Here is an interesting article from Columbia Business Times titled The Mysteries Of Hiring Salespeople Unlocked. Good title. The short article has some excellent advice and some marginal suggestions. From the excellent column (emphasis mine):
3. Unlearn your present interviewing system. First, throw away the hiring profile assessment you are using now (are you using one?), and instead find one that measures sales skills, adversity, toughness and, most important, whether this applicant will sell for you in your industry. Second, remember this applicant was someone else’s salesperson. Salespeople who “turn over” get good at giving you answers you like to hear. Third, instead of using your natural bonding skills, try “anti-bonding”—making the applicant work extra hard to bond with you. After all, isn’t that what your prospects will do? You want stronger salespeople? Become a stronger interviewer and “unlearn” what you did yesterday.
Exactly. We use this exact approach when phone screening sales candidates and it is most effective. Prospecting is difficult and the prospect typically doesn’t answer the phone and say, “Thank goodness you called me. How much is it and who do I make the check out to?”
If you have ever cold called, you know that the prospects tend to be standoffish, unhelpful and terse. A strong salesperson has to break through that wall.
So why do so many interviewers gush with enthusiasm, help the candidate with their responses and try to establish rapport themselves? The better approach is to take an “anti-bonding” position initially and observe the salesperson in action. The strong ones clearly stand out at this stage. Make them work a bit, don’t be effusive and observe how easily you can smoke out the pretenders.