5 Ideas for 2nd interviews with a sales professional

Deciding the format of a second interview can be tricky, regardless of gut feel, this is a real opportunity for a business to put a prospective employee through their paces and get an idea of how they will perform in the role.

Typically by the second interview you will have established that the candidate seems right culturally and appears to have the motivations and skills that tie into your business. So the second interview is all about putting them to the test.

But how to do it?

Typically within sales there are three routes to follow for second interviews. Either a role play, presentation, and or competency interview questions. Although I have encountered businesses who utilise all in an extended second interview.

1. Role play

Role plays are testing, not many individuals look forward to them, and they always put the candidate under a degree of pressure.

The benefit is that you get to see a snippet of how the candidate would perform in a business meeting representing your company.

If you have concerns about an individual's sales style, this is a great way to see it in action, how do they prepare? Do they probe accordingly first or just pitch? Do they listen to the answers and adapt or are they dependent on a patter?

All things you need to know as an employer of a successful sales team.

Role play also allows you the ability to be an observer. Wherever possible I would recommend that you have someone else, or a panel, play the part of the client and you simply observe. You can get more people involved in the structure. Start it from the moment they enter the building, how do they treat the receptionist? How is their behaviour when they wait in reception? All useful insights into the individual.

The topic of the role play is down to you, I would advise getting them to try to sell either your product/solution or one they have sold previously - so you get a strong sense of them in action.

2. Presentation/Business Planning

I see presentations or asking the candidate to prepare a business plan as a great way to assess their research skills, presenting style and a measure of how much they want the job.

This is work you expect them to do prior to the meeting, and if they are keen on the role, they should hopefully go all out and impress.

If you are a business that relies on well structured, well thought out pitches to win business, this is a superb way to analyse a prospective sales person's style.

Do they entice you into the presentation and make it exciting, or do they merely read out what has been typed on to a power point presentation? Do they have energy and flair or are they dull and uninspiring?

For me, presentations are all about the work put into it, those who spend time putting together an intelligent presentation designed to wow will always get the job. Those who rush it the night before find themselves very exposed at second interview.

3. Key questions to remember to ask at second interview

What salary expectations do you have and what do you hope to achieve bonus wise?

Ensure you have spoken with your recruiter in advance on this one and are aware of numbers already discussed. Hopefully they should match.

Where else are you interviewing, and how do they compare?

This is a vital question which is often neglected. It identifies if someone is committed to a career in your industry if their other meetings are with similar businesses. It also gives you an idea of their value in the candidate market currently and gives you an idea of how quickly you need to move.

What concerns do you have about our business and this role?

Interviewing is a sales process, and like all deals, an objection is usually lurking. By asking the question you allow the candidate the opportunity to highlight any worries they have which you may be able to smooth over easily. Better done face to face than via email later.

4. Competency questioning

Using a competency framework, these questions will help you understand more how the candidate will react in certain situations.

Questions such as...

Describe a time you failed to hit target and how you reacted?
Tell me about a time you have delivered an innovative solution to a business?
Give me an example of when you have over-delivered on expectations?
Explain a time when you have had to ask for help?

...all go a long way in showing an individual's sales character.

5. Final bits - due diligence/speed/proof

At second interview ensure your due diligence has been done, driving licence, passport checks etc. In addition at second interview I would expect a sales person to evidence their achievements through a brag file, or pay slips etc. Use your recruiter to ensure they can gather that data.

Then the crucial thing is not to hang around. We are in a very tight, candidate short sales marketplace where speed and urgency is key.

Waiting to see if someone else will pop up on the market is inadvisable. If you see someone you are keen to recruit and you think will add value, work with your recruiter to ensure you can put a package and role on the table that will get them off the market and secured into your company.

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