background

Here are some of my favorite questions for running an interview for a B2B Major Account “Hunter”.


General:

Setup:  In order to make sure you are a fit for us, and that we are a fit for you, it’s my job to invite the real [1st name] to show up and interview with us today.  To do that, I’m going to help you pull off the mask every candidate puts on…so we get to know the real you.  To do that, are you comfortable if I create an environment similar to that that you experience in the real sales world?  OK if I ask you some really tough questions, so we see how you perform under pressure…on your feet so to speak?  Good.


We’ll start with some 1:1 interviews, then I’m going to bring in a group of folks to finish up by letting you field questions from the group.  If you make the next cut, then you’ll get a chance to ask us lots of questions about the job, company, benefits, etc. OK? Ready?


Prospecting:


1. We’re looking for a proven hunter/closer who can prospect C-level executives, glide past gatekeepers, engage a C-suite executive quickly via phone, qualify them and inspire their desire to meet you (booked appointment).


What techniques have you mastered to:


A: Get past gatekeepers: Listen for pattern interrupt, tonality, dummy curve, reverses, speaker-phone etc.

B: Engage C-level executives:  Mini Up Front Contracts, compelling pain bullets, engaging and rich vocal tone

C: Inspire them to meet you?: Fall backs, gentle suggestions, striplines, nurturing style, effectively handling pushbacks



2. The top three questions gatekeepers ask tele-prospecting salespeople are:

1.     Who are you with?

2.     What’s this about?

3.     Does he know you?

How do you handle them?

I don’t get them because those questions surface if someone signals they don’t “belong there”.  My tonality and cold calls sound like I “belong there”, so my calls get put through.  I have called ahead and know the secretary’s first name, his nickname, when he comes in to the office, his direct dial number, his kid’s favorite sports, the charities he/she supports… so getting through isn’t a problem for me.


3.  The most common C-level executive telephone put-offs are:

ο     The Push Down: “I have a technical staff that handles those issues, I’m going to ask you to speak to…”

ο     The Economy: “The economy is tough right now, check back with us next (month, quarter, year)”

ο     Denial: “We don’t have any problems in that area/We have it under control.”

How do you handle them?

Listen for solid, powerful, potent, hard hitting reverses that will shake things up, get the real issues on the table, and inspire the C-level executive to engage…no put-offs or push downs.


4.  What techniques have you mastered that establish mutual expectations regarding the sales-call’s (1st face to face) agenda, outcome and timeframe?

Listen for the types and manner of questions concerning these three components.  If they appear clueless, assume out loud, “I get the feeling you don’t set these expectations before you go, fair?”


5. Here’s a phone and some executive phone numbers. I’d like to hear the cold call you use presently, so I’ll observe as you make some calls.

[Watch/listen for any severe emotional involvement.  A seasoned veteran will pick up the phone and fire off their prospecting call without hesitation.  At this level, senior sales executives position themselves as “trusted advisors” to C-level executives on matters of x, with x being their present field of expertise.]  


Sales Strategy


1.  Here’s a philosophical question.  Do you believe prospects buy emotionally?  If yes, what are your favorite three emotion provoking questions?  

Listen for emotion invoking questions, not informational or situational.


If no, end it.


2.  Our sales coach defines strategic thinking as the ability to anticipate and shape future issues, rather than issues shaping you. To do that, a strategic seller must master three higher level thinking skills:

A. Evaluation

B. Synthesis and

C. Analysis of the sales battlefield.


Prove you have mastered those three skills.

Assess their processes and tools, not just past results.  If a candidate cannot articulate the process well, it indicates lack of ownership of strategic selling.  They likely only carried out someone else’s strategy.


3.  We sell products that don’t exist (futures), that you cannot demonstrate, to prospects who don’t want them, yet need them.  I believe this is doable without a prolonged sales cycle, without colossal proposals, and by differentiating other than by having the cheapest price.   Thinking strategically, how would you accomplish this?

Inspiring the buyer to admit 1: Their problems are severe.  2:The consequences of doing nothing are grave. 3:The reason they have problems is that StorerTV is not a part of their lives, 4: They need to make a decision now to begin the healing process.


4.  How do you accomplish those strategic goals, tactically?  

Ask the right questions, in the right sequence, in the right way, and don’t let you own baggage get in your way.


Self-Awareness

I believe the most successful people on the planet display two traits for success that the colossally average do not.  The first is self-awareness.  This is the ability to reflect on and accurately assess one's own behaviors and skills (strengths and weaknesses) as they are manifested on the job. (The 2nd is being authentic to their strengths and avoiding/addressing their weaknesses).


On a scale of 0-10, how self-aware are you? [answer].  Let’s find out, okay?


1. Any weaknesses here you weren’t aware of?

2. Pick five. How have those weaknesses impacted your job?

3. What have you done in the past 6 months to address these weaknesses? If little, “So it’s fair to say you’ve known about some weaknesses and chosen not to address them?” Why not?

4. How would I know you have improved?

5. What other weaknesses do you think I’ve revealed to you so far in our interview?


Commitment

1. Based upon our conversation so far, I believe you have a number of weaknesses.  On a scale of 0-10, how committed are you to fixing them? The answer had better be 10.  If not 10, “So, I hear you telling me you aren’t as committed to your success as you could be.  Would you hire anyone who wasn’t fully committed to succeed?”  (Or only displayed conditional commitment?)  If 10, “Let’s find out.”


2.  Last year you made what? [$].  How much of that did you spend (out of your own pocket) on improving your sales performance?

Books, tapes, hired a sales coach, paid for my own training. (2-5% of income is a good indicator).  


3.  How much did you budget over the next 12 months?  Why so little?  Is it because you don’t think you need to improve, or didn’t believe the effort would help?  What led you to that conclusion?


4.  Tell me about some adversity that you have overcome and the commitment you had to make to do so.


5.  Here are several weaknesses you have and might be unaware of:

[List three  e.g. Buy Cycle, low money tolerance, busted paradigm].  Is your first response to disagree or defend, or is it to ask, “If that is truly a weakness, how much money has it cost me and how do I overcome the weakness?”

[The latter is of course the right answer, so you as the interviewer must challenge to validate it.  If they want you to explain the weakness, avoid the trap.]


6.  At this point I don’t need or want to explain the weakness, I’m trying to assess how committed you are to make changes.  No one is perfect.  True commitment mean doing whatever it takes to succeed, even if you don’t agree with the goal, are afraid, or are uncomfortable with what the company asks.  Prove to me you are that committed to succeed.


Group Questions

Use group interviews to simulate a selling environment with sales calls to groups.


The best questions for unskilled interviewers are structured as follows:

1. List a key indicator of success: “We’re looking for someone who has had prior success…..[insert indicator].  Prove to us that’s you.

Example indicators: Making presentations to large groups, up to 300 people in an audience.  

Selling against Goliath and you were David.

Closing executives on complex technical issues by translating them into CFO language, etc.


2. Finish the group session like this: “Everyone is passionate about some cause.  It could be the rainforest, free enterprise, kids, self-reliance and accountability, a charity…it doesn’t matter to me.  Pick a cause you are truly passionate about.  Now, persuade each of us to support your cause.  You’ve got up to 5 minutes.  Go.


Interviewing Major Account Hunters