local media insider

How to hire a top telemarketer

Use these experiential questions to identify the best candidates

Alisa Cromer

Outbound sales is a different skill set than inbound sales, and turnover often leads companies to abandon  efforts.  One way to improve the hiring track record is to approach the interview process with technical finesse.

Pre-screening candidates on the phone is an ideal time to test for the quality of "phone presence" and articulateness, followed by a more extensive interview.

We asked Cheryl Phillips, President of Canadian telemarketing firm, CAPE Sales Development, Inc. to share their interview process, including a list behavioral questions that identify key characteristics of top outbound phone sales people.

First, here are the top qualities she looks for in a candidate for outbound phone sales:

1. Selling Skills

2. Goal Driven - Plans and prepares based on goals

3.  Positive Attitude

4.  Prospecting Skills - Has a "hunter mentality" and "loves" to prospect

5. Ability to handle rejection, a characteristic called resilience

6.  Customer focused; they are an effective listener and problem solver

7. Understanding of the sales process

To identify these skills, here is a sample list of behavioral questions:

1.Selling skills

• Tell us about your sales volume over the past two years. Has it increased and if so, to what do you attribute this increase?
• What have you done to influence this increase?
• Tell me how you developed your largest account.
• Describe a recent approach you took with a brand new prospect. What were the results, and what contributed to these results?

2.Goal driven

• What specific goals, including those related to your career, have you established for your life?
• Give me an example of an important goal that you had set in the past and describe to me your success in reaching this goal?

3.Positive attitude

• Describe a time on any job that you held, in which you were faced with problems, and or stresses that tested your coping skills.
• Tell me of a time when you used your positive attitude to your advantage.

4.Prospecting skills
• Give me an example of a time when you successfully obtained a customer through cold calling and prospecting. How did you approach the customer? And what made the call successful?

5.Ability to handle rejection

•  All jobs have frustrations; can you describe some examples of your job which frustrate you? And how did you handle it?
• Can you provide me with two situations in which you did not succeed and why?
• Tell me about a time you worked hard for a sale but didn't get it in the end, how did you handle the situation?
• Give an example of when you had to overcome strong resistance from a customer.

6.Customer focused

• Describe a situation with a client or prospect where you made a mistake. How did you handle the error?
• Think of a customer relationship you have maintained for multiple years. Please tell me how you have approached maintaining that relationship.
• Can you tell me a time when you dealt with a difficult person? How did you handle it and what happened?

7.Understanding of the sales process
• Why do you think it is important to have a sales process in mind?
• In many instances, it is important that you know where you are in the sales process. Please tell me a time, when your understanding of the sales steps, helped you in a call?

Finally, Phillips advocates creating a career path for the phone sales people in the company, removing impediments to sales - such as outlawing high dollar phone transactions - and two weeks of training with significant amounts of role-playing, to ensure your investment.

Many thanks to Cheryl Phillips, President of CAPE Sales Development, Inc. for sharing these tips with us. Cape provides outsourced telemarketing for the media industry and can be reached at cphillips@capesalesdev.com. 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.


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  • howardowens

    These are great questions. I ask similarly styled questions when I interview employment candidates. It's a system that works very, very well.

    However, a key pointer missing from this article: Only about 50 percent of the answer should be weighted to the content of the answer. The other 50 percent, and perhaps 90 percent (making it only 10 percent content) is how it is answered.

    Here's one of my typical questions: What is a project you've taken on recently aimed at improving your skills and how did you go about accomplishing that goal.

    The good answer is something like, "Well, I really thought I needed to handle objections better, so I went to the local book store and found a book by XXX called XXX and started doing some of the practice exercises suggested in the book."

    That answer is specific and because of its specifics, you can test the candidate is telling you the truth.

    The bad answer would be, "Well, I'm always trying to improve myself and typically I'll try to find a mentor who can talk me through some of the issues I'm having with a particular problem."

    A hiring manager not paying close attention will probably like the second answer, thinking, "um, person likes to improve and isn't afraid to ask for help."

    The problem is, the answer is facile. It lacks the kind of specifics that make it believable. In a term, it's bull shit.

    Never, ever hire anybody who gives you even one bull shit answer.

    All of these questions ask for specific responses. When a candidate listens to the question, answers it honestly with specific answers, you're on the right track.

    Every time I've hired somebody who gave me a BS answer on even one question, the person didn't work out. Every time I've hired somebody I thought I knew (well, there is one exception) without putting him or her through an interview like this, the person didn't work out.

    Howard Owens, publisher, The Batavian

    Thursday, June 30, 2011 Report this

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