Don't Hire a Salesperson without Asking This Question

I hate hiring salespeople. I prefer stealing them from my client's competition. But that isn't always possible. Regardless if I am stealing talent or recruiting fresh talent, I am convinced that there is really only one question that I really score. And a friend of mine reminded me of how important it is. 

Don't get me wrong, I want to qualify a candidate for competency and sales ability, and I always do, but there is an intangible that is far more important: motivation. 

Just this past Thursday I was working out with a good friend and talking about some recruiting he was going to do.  Michael is a sales manager for a well-known paint retailer.  Our conversation was filled with people he thought would work out and their motivation,and people he passed on because of their motivation. 

The thing you need to know about Michael is he always hits 200% of his store's quota every quarter. He runs a tight ship and has brilliant sales ability. He also has a drive that you don't find in most people. 

He will qualify someone during an interview and after they qualify with experience and skill set, he always asks one last question: what motivates you?  Even though they are qualified he bases decision to go to the next round of interviews on this one question. 

What Michael has found, and I have experienced as well, is that internal motivation produces results and external motivation is fleeting. 

Your family, children, wife are all great motivators, but what happens when your wife decides to leave you and takes your children with her?  Suddenly that sales rep falls apart because his motivation is gone.   

Michael is successful because he only hires salespeople who possess internal motivation. Those motivators that cannot be lost due to external circumstances.  Here are some examples:

  • The innate need at a genetic level to win (Michael's favorite).  
  • The need to prove value every day.  
  • The need to be respected by peers.  
  • The need to create a name recognition in your industry.  

As as a final note, if anyone ever says they are motivated by money, run for your life. While being money motivated is good, those sales reps will always be interviewing with other companies while they are working for you. And if they are not successful they will leave you for something else. In my opinion, being money motivated comes from reading it in a lot of job posts starting in the 80s and rolling forward.   Mostly, hearing that someone is money motivated usually rubs me the wrong way as it speaks of their inherent lack of loyalty. 

So remember, once you have determined that a candidate is a good fit from a track record and skill set standpoint, make sure you understand what really motivates them. Not only will you weed out poor candidates, but the answer to this question will help you understand better how to manage these candidates when you are managing them. 


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