If your sales team has grown large enough to warrant role specialization, you'll not only need to shake up the organization's structure - you must also revamp the hiring process. Prospecting and closing are two distinct tasks, so it doesn't make sense to ask the same interview questions to both sales rep and business development candidates. Different jobs require different skills which necessitate different interviews.
Whether you're hiring your very first sales development rep, or have a well-established SDR program, these 17 questions can help you identify the very best prospecters.
1) How do you deal with rejection?
As the people primarily responsible for cold calling and emailing, SDRs deal with an awful lot of rejection. If the candidate admits they get flustered or frustrated after an extended period of rejection, they're probably not cut out for the job. "Fall down seven times, stand up eight" is the mantra of the best SDRs.
2) Give me your life story in 90 seconds.
As Mark Twain once said, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." Brevity is a talent, and it's one that prospects appreciate. This question reveals the candidate's ability to hit the critical points of a story in a short amount of time.
3) Pretend I'm a prospect. Describe our product or service to me.
This question will not only reveal the amount of research the candidate did before the interview (which bodes well for their prospect researching skills), it also gives the hiring manager a chance to evaluate their ability to speak clearly and persuasively.
4) Why do you want to sell this product or service?
As Daniel Pink argued in his book Drive, internal motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose often trump external motivators like money or prestige. If the candidate has a personal reason for wanting to sell your product or service in particular, they'll likely approach their job with more passion and care.
5) What's the last thing you learned that you thought was really interesting?
A sense of curiosity is necessary in sales development. SDRs have to ask insightful questions to get to the heart of prospects' problems, and investigate their current environments. People with natural curiosity won't have a problem enthusiastically sharing something they learned with you. But if the candidate struggles to come up with an example, it might be a red flag.
7) Have you ever been in a customer service role? What were your favorite and least favorite parts?
People who have worked in customer service, retail, or the restaurant industry have undoubtedly dealt with complaints. If the candidate was able to keep their cool under pressure, they're likely well-equipped to field objections and handle rejection as an SDR. In addition, listen for a passion for helping others. They don't have to believe that the customer is always right, but they should maintain that the customer always deserves to be heard and supported.
8) Are you a team player?
Depending on your sales team structure, an SDR might support one sales rep in particular, or a number of reps. Ensure your candidate works well with others and takes pride in setting their colleagues up for success.
9) If you had to teach a beginner an advanced concept, how would you approach the task?
After countless hours of product training, salespeople are intimately familiar with their wares. Prospects, on the other hand, have a comparatively cursory understanding of your product - no matter how much independent research they've done. For this reason, it's important that SDRs are able to explain potentially tricky or confusing topics in clear and simple terms.
10) Tell me about a time you faced a challenge. How did you deal with it, and what motivated you to keep going?
Prospecting is tough. An SDR might make 10, 20, or 50 calls in a row with no answer. Where will they draw their inspiration to keep dialing? This question will expose the candidate's primary motivators.
11) What would a voicemail you would leave sound like?
Short, personalized voicemails are the ideal. But if your candidate rambles on or stumbles a bit, no problem. Simply follow up with the next question.
12) Could I give you some feedback? I would change X, Y, and Z. Now could you try again?
Coachability is critical for sales development reps. Observe how well the candidate incorporates your feedback into their second attempt. This will indicate their level of coachability, as well as demonstrate their listening skills.