Are you asking the right SDR Interview questions in your hiring process?
Recruiting and hiring sales development representatives (SDRs) can be extremely difficult. Knowing the right SDR interview questions to ask is key. Let’s face it, when building your sales development team, you are typically speaking with people who are accustomed to answering tough questions and manufacturing appealing answers to them. Make no mistake, these are characteristics you likely need your candidate to possess, but you also want to uncover what’s beneath the surface. Chances are, if you are asking generic questions, you are going to get equally generic answers.
In recent years, as more businesses have started segmenting their sales teams, the demand for SDR’s has skyrocketed. When on average 45% of revenues are sourced by the SDR team, it is not surprising that 1/3 of sales leaders say their biggest challenge is recruiting for their SDR roles. With the sales development job role being the most “important sales process innovation in the last 10 years”, hiring the right candidate is crucial for any organization.
So what should you be asking when interviewing your next sales development representative? We inquired feedback from some of the industry’s top experts and here is what they had to say.
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“I think the key for an A+ SDR comes down to two key attributes: Confidence and Coachability,” says Lauren Bailey, President & Founder of Factor 8 and #GirlsClub. Lauren has been voted “Top 25 Most Influential Leaders in Inside Sales” by The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals 5 years in a row (2013-2018). She has coached multiple sales organizations like IBM, Microsoft, and more.
Here are the SDR interview questions she asks:
1. Tell me about three separate times you were faced with a setback, a no, or a defeat and how did you handle it?
Ever heard the expression, “it’s not what you say it’s how you say it”? Delivering your pitch with confidence is key. In an SDR position, you generate demand in your solutions by being the subject matter expert. When a prospect has concerns about your offering or is not sure how this will be a solution they can leverage, they will start throwing out objections. Your job is to shift the confidence from you back to your prospect. But how do you do that without being able to overcome the adversity of the last call you were on? In sales, you experience a lot of setbacks and a lot of ‘No’s’. Lauren asks this question to gauge one’s ability to keep a sense of confidence despite the challenges in a sales development role.
2. The second question is always a phone-based roleplay similar to the job role (so perhaps setting up a demo) for something with which they are familiar (e.g. a new cell phone).
After the role play, “I give some areas for improvement to see how they accept the coaching” says Lauren. Are they acting defensively? Are they open to the feedback? Once she scales their reaction, she has the candidate re-do the role play. “I aim to see if he or she was able to integrate any of the key points for immediate improvement.”
Interview questions around coachability are not uncommon and are key to ensuring your training programs are successful. If they are not in your repertoire, maybe it’s time to consider adding them. “All of our interview questions are around gauging these three key attributes: Past Performance, Coachability, and Work Ethic,” says CEO of Seamless.ai, Brandon Bornancin.
After three successful companies, revolutionizing the sales industry, and having done a plethora of outbound calling, here is what Brandon asks when he is recruiting for an SDR candidate:
3. Please describe a situation where your manager thought you could improve and how did you respond to that coaching feedback? Please explain.
Behavioral-based interview questions are a great way to have your interview candidate give a glimpse into how they will respond to your coaching. This is a tactic used in interviewing that operates on the logic of “the past predicts the future”.
4. How many sales development reps were at your company and what place did you rank? How did you achieve this ranking and what would you have done differently to increase your performance?
The SDR role is an individual contributor position, however, you achieve and beat sales quotas as a team. The best SDR’s are competitive. Just like in sports, everyone wants to know where each team or individual stands. The motivation comes from not only wanting to be the MVP of the team, but even more so, from not wanting to consistently be at the bottom. You want to hire the next Tiger Woods of your company. Someone who will change the status quo, propel not only themselves to new heights, but the ‘sport’ of sales development! Be cautious of candidates who are not motivated to move up the rankings or blame their circumstances for their low performance.
Very commonly, you hear “It takes passion to be in sales!”. You have to passionate about the solution and the company you are working for. More so, being passionate about the art of generating demand. I think we can agree that passion translates well in sales, but how do you measure passion? Apollo.io found a creative way to gauge for the passion that Tom Regan, SDR Team Lead and integral part in getting Apollo.io through Series A funding.
He shared with us the two questions he asks:
5. What are you passionate about? What makes you passionate about selling here?
“The goal here is to see if the passion from the first answer carries over into the second answer,” says Tom. This is a smart strategy. Remember, a good salesperson will be able to come up with a carefully crafted answer and appear passionate about being an SDR at your company. Pay attention to their body language, tone, and energy.
Leading a team of passionate individuals is how the Apollo.io team was able to scale from 3 SDR’s to 9 in just six months.
6. When was the last time you had to learn a new skill? How did you go about it?
“You want to determine the curiosity of a candidate & determine if they have a growth mindset”, says Tom. Candidates that think that their skills can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others will achieve more than those who believe their skills are innate.
The Sales Development role is not for the faint of heart. It is a rollercoaster of a job: you go through the ups and downs in emotion, in activity, and in metrics.
Gaetano Nino DiNardi, Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva (formerly VP of Marketing at Sales Hacker, Inc. and Growth Marketing Consultant at Outreach.io) wants to know not only what you do to get to goal, but what do you do when the goals aren’t being reached?
7. What do you do to regroup and recover when you have a bad day?
Being able to keep a positive mind frame in sales is key. Is the candidate someone who dwells on their tough days? Or do they take the lessons from the bad days and make the next day a better one?
8. What is the first thing you would do when sales are down?
Does the candidate understand the activities that need to be completed to reach goal? Do they know how the phone activity, number of emails, and the quality of conversations directly translate to the goal of scheduling meetings/appointments?
Mark Hunter, Best Selling Author of High-Profit Prospecting wants to know are the sales development reps aware of what success looks like? Do they know what are the factors that make someone unsuccessful?
9. What is it you do in sales that separates you from others?
Be wary of the candidate that talks negatively of others. There are key qualifying factors that separate the top performers from the rest of the pack in the sales development. Good answers here will cover high-goal setting, ability to plan and execute, ability to take direction, and asking the tough questions that get you to the qualified meeting.
10. What do you feel are the biggest reasons why salespeople are not successful?
The goal of this question is to discover if the candidate feels the biggest reasons for failing in sales are intrinsic or external factors. Do they take full responsibility for the success in their role? Or are they blaming the leads, the territory, and everything else under the moon except their own actions?
The companies that have successfully integrated the SDR functionality within their sales teams have something in common: they put the focus on the customer. Many of the organizations who struggle with sales success have identified that the breakdown is in the transition process between the SDR and the Account Executive. Sometimes this hand-off feels forced and triggers frustration on the customer’s end.
“SDRs should be customer advocates”, says Alisa Krasner, Head of People at Fundera. Her and Tommy McNulty, VP of Sales and Customer Success, understand that if the process is not customer-centric from the get-go, there will likely be challenges down the line.
11. Tell me about a time you went out on a limb for a customer?
“A great candidate would provide a time when they took a chance and advocated for the customer,” says Alisa, “even if it was inconvenient or time-consuming”. The SDR’s job is to build rapport with the prospect. Think about it! The mere definition of building rapport is to be customer-centric! When a candidate can’t give an example of how they have helped a customer, this is a red flag.
Hiring for the Sales Development Representative role is no easy task. Asking the right SDR interview questions won’t guarantee the hiring of a superstar, but it will give you a better insight into who your candidate is.