio so you can do simple math and use that formula to achieve success.
How are the commissions paid and how often?
Some companies pay on cash in, others pay on revenue booked. If the company pays on cash then be prepared to test your patience as you wait for a commission check. Revenue booked ensures you get credit on booked business and suggests two things about the company – 1) they are willing to invest in you and 2) they have cash reserves. Understanding their commission cycle is just as important as knowing how commission is paid. Commission can be paid on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis and is usually dependent on the company. Of course, monthly is preferred but all are acceptable – just be sure the reasoning behind their commission cycle is a valid one.
What is the typical sales cycle?
Depending on what you are selling, the sales cycle could be 2-3 weeks or 6 months. If the sales cycle is long you need to account for your ramp up time and extended sales cycle when evaluating a sales opportunity. If your base can’t hold you over during ramp up time until there is commission in your pipeline ask the company if they are willing to explore a ramp up plan to bridge the investment on your part, fore example, higher base for year one, or similar.
What type of post-sale support is available for clients?
A recent study showed sales reps spend 11% of their time in a post sales-support role, wasting valuable selling time. The support that follows a closed sale is just as critical as the sale itself. You have sold a solution based on expected value and it is your reputation on the line. Key factors to consider here is the ratio of Account Managers to Sellers and furthermore, what time zones are the Account Managers in? Ensure you have adequate support to be successful both in driving new business and maintaining a happy, supported book of business.
If you the above questions are met to the above satisfaction, it’s now time to close the interviewer. What is your timeframe in making this decision? Where do I stand so far on the candidate list? What can I do to get to the top? And always enthusiastically follow-up.