Focus sales executive interview questions on these three areas and you’ll uncover the kind of dynamic leader who can drive growth and evolve in step with your company.

Getting a strong sales leader in place can transform a company in growth mode. But finding the right person is challenging. Salespeople are great at selling, especially when the product is themselves, so how do you get past the spin and identify the substance?

The interview is where the real story unfolds, but to get that story, you need to ask the right questions and know what to listen for in the answers. Based on the successful placement of dozens of candidates, these are the key questions that can help you avoid those “great on paper” candidates whose potential never seems to materialize in the real world.

 

Can they lead?

Sales leadership is 100% about delivering results. What’s this person’s ability to set the strategy, unite a team around a common goal and pivot when necessary to achieve success?

Ask this: “In your last sales leadership position, what role did you play in revenue achievement?”

Listen for this: Did this person design the sales process and set revenue goals? Did they have input into an existing sales strategy? Or was their role limited to executing on the strategy? A growth company needs a strategist, not just a competent tactician.

Ask this: “What did your weekly schedule look like in your previous job?”

Listen for this: Do they have an appreciation for rolling up their sleeves, building and doing? Are they actively coaching their sales team? Or do they spend much of their time sitting in leadership meetings? A company in growth mode needs someone who can professionalize the sales process from the bottom up, not someone who can slot themselves into an existing system.

 

Can they build winning teams?

Getting the right people on the bus is critical for a growth company, and not every sales leader has that capability. Does this person know how to find, hire and keep a team that can drive revenue achievement?

Ask this: “Tell me about the teams you’ve directly managed and how you built them?

Listen for this: What did the sales team look like when they started, and what did it look like when they left? Does it tell a story of steady team and revenue growth? And did they rely on internal or external recruiters or an HR department for support? Most growth companies don’t have those resources in place and will need a sales leader with the market knowledge to build the team from scratch.

Ask this:Walk me through how did you manage reps who failed to meet their quota?”

Listen for this: What kind of process and timeline did they follow? How long did it take to exit someone who didn’t meet quota? Every sales leader will have their own approach, but you want to know that they have a process and a cadence for managing someone out, and that they’re not afraid to make the hard decisions. If they insist that they want to see that they have their own process and their own cadence for developing their teams and also managing them out if necessary and have they done it before? Can they make the hard decisions?

 

Can they build winning processes?

As your company matures, a repeatable and predictable sales process enables you to stabilize without losing momentum. Your sales leader needs to be able to creatively analyze, adapt and codify a process that accommodates different buyers and opportunities.

Ask this: “How do you see sales, marketing and customer success fitting together?”

Listen for this: Where does the customer lifecycle begin and end for this person? In previous roles, did they focus exclusively on the sales process? Or did their role extend to marketing and customer success functions? How did they align and collaborate with these functions to enhance revenues and maximize opportunity?

Ask this: “When you joined your current/most recent company, what did the sales process look like?  How had it evolved by the time you left? How did you influence that evolution?”

Listen for this: Does this person know how to examine the sales process critically and make changes to improve it? Or did they simply execute against a well-defined, locked-down sales process that was already in place? A growth company needs a sales leader who has demonstrated the analytical and strategic skills to build a predictable and responsive sales process that fits the organization’s revenue targets.

 

Here’s the bottom line. 

Many sales leaders look great on paper and know how to dazzle during an interview. But as a company in growth mode, you need more than just a charismatic closer. Don’t get blinded by great sales figures; a sales leader who achieved $100 million in annual sales within a mature, enterprise environment could flounder in an unstructured, entrepreneurial environment.

More important than the hard numbers is the proven ability to build and lead teams and processes that work. Focus sales executive interview questions on these three areas and you’ll uncover the kind of dynamic leader who can drive growth and evolve in step with your company.

 

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